Our Blockchain Basics book (Blockchain Basisboek in Dutch) has just been published on January 17th. You can download it here for free. The book will be used in classrooms across more than 8 local universities in the Netherlands. Hopefully, other universities will follow soon.
In this post, I’d like to discuss why I started the initiative to write the ±550 pages book, and what other project I have in mind to further improve blockchain education in the Netherlands.
The current state of blockchain education in the Netherlands
After two months of teaching blockchain at a local Dutch university, October 2018, I realized that blockchain education in the Netherlands (probably in most parts of the world) is still lacking.
I have identified the following 7 issues with our blockchain education in the Netherlands.
- Few Dutch class material. Good blockchain content is mostly written in the English language. My required reading list therefore consists mainly of English material, which proves to be a high barrier for Dutch-speaking students that are not at all familiar with (a) the technology and (b) the technical jargon used in the blockchain space.
- Dutch content is dispersed. Good content in Dutch is very dispersed among many different websites.
- Current Dutch books are not very useful for educational purposes. The books available on the Dutch market are not comprehensive enough and are not suitable for students.
- There is no standard for good blockchain education. Most universities are developing curricula on their own and there’s no standard on what good blockchain education consists of.
- Few sparring partners. Most universities don’t share their class materials or experiences teaching blockchain. Fortunately, the Dutch Blockchain Coalition is trying to change this, but we need to put much more effort to do cross-institutional sharing. Many universities also want to develop blockchain education, but lack the expertise. It would be good if these universities jointly develop their blockchain curriculum with other universities and share teachers.
- Knowledge is dispersed. Different faculties within a university are developing blockchain education in isolation and have their own blockchain experts who don’t know that some of their colleagues are also working on blockchain. Someone who’s working on the legal side of blockchain may not know that there’s someone at another faculty who is working on the technical or ethical side of blockchain. Bringing knowledge from different people together can lead to interesting and surprising new perspectives.
- Not enough diversity in perspectives. Blockchain can be approached from many different perspectives. Most classes only focus on a limited number of perspectives. A business department may heavily focus on blockchain applications and little on the technical side. Not knowing the technical side of blockchain, a business teacher may talk about potential blockchain applications and develop business models that are technically unfeasible.
I wrote the Blockchain Basics book, together with my colleague Arthur Janse, to tackle the first 3 issues (in green).
Main topics of the book
The book comprises three parts:
- Part I contains the technical side of blockchain and relevant innovations. Topics that we discuss are Bitcoin, current payment systems, consensus protocols, mining, nodes, forks, cryptography, smart contracts, governance, cryptoeconomics, and self-sovereign identities.
- Part II contains the economic and philosophical background of the Bitcoin blockchain. It discusses the different economic schools and in particular how the Austrian School of Economics and libertarianism, crypto-anarchism and cypherpunk have influenced Bitcoin.
- Part III contains topics revolving around enterprise blockchain. It discusses decentralized business models and enterprise applications.
While writing the book, I came up with the idea to create an organic community based open access digital knowledge platform that anyone can join for free. I pitched the idea in September 2019 at a Dutch Blockchain Coalition (DBC) event for all universities in the Netherlands. The DBC and other universities responded enthusiastically. Four months later, we have a proposal ready to develop the platform with 6 universities and the DBC.
We would like to use the Blockchain Basics book as the foundation of the platform, and – acknowledging that knowledge is decentralized – give all users the right to add new or revise already existing content. A public reviewing feature and a reputation system will be put in place to make sure that wrong content becomes corrected and to incentivize users to add good content. Students can also submit their Bachelor, Master and PhD dissertations and researchers can submit their papers on the platform.
I think that the multidisciplinary and cross-institutional cooperation will structurally improve blockchain education in the Netherlands. Doing so, I think we can tackle all the other issues (issues number 4 – 7).