Education in Blockchain and DLT: How to Acquire the Necessary Knowledge in 10 Days

Working at a university, dozens of people ask us: “How can I get into blockchain? What do I have to study?” To respond to this question, we now took the time and developed a 10-day program to onboard people interested in Bitcoin, crypto assets and blockchain technology in general. The adoption of crypto assets is getting more and more widespread. Therefore, it is essential — also for employees working with topics such as digital transformation — to have a basic understanding of blockchain technology. This article summarizes main sources which can be used to acquire initial blockchain knowledge. We recommend podcasts, books, networking events, papers, study programs, workshops, online courses, and online articles. We “design” a 10-day program, which makes it possible to acquire the necessary blockchain basics just within a few days in a “learning and doing” mode. Please note that as lecturers of a university we also present sources of ourselves. — Authors: Philipp Sandner, Jonas Gross

Introduction

Blockchain technology and crypto assets approach reality and more and more companies plan and implement first blockchain projects. While crypto assets such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are on the rise and blockchain technology is increasingly used by companies in the financial sector and in other sectors, an almost endless plethora of blockchain-based innovations is gaining in importance, such as decentralized finance (DeFi) applications, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Metaverse, Web3, or potentially also central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).

Therefore, it is important to have a basic understanding with respect to Bitcoin, Ethereum, other crypto assets and blockchain technology. Blockchain technology will be a core technology for the next decades and will disrupt finance — and much more. At this point in time, crypto assets have market capitalizations of more than one billion US dollars — always led by Bitcoin. Traditional currencies such as the Euro or the US dollar in the form of stablecoins run on blockchain-based systems with more to expect from the CBDC domain. Further, all kinds of securities such as debt instruments, stocks, funds etc. are deployed on smart contract platforms such as Ethereum. All these assets, especially the US dollar in the form of stablecoins, will be used by various industries primarily in the context of financial activities. However, there are also a variety of non-financial use cases for blockchain technology: identity management, voting systems, tracking goods along the supply chain, provenance of goods etc. As said, it is a very powerful technology with broad fields of application.

Those who decide to engage with the topic of blockchain and crypto assets now, in 2022, will be pretty busy for the next 10 to 20 years. These people will design the digital transformation of the economy instead of having to observe how their own workplace is being transformed or vanishes at all. Simply put, they have the chance for a promising career.

Figure 1: How to acquire blockchain knowledge with a workload of 10 days? We explore all 10 aspects in the article below.

How to gain knowledge?

If you intend to acquire relevant knowledge, you have various different options (see Figure 1): listening to podcasts, reading books, papers or online articles, networking, and attending blockchain-related study programs or online courses. Some of these options are “low-hanging fruits” such as podcasts; others require a higher amount of commitment such as studying white papers or participating in a programming or smart contract coding course. Learning about crypto assets and blockchain technology is more than watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts. It is also required to “get your hands dirty”, e.g. through learning how to execute transactions. We go into much more detail on all these aspects below — from “purchasing and transferring crypto assets” to “online courses on smart contracts”.

How to stay up to date with the endless flow of news?

Day by day dozens of articles are published, thousands of tweets are written. By the way, people often ask how it is possible to stay up to date in this ever evolving and dynamically developing field. There is an excellent tactic to stay up do date: Google Alerts. Create some alerts for topics that you find interesting. You might simply type in “Bitcoin” and receive Google’s update on that domain on a daily or weekly basis (you can choose both settings — daily or weekly — as you which). Or you create an alert for “digital euro”, or “stablecoin”, or “CO2 tokenization”, or “web3” etc. — With creating daily alerts, you will receive one email per day with — for example — all new content Google discovered on a specified topic during the last day. Of course, it is too much time to read all these linked websites. But skimming through the headlines alone takes some minutes and helps you keeping up to date.

Another tactic to stay up to date is Twitter. But here, you first have to follow the “right” Twitter users of your selected field. If you do not follow such users from your desired field of knowledge, Twitter cannot personalize the content stream and you will not get the desired content.

Finally, there are amazing daily, weekly, monthly newsletters out there that compile various news in specific domains on a daily, weekly or monthly level. The following organizations have good newsletters: International Token Standardization Association (ITSA), Digital Euro Association (DEA), Frankfurt School Blockchain Center (FSBC), Defipulse, Sygnum, Coinbase. Go to their websites and register for their newsletters or ask Google who to exactly locate their registration pages. Yes… doing this, registering for these newsletter … takes time and energy, but who said that investigating a new field of knowledge is easy? It will be worth it.

What is the level of understanding that should be acquired?

Everybody who works or intends to work in the field of blockchain should at least be able to understand Bitcoin and Ethereum. Concerning Ethereum, it is essential to understand — and program — a very simple smart contract such as an escrow process implemented with a couple of lines of code in Ethereum’s programming language Solidity. At this point in time, this is one of the key building blocks for widespread ecosystems such as tokenization, DeFi, NFTs, Web3, and the applications of the Metaverse that can be expected.

In our mind, the need to understand a simple smart contract (say 5–10 lines of code) is important not only for employees in the field of information systems, but also in the fields of business, economics, and law. Deeper technological knowledge about how to configure nodes, however, is mostly not urgently necessary but could be acquired later on.

Anybody who seeks to get involved with blockchain technology and considers the following steps, can potentially have a glorious career ahead. We believe that blockchain technology and its increasing importance have the potential to positively affect the career path of an interested person since there is a lot to do over the next few years — and even decades — within this dynamic and fast growing segment. This way, the risk of losing a job (e.g. in the financial sector) as a result of increasing digitization and automation can be minimized.

But how can an interested person gain enough knowledge? Which opportunities exist to study blockchain technology? This article summarizes some different tactics for blockchain education. We basically design a specific program to get “blockchain-ready” in approximately 10 working days. As the authors are from Germany, there is a slight focus for this country.

Purchasing and transferring crypto assets

Time needed: ½ day

It is very important for understanding this technology that you operatively “get your hands dirty”. This works as follows and provides interested persons with the most important learning about what blockchain technology actually is.

The best exercise to get started is therefore: Purchasing crypto assets such as Bitcoin or Ethereum and transferring it around the globe. As follows, please find a step-by-step guide:

  • Open an account e.g. on Coinbase or Bison; further alternatives: Bitstamp, Bitrex, Binance, Bitfinex, etc.
  • Buy Ether and Bitcoin for 10 Euro. Please be aware that in case of making mistakes with public or private keys, this money can be lost irreversibly. So, following these steps is, of course, everybody’s own decision.
  • Open a second account (examples above).
  • Obtain a wallet address from the second account which looks similar to 0xd42899dcC146d4788649e6aa5B09f129fC269127 for Ethereum.
  • In the first step, transfer a fraction of Ether or Bitcoin you have purchased to this address. Note that addresses for Ether and Bitcoin are different, so be cautious and do not mix them up.
  • Now, you can see that value can be sent around the world just within a couple of seconds (Ether) or minutes (Bitcoin).
  • A more advanced step but extremely helpful to understand blockchain: Add the plug-in MetaMask to the Google Chrome internet browser to access the Ethereum network directly and to store your Ether in your own wallet. Thereafter, open an account and generate your own wallet address. Then, transfer some of your Ether from the earlier steps to this newly generated wallet.
  • Inspect what you have done on the Ethereum block explorer or the Bitcoin block explorer.

Listen to podcasts

Time needed: 1 day for listening to 10–15 episodes

There are very interesting and insightful blockchain and crypto podcasts. They can be very helpful by providing first basic knowledge about blockchain technology and crypto currencies. Here are some examples with a focus on German resources:

  • Block 52: The hosts (Katharina Gehra, Philipp Sandner) provide weekly interviews with experts in the field of blockchain in Germany, e.g., around Bitcoin, digital securities, DeFi, NFTs, Metaverse, Web3, and blockchain technology in general.
  • Bitcoin, Fiat & Rock’n’Roll: The hosts (Jonas Gross, Alexander Bechtel, Manuel Klein) focus on financial applications and discuss topics around digital money, such as cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, or CBDCs.
  • Irgendwas mit Krypto: The hosts (Johannes Blassl, Simon Seiter, Philipp Sandner) comment on current developments with a focus on the German market. This includes for example sentiment of the market, projects by specific companies, impact of new laws in the crypto space.
  • Digital Euro Podcast: This podcast discusses topics around digital money (i.e., digital euro, digital dollar, stablecoins, CBDCs) with worldwide thought-leaders.

Read important white papers

Time needed: ½ day

To get a feeling about the origin and the concept of blockchain technology, it is necessary to study the white papers of the two most important crypto assets Bitcoin and Ether. Note that it is not necessary to understand, at this stage, how blockchain technology exactly works from a technological perspective. Reading the white papers should rather provide a high-level overview about the intentions of the crypto assets and about the mechanics of the technology. By the way, in this article, we use the word “crypto asset” while another more generic word would be “token”.

Most important papers:

Watch videos e.g. on YouTube

Time needed: ½ day

After turning to blockchain technology from a “scientific” angle by reading the original contributions about Bitcoin and Ethereum, you can use videos to get familiar with the technology and to understand the different components of the technology. We recommend the following videos which are in parts some years old but nicely show the visionary power blockchain technology and crypto assets.

Important videos or playlists:

Networking and meet people

Time needed: ½ day for attendance at 2 meetups (mostly, for free)

As a next step, we recommend stepping into the blockchain community and engaging in first discussions with blockchain experts. In Germany, there are both national and regional blockchain communities. Twitter is an amazing resource for knowledge, but it is important to follow the right users (see below).

  • Regional Meetups: There are also various regional blockchain meetups as in Berlin, Zürich, Frankfurt or Munich. They provide an easy way to discuss your thoughts and questions with blockchain enthusiasts nearby. Research on Google here and here.
  • Frankfurt School Blockchain Center (FSBC) Events: Attending blockchain events organized by the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center (FSBC) is another possibility to approach blockchain technology. The FSBC organizes various conferences related to blockchain and cryptocurrencies such as the Crypto Assets Conference every year. Furthermore, discussions about current topics such as digital securities, the digital euro, DeFi, and NFT are offered. To be up-to-date about FSBC events see www.fs-blockchain.de — here you can subscribe to the newsletter.
  • Twitter: A lot — really a lot — of knowledge is disseminated on Twitter. Sometimes, Twitter users compile lists of other users to follow. It is highly recommended to not just open a Twitter user account but also to follow crypto experts on Twitter — and even network with them.

Online courses e.g. on smart contracts

Time needed: 3 days for the Udemy course on smart contracts

At this point, you should have understood the basics of how blockchain technology actually works. Now, it is time to get more practical. As a next step, we recommend to participate in an online course about blockchain technology and smart contracts. Theory provides an important perspective, of course. Yet, practical exercises are essential, as well, to gain a deeper understanding of the technology.

  • Udemy smart contracts course: The Udemy course on smart contracts offers a great introduction — in our view the best — into programming smart contracts. Keep in mind that just watching the course is not sufficient — practical programming is key to “feel it” ;-) To learn programming basic, e.g. JavaScript, other Udemy courses could also be helpful.
  • Talents’ programs of the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center: DLT Talents program to empower women in the blockchain space, and the DeFi Talents program for education in the DeFi sector. as well as the NFT Talents for leadership in the NFT space.
  • Academy of the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center: In the Blockchain Academy of the FSBC you find the Playlist Tokenization or Playlist Crypto Assets, two compilations which include the state of the art in these fields.
  • Cryptozombies: The application Cryptozombies is a great (and gamified) way to study technological aspects of blockchain technology and smart contracts.

Besides this course, there are plenty of other blockchain online courses available; often very cheap or even for free.

Keep in mind that this practical work should not be skipped, especially the Udemy course on smart contracts above! Therefore, we urgently recommend the first course from Udemy to get an easy answer to the question: What exactly is a smart contract? What does it look like? How can it be implemented; and executed?

Articles and websites

Time needed: 1 day with a focus on 1–2 topics; more days for more topics

By following the recommended steps you are now expected to have a basic, high-level knowledge about the technology. Now, it is time to dig deeper into blockchain technology and its various areas such as Bitcoin, crypto assets, digital money, CBDCs etc.

We urgently recommend to read the following contributions:

Bitcoin, Crypto Assets, and Inflation

Digital Euro, CBDCs, and stablecoins

DeFi — Decentralized Finance

Tokenization and Industrial Use Cases

DLT-Based Capital Market and Digital Securities

Blockchain technology in general

Another opportunity for approaching blockchain are articles on Medium.com. On this specific platform there are a variety of blockchain-related articles covering blockchain basics and also more advanced topics. On the Medium page of the FSBC and of the authors (here and here) you can find more articles about the technology: from concrete use cases, such as connecting an e-scooter to Ethereum, to a comparison of different blockchain frameworks.

Books for the wider overview

Time needed: 3 days for reading Tapscott’s “Blockchain Revolution”

Now, you should turn to books with a blockchain focus. We recommend you to the following books. These books provide the broader picture why Bitcoin, crypto assets and blockchain in general will be important in the future and how it potentially can change business processes, entire organizations or — potentially — the society.

Scientific and academic papers

Time needed: 0 days since this is optional

If you aim to approach the topic of blockchain more from a scientific perspective there is the possibility to study papers about blockchain technology. But since academic papers need a lot of time to produce and publish, they are good resources to systematically provide overviews over past developments. Yet, they are not very informative when people want to investigate the current state of the art or look for forward-looking information.

The FSBC releases working papers about blockchain-related topics and use cases frequently. The FSBC Working Papers are published on medium either via the FSBC account or Prof. Dr. Philipp Sandner.

Blockchain-related study programs and workshops

Time needed: 0 days since this is optional

Choosing a blockchain-related study program or a training course is often — but not always — for younger people and therefore optional. Blockchain courses are e.g. offered by the following universities:

And now?

It is important to “read” about how education in blockchain and crypto assets can work. At the end of the day, there is just one important thing: Just do it. Don’t just think, but rather act.

Contact us, whether you followed our recommendations — and provide us with feedback. Tell us if you have further ideas how to approach blockchain. If you have used other sources to gain or increase your blockchain knowledge, we would be very delighted if you could share them with us.

Remarks

If you like this article, we would be happy if you forward it to your colleagues or share it on social networks. If you are an expert in the field and want to criticize or endorse the article or some of its parts, feel free to leave a private note here or contextually and we will respond or address.

Do you want to learn more about how blockchain will change our world?

  • Blockchain knowledge: We wrote a Medium article on how to acquire the necessary blockchain knowledge within a workload of 10 working days.
  • Our two blockchain books: We have edited two books on how blockchain will change our society (Amazon link) in general and the everything related to finance (Amazon link) in particular. Both books are available in print and for Kindle — currently in German and soon in English. The authors have been more than 20 well-known blockchain experts in startups, corporations and the government from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein — all contributing their expertise to these two books.
Our two books: the first one on blockchain and the society and the second one on blockchain and finance

Authors

Prof. Dr. Philipp Sandner has founded the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center (FSBC). From 2018 to 2021, he was ranked among the “top 30” economists by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), a major newspaper in Germany. He has been a member of the FinTech Council and the Digital Finance Forum of the Federal Ministry of Finance in Germany. He is also on the Board of Directors of FiveT Fintech Fund, 21e6 Capital and Blockchain Founders Group — companies active in venture capital financing for blockchain startups and crypto asset investment management. The expertise of Prof. Sandner includes crypto assets such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, decentralized finance (DeFi), the digital euro, tokenization of assets, and digital identity. You can contact him via mail (m@philippsandner.de) via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter (@philippsandner).

Jonas Gross is a project manager at the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center (FSBC) and a PhD candidate at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. His main research focus are central bank digital currencies, stablecoins, and cryptocurrencies. Mr. Gross is Chairman of the Digital Euro Association (DEA), co-host of the podcast “Bitcoin, Fiat, & Rock’n’ Roll”, and member of the expert panel of the European Blockchain Observatory and Forum.

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Professor | Lecturer | Author | Investor | Frankfurt School Blockchain Center

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Philipp Sandner

Philipp Sandner

Professor | Lecturer | Author | Investor | Frankfurt School Blockchain Center

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