When Portland State University professors Kristi Yuthas and Stanton Heister recognized that blockchain was being taught in the computer science college, but their business students weren’t being offered an opportunity to learn about the benefits of blockchain, they decided that they were going to do something about it by introducing blockchain for business. Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, Yuthas and Heister launched their blockchain certificate program, but not without challenges. Let's discuss.
Among the key objectives, the blockchain for the business program needed to teach the highly technical and abstract subject of blockchain to students with no technical background. The challenge was to design a program that encouraged students to solve business problems using blockchain while avoiding the distraction of complex programming and coding. In addition, because blockchain technology is so new they had to learn about the fast-paced technology for themselves while they were developing the curriculum.
Yuthas states, "most faculty members don't have the expertise to effectively deliver the education to students." She continued, "Not many academics are doing blockchain research at the moment, so when Stan and I set up the curriculum, we were able to teach 3 (of 6) classes, but we needed help."
And to find help, Heister and Yuthas turned to their blockchain technology industry partners including SIMBA Chain. Until recently, learning blockchain has been difficult, especially for students who are not planning to get a technical degree. Turning to SIMBA's low-code platform makes learning blockchain much more accessible.
SIMBA Senior Director David Wasson says, "SIMBA has a drag and drop user interface presented in a visual format. The beautiful part is that you can toggle over and see the autogenerated code."
Yuthas adds, "SIMBA is the only platform we know which allows for the no code. We’ve been able to move more towards the business side of emphasis rather than all the programming. It’s so simple to start and to get going. You definitely don’t have to be able to code."
SIMBA Master Trainer Tom Cooksey says the low-code platform, "Helps remove some of the ambiguity. There’s not so much confusion about what is really being asked of that tech team, so an easy-to-use platform really helps."
There was also an issue of properly communicating that this was a curriculum focused on blockchain not cryptocurrency. Heister affirmed, "We talk about the beginning of blockchain, but we quickly move to business enterprises. If students are interested in crypto, that’s a whole different ballgame, so we’re pretty good about moving on."
When asked about what kind of person makes for a good blockchain student, both Yuthas and Heister turned to a similar theme: passion.
Yuthas commented, "[Having] passion is important. Students who need an extra credit aren’t a good fit, but those who are passionate will find ways to share resources like podcasts. They also get a chance to outline their next educational steps. Most of them do develop passion as they go."
Heister concludes, "The best students are the ones who are engaged."