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 are biased and therefore also present sources of ourselves. — Authors: Philipp Sandner, Jonas Gross
Blockchain technology and crypto assets approach reality and more and more companies plan and implement 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), 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.
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.
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 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 currencies
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.
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 DeFi, NFTs, and blockchain technology in general.
- Bitcoin, Fiat & Rock’n’Roll: The hosts (Jonas Gross, Alexander Bechtel, Manuel Klein, Michael Blaschke) 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 by the Digital Euro Association 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:
- Bitcoin white paper: Nakamoto, S. (2008): Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf.
- Ethereum white paper: Buterin, V. (2013): Ethereum White Paper: A Next Generation Smart Contract and Decentralized Application Platform, http://blockchainlab.com/pdf/Ethereum_white_paper-a_next_generation_smart_contract_and_decentralized_application_platform-vitalik-buterin.pdf.
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.
Some important videos:
- The Future of Money, TED Talk by Neha Narula
- How the Blockchain Will Radically Transform the Economy, TED Talk by Bettina Warburg
- Youtube Videos by Michael Saylor
- Youtube Channel by Andreas Antonopoulos
- Youtube Channel by Blocktrainer
- Youtube Channel by Coin Bureau
- Youtube Channel by Frankfurt School Blockchain Center
- Bitcoin and Blockchain: The Revolution is Coming by Philipp Sandner
- What is Blockchain? by Mynd
- Blockchain 101: Eine visuelle Demonstration by Anders Brownworth
- Top 10 Youtube Channels by Coin Bureau
- How the Blockchain Is Changing Money and Business, TED Talk by Don Tapscott
- What is Blockchain? by the World Economics Forum
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.
- 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 participating 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.
- 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.
- Coursera: Introductory courses or more advanced courses: e.g. Supply Chain Finance and Blockchain Technology or Cryptocurrency and Blockchain: An Introduction to Digital currencies.
- Blockchain Training Alliance: Blockchain Architecture Training On Demand
- INSEAD: Introduction to Blockchain Technologies
- INSEAD: Blockchain and Business: Applications and Implications
- Further, you can find some other courses about other blockchain topics here
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
- Bitcoin’s energy consumption is a necessity and might have a positive impact on the environment by Daniel Wingen
- What Is Bitcoin? The Discovery of the First ‘Digital Commodity’ by Philipp Sandner
- The Green Bitcoin Theory: How are Bitcoin, Electricity Consumption and Green Energy Related? by Philipp Sandner, Daniel Wingen, Stefanie von Jan, Andreas Straub
- Implications of Outlawing Bitcoin by Gigi
- Inflation and the European Central Bank: It is a Mess by Philipp Sandner
- Do Crypto Assets and Tokenized Real Assets Protect Against Inflation? by Philipp Sandner
- A Fundamental Analysis of Crypto Markets in Early 2022: China Soon to Stop Selling Bitcoin? by Maximilian Bruckner, Philipp Sandner
- 10 Predictions for Blockchain, Crypto Assets, DeFi, and NFTs for 2022 by Philipp Sandner
- The Carbon Emissions of Bitcoin From an Investor Perspective by Philipp Sandner, Constantin Lichti, Robert Richter, Cedric Heidt, Benjamin Schaub
Digital Euro, CBDCs, and stablecoins
- Report on a digital euro by European Central Bank
- The Digital Programmable Euro, Libra and CBDC: Implications for European Banks by Philipp Sandner, Jonas Gross, Lena Grale, Philipp Schulden
- Ready, steady, go? — Results of the third BIS survey on central bank digital currency by Codruta Boar, Andreas Wehrli
- “The Programmable Euro: Review and Outlook” — Areas of Applications in the Industrial Sector and in the Capital by Philipp Sandner, Jonas Groß, Jong-Chan Chung
- The Digital Euro from a Geopolitical Perspective: Will Europe Lag Behind? by Philipp Sandner, Jonas Gross
- The Future of Payments in a DLT-Based European Economy: A Roadmap by Alexander Bechtel, Agata Ferreira, Jonas Gross, Philipp Sandner
- Programmable Money and Programmable Payments by Alexander Bechtel, Jonas Gross, Philipp Sandner, Victor von Wachter
- Designing a Central Bank Digital Currency with Support for Cash-Like Privacy by Jonas Gross, Johannes Sedlmeir, Matthias Babel, Alexander Bechtel, Benjamin Schellinger
- Open Letter: Roadmap Towards a Digital Programmable Euro
- The Programmable Euro: Review and Outlook — Areas of Applications in the Industrial Sector and in the Capital Market by Philipp Sandner, Jonas Groß, Jong-Chan Chung
- The Euro Doesn’t Only Come from the Central Bank — a Plea for a More Holistic View of the Term “Digital Euro” by Manuel Klein, Philipp Sandner
- Priorities for Europe and Germany: Both, the Euro and Identities Should run on Blockchain by Philipp Sandner, Jonas Gross
- How Will Blockchain Technology Transform the Current Monetary System? by Philipp Sandner, Manuel Klein, Jonas Gross
DeFi — Decentralized Finance
- DeFi: A Systematic Literature Review and Research Directions by Eva Meyer, Isabell Welpe, Philipp Sandner
- Decentralized Finance Will Change Your Understanding Of Financial Systems by Benedikt Eikmanns, Isabell Welpe, Philipp Sandner
- Decentralized Finance (DeFi): What Do You Need To Know? by Victor von Wachter, Philipp Sandner
- Zero to DeFi — A Beginner’s Guide to Earning Passive Income via Compound Finance by DefiPulse
- DeFi Fund: What is the return on investing in 10 DeFi protocols? by Victor von Wachter, Maximilian Feldmeier, Philipp Sandner
- DeFi Talents Program
Tokenization and Industrial Use Cases
- Tokenization Of Industrial Goods: ‘Tractor-As-A-Token’ by Philipp Sandner
- Future of Payments: Programmable Payments for the Internet-of-Things (IoT) by Maximilian Forster, Jonas Gross, Anja Kristina Kamping, Serkan Katilmis, Mario Reichel, Philipp Sandner, Philipp Schröder
- Legal Aspects of Blockchain Technology for Industrial Use Cases by Markus Kaulartz, Jonas Gross, Constantin Lichti, Philipp Sandner
- Liechtenstein Blockchain Act: How can nearly any right and therefore any asset be tokenized based on the Token Container Model? by Philipp Sandner, Thomas Nägele, Jonas Gross
- Executive Summary of the “Tokens and TT Service Providers Law” AKA the “Liechtenstein Blockchain Act” by Thomas Nägele
DLT-Based Capital Market and Digital Securities
- DLT in the Thai Capital Market — How Old Roles Change and New Roles Emerge by Christian Labetzsch, Philipp Sandner, Thomas Faber
Blockchain technology in general
- The Quiet Master of Cryptocurrency — Nick Szabo by Tim Ferriss
- Blockchains vs. Centralized Databases by Gideon Greenspan
- Avoiding the Pointless Blockchain Project by Gideon Greenspan
- DLT Talents Program
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 broader overview
Time needed: 3 days for reading Tapscott’s “Blockchain Revolution”
Now, you should turn to books with a blockchain focus. We recommend you read Tapscott’s book Blockchain Revolution. This book provides the broader picture why blockchain will be important in the future and how it potentially can change business processes, entire organizations or — potentially — the society. Besides, there are further books, which are definitely worth reading later on.
Further books (listed by importance):
- The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking by Saifedean Ammous
- Mastering Ethereum: Building Smart Contracts and Dapps by Andreas Antonopoulos, Gavin Wood
- Ethereum: Blockchains, Digital Assets, Smart Contracts, Decentralized Autonomous Organizations by Henning Diedrich
- Layered Money: From Gold and Dollars to Bitcoin and Central Bank Digital Currencies by Nik Bhatia
- Various German Bitcoin Books by Aprycot Media
- Mastering Bitcoin: Unlocking Digital Cryptocurrencies by Andreas Antonopoulos
- Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies: A Comprehensive Introduction by Arvind Narayanan, Joseph Bonneau, Edward Felten, Andrew Miller, Steven Goldfeder
- Der Blockchain-Faktor: Wie die Blockchain unsere Gesellschaft verändern wird by Philipp Sandner, Isabell Welpe, Andranik Tumasjan
- Die Zukunft ist dezentral: Wie die Blockchain Unternehmen und den Finanzsektor auf den Kopf stellen wird by Philipp Sandner, Isabell Welpe, Andranik Tumasjan
- Die revolutionäre Technologie erklärt. Das System, ihre Anwendungen und Gefahren by Peter Steger
- Blockchain für Anfänger: Eine Einführung in die Grundlagen von Blockchain, Bitcoin, Smart Contracts und Kryptowährungen by Johannes Bürger
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.
- Decentralized Finance — A Systematic Literature Review and Research Directions by Eva Meyer, Isabell Welpe, Philipp Sandner
- Cryptocurrencies, DLT and Crypto Assets — the Road to Regulatory Recognition in Europe by Agata Ferreira, Philipp Sandner, Thomas Dünser
- The Future of Payments in a DLT-based European Economy: A Roadmap by Alexander Bechtel, Agata Ferreira, Jonas Gross, Philipp Sandner
- Bitcoin: Technical Background and Data Analysis by Anton Badev, Matthew Chen
- Designing a Central Bank Digital Currency with Support for Cash-Like Privacy by Jonas Gross, Johannes Sedlmeir, Matthias Babel, Alexander Bechtel, Benjamin Schellinger
- Blockchain: Grundlagen, Anwendungen und Potenziale by Vincent Schlatt, André Schweizer, Nils Urbach, Gilbert Fridgen
- Blockchain Business Models for Autonomous IoT Sensor Devices by Marc Higgins, Philipp Sandner
- Blockchain: Proposition of a New and Sustainable Macroeconomic System by Benedikt Eikmanns
- Analysis of Blockchain Technology in the Mobility Sector by Martin Gösele
- Blockchain Technology in the Pharmaceutical Industry by Manuela Schöner, Dimitris Kourouklis, Philipp Sandner, Erick Gonzalez, Jonas Förster
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:
- Frankfurt School of Finance & Management: Master in Blockchain and Digital Assets
- Blockchain Competence Center Mittweida: Blockchain Autumn School
- University of Nicosia: Master in Digital Currency
It is important to “read” about how education in blockchain and DLT 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.
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.
Prof. Dr. Philipp Sandner is head of the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center (FSBC) at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. In 2018, he was ranked as one of the “Top 30” economists by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), a major newspaper in Germany. Further, he belongs to the “Top 40 under 40” — a ranking by the German business magazine Capital. The expertise of Prof. Sandner, in particular, includes blockchain technology, crypto assets, distributed ledger technology (DLT), Euro-on-Ledger, initial coin offerings (ICOs), security tokens (STOs), digital transformation and entrepreneurship. You can contact him via mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), via LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/philippsandner/), or follow him on Twitter (@philippsandner).
Jonas Gross is Chairman of the Digital Euro Association (DEA) and Head of Digital Assets and Currencies at etonec. Further, Jonas is co-host of the German podcast “Bitcoin, Fiat, & Rock’n’ Roll” and member of the expert panel of the European Blockchain Observatory and Forum. In Summer 2022, Jonas finished his PhD thesis in Economics about digital currencies at the University of Bayreuth, Germany. His main research focuses on central bank digital currencies, stablecoins, cryptocurrencies, and monetary policy. You can contact him via mail (email@example.com) via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.