Crypto college: Where, how and why to study cryptocurrencies

Figuring out how to arm yourself with crypto knowledge and tools can be daunting, but it doesn't have to be.

Graphic image showing cartoon figures around a whiteboard, studying cryptocurrencies – Photo: Shutterstock                                 
In an ever-changing industry, it pays to stay on the pulse – Photo: Shutterstock
                                

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Want to learn all about crypto, but don't know where to start? With potentially thousands of online courses, YouTube channels, degrees and news desks supplying an endless stream of blockchain and cryptocurrency trading advice, seeking out reliable information and tips can be a daunting experience, especially for the crypto newcomer.

So how do you determine what is legitimate advice and what is not? Here we will guide you though how to study crypto trading, what online and real-world avenues you can take, and what to look out for when starting off on your learning journey. 

Online courses: How to spot quality

Sarah-Jane McQueen, the general manager of CoursesOnline – an e-learning platform associated with trusted education marketplace Candlefox – knows a thing or two about reputable online learning providers. “The highest-quality cryptocurrency courses are those that are taught by fully accredited experts rather than self-professed ones,” McQueen told Currency.com.

She added: “We work with traders and analysts from bodies such as the Bank of America and HSBC, as even though their expertise might come at a higher price, we believe that it's an investment well worth making. Learners should take the time to research not just the backgrounds of those providing the teaching, but also what they are getting for their money.”

McQueen points to the London Academy of Training, whose two-week cryptocurrency course sells for £599 ($803, €720), as one example of an organisation that offers accredited cryptocurrency courses for UK students.

Asked what red flags learners should watch out for when choosing a course, McQueen suggested being wary of anyone guaranteeing 100% success. She said: “Look for courses that offer not just routes to success, but also cover which potential pitfalls to look out for and how they can best be navigated should you find yourself in a more precarious situation.”

Hands-on trading experience should also be offered, McQueen suggested.

Candlefox’s preferred learning providers in Australia include Pacific Training Group and TAFE Queensland, although these organisations tend to focus on the technology aspects of blockchain rather than cryptocurrency finance and trading.

“Learners should take the time to research not just the backgrounds of those providing the teaching, but also what they are getting for their money.” —Sarah-Jane McQueen, general manager of CoursesOnline

In the US, budding crypto boffins can benefit from a wealth of free online material produced by reputable lecturers and instructors.

According to Coursera, the U.S.-based online course provider, top cryptocurrency courses include “Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies” by Princeton University associate professor of computer science Arvind Narayanan and “Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Explained” by Robert Dittmar, professor of finance at the University of Michigan.

While these and similar short courses may not give you any official accreditation, they could serve as a good first step to studying crypto. The message seems clear: If you want to study crypto trading, be sure to look out for accredited teachers and realistic course objectives, coupled with real-world, hands-on training.

You can also gain valuable insights by researching previous students’ reviews and comments about courses  on Trustpilot, as well as checking their overall rating scores.

Do universities teach cryptocurrencies?

In a short space of time, digital assets have gone from being an immature industry “of very niche techies who were insular and unwilling to share their knowledge with a wider audience”, as Katharine Wooller from the crypto-wealth platform Dacxi put it, to a subject taught not just by enterprising YouTube influencers, but globally renowned universities.

In fact, many universities across the world are now starting to introduce crypto and blockchain education into their curriculums – even as far back as 2017, according to bitcoin.com, top-rated and Ivy League US universities such as Yale, Wharton and the Haas School of Business at Berkeley (at the University of California at Berkeley) were offering courses on blockchain technology. 

Using the weighting outlined in the chart below, CoinDesk’s globe-spanning 2021 report rated 230 international universities to determine the top academic institutions for prospective students seeking a degree in crypto.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) topped the list, as a result of its “multiple blockchain research centres, its frequently hosted blockchain-themed conferences, its many blockchain clubs, its company partnerships and its masters program in digital financial technology.”

Chart of the metrics used for CoinDesks’s research – Photo: coindesk.com
Reputation, impact, outcomes, cost and courses all contributed to CoinDesk’s ratings – Credit coindesk.com

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Melbourne, Australia, came in at a close second, while the the University of Zurich in Switzerland, and the University of California Berkeley  and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US rounded out the top five.

In the top 20, Asia-Pacific (including Australia) was the most-represented region, with 11 universities mentioned. Europe, including the UK, accounted for five, while four US institutions made the cut for the top 20.

The research was led by Reuben Youngblom, coordinator of the Stanford CodeX partnership with Stanford Law School and the Stanford Computer Science department. 

Talking to Currency.com, Youngblom said: “Asia – and places like Hong Kong and Singapore, in particular – has some amazing universities for blockchain education. Switzerland is doing a similarly great job with university-level infrastructure.  

“This is not to diminish what any other regions or schools are doing; it's mostly just observing that those two areas are, according to our particular methodology, fairly noteworthy.”

The University of British Columbia, ranked at #28, was the highest-ranking Canadian institution, while King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, ranked at #47, was the highest offering from the Middle East.

University crypto courses on offer

The NUS’s drive to become a world-leading cryptocurrency think-tank led it to establish the CRYSTAL Centre – billed as “a community for blockchain research and technology”– in partnership with Blockchain at Berkeley, the California-based university’s “hub for blockchain innovation”, in 2018. NUS’s flagship programme, “Digital Assets and Blockchain for Digital Finance”, is open to Singapore-based and international students.

Although Berkely is yet to follow suit by offering its own dedicated degree, in a recent interview with MarketWatch, Professor Christine A  Parlour, chair at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, said: “Over time, as cryptocurrencies have increased in importance, the content of the FinTech MBA course has switched increasingly to crypto.”

Alongside the university’s extended research and online courses, it might not be long before a prospectus gets released.

RMIT’s ‘Master of Blockchain Enabled Business’ is one of Australia’s most sought-after accreditations, while Switzerland’s ETH Zurich – the second-highest0ranked university in Europe after Oxford – offers a course named “Sustainable DAOs: Blockchains, Smart Contracts and Value-Sensitive Token Design“ that is highly recommended.

“The field as a whole could use more gender diversity, more diverse cultural perspectives, more underrepresented viewpoints.” —Reuben Youngblom, coordinator of the Stanford CodeX

With pan-continental collaborations and a diverse set of degrees on offer by world-leading universities across the world, cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is clearly turning mainstream in the higher-learning sector, with the Asia-Pacific region paving the way.

Still, Youngblom sees room for improvement: “Unfortunately, blockchain education is, at the moment, fairly limited, both in scope and in access. There are schools – a LOT of schools – that don’t offer a single blockchain class, although I hope this is changing.

“The field as a whole could use more gender diversity, more diverse cultural perspectives, more under-represented viewpoints. This problem can’t be entirely solved at the university level, but putting the right infrastructure in place to make it easy for everyone to get involved would be a big step forward.”

The YouTube crypto Wild West: What to watch out for

As with almost any hobby, profession or trend, YouTube provides a smorgasbord of cryptocurrency education and trading strategy. Many channels share an interest in providing you with excellent resources to learn about crypto, but many others can leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Lacking robust oversight, YouTubers can often plug insincere projects under the guise of genuine trading strategy. As an example, much of the coverage of a recent pump-and-dump token called “PumpETH” took a negative angle, yet the most-watched video (more than 14,000 views), titled “pumpETH TOKEN REVIEW !! PRESALE – EASY 1000X ” and uploaded by an organisation named Learn2Earn Finance, took a different approach.  

Although the standard “you should always do your own research before investing” caveat was applied to the video, its subsequent coverage of the subject follows a largely advertorial style.

Despite PumpETH being a completely anonymous project, the presenter states: “Seeing the hard work and determination of the developers has got me waiting in line to invest, too.” PumpETH is further described as an “awesome token” and “definitely the token for you” if you like passive income.

Further analysis of the Learn2Earn Finance channel showed that since August 2021, more than 138,000 subscribers were gained, though the vast majority of comments indicate bot activity.

Screenshot showing bot activity
Identical or very similar comments are a typical sign of bot activity – Image: YouTube

Additionally, over the course of one month, the non-fungible token (NFT) project “Farming Tales” was covered four times, which is a lot for what is described as a learning platform.

None of this is to say that Learn2Earn Finance is not a genuine channel, but Currency.com has reached out for clarification. This is just one of countless examples of what could be considered potentially misleading YouTube information.

YouTube can often be a resource of sub-par information, but on the other hand, many of its channels also provide genuine insight and analysis for those wanting to study crypto and learn cryptocurrency trading techniques. For example, Currency.com’s official channel frequently publishes price analyses and other educational resources for budding investors.

Another quality resource, Whiteboard Crypto is a highly popular YouTube channel with more than 597,000 subscribers. It offers to explain “topics of the cryptocurrency world using analogies, stories and examples so you can easily understand them”. 

Coin Bureau is another valid resource. Followed by more than 1.9 million viewers, it provides trading tips and token analysis while adhering to neutrality.

Another site, Coffeezilla, helpfully offers to uncover “scams, fraudsters and fake gurus that are preying on desperate people with deceptive advertising”. Its investigative approach to blockchain analysis and fraudulent crypto projects has amassed nearly 110 million views of its videos.

When assessing the credibility of a YouTube channel to invest your time in, some basic checks should be performed. For example, you should ask the following questions:

  • Do the video comments resemble bot activity?
  • Is the number of subscribers disproportionate to the amount of uploading activity?
  • What are the production values like?
  • Do the presenters use speech that sounds more like advertising than neutral information?
  • Do the video titles mention 1,000x gains and other fanciful promises?
  • Has the channel previously covered scam tokens, without redacting the coverage?

YouTube is undoubtedly a great source of digestible information if you want to learn about crypto. But, as McQueen said, “The biggest weakness of YouTube is also its main strength, with the ease of uploading and disseminating videos often muddying the waters and rewarding the most engaging providers over those who have the greatest knowledge.”

Trading platforms: An exchange of knowledge

Any centralised cryptocurrency trading exchange worth its salt wants to equip you, the investor, with the tools necessary to make wise decisions. Currency.com’s extensive news desk publishes daily price predictions, reports and insights presenting traders with up-to-date information on the latest cryptocurrency developments. It also has an ever-increasing stash of educational videos and explainers.

The Binance Academy is another popular platform, giving traders an extensive knowledge base of articles and explainers teaching would-be investors about crypto issues to help make wise investment decisions.

With over 10 million users and a celebrity spokesperson – Matt Damon, star of We Bought a Zoo – Crypto.com has a large archive of research, analysis and news, all freely available to traders.

Educational material offered by exchanges is not always tailored to the investors, however. Some of the less-regulated exchanges often prioritise self-promotion and listing activity over genuine knowledge-sharing, so are best avoided. 

Wrapping up

There are a multitude of ways to hone your knowledge of blockchain and cryptocurrency, from readily accessible online material to international masters’ programmes costing many thousands of dollars. What works for one individual may not work for someone else.

As Youngblom said, “For those who choose not to pursue a formal university degree, the blockchain community as a whole has done a truly incredible job of providing a targeted education for free or at a low cost.

"There are classes, meet-ups, mentorships, hackathons, fellowships, internships... the whole slate from self-education to on-the-job education. This is not to say that either path is better, but in the interests of making informed decisions, these resources exist and are, in my opinion, quite robust.”

While the learning options are vast, budding students should always carefully research the credibility of the course administrators, as well as reading up on reviews and previous students’ feedback.

FAQs

There are many options available to you, including free online knowledgebases, YouTube tutorials, online accredited courses and masters’ programmes from many leading universities worldwide. Be sure to figure out what you want to achieve before making any big decisions.

You can study cryptocurrency and blockchain technology via online educational platforms as well as in person at certain universities – the options are increasing all the time. Just make sure to choose carefully before making a large commitment. 

Absolutely. According to Sarah-Jane McQueen, general manager of CoursesOnline: “Seeing as cryptocurrency is here to stay as a major part of international finance, universities should unquestionably teach about it as they would [about] any other subject.

“Just because it’s new and somewhat unregulated, it deserves to be treated the same as any other subject with its benefits and flaws given proper study. Having a set curriculum and expert-led learning will help spread the best industry practices and reduce the influence of less-effective ones.”

Further reading

The material provided on this website is for information purposes only and should not be regarded as investment research or investment advice. Any opinion that may be provided on this page is a subjective point of view of the author and does not constitute a recommendation by Currency Com Bel LLC or its partners. We do not make any endorsements or warranty on the accuracy or completeness of the information that is provided on this page. By relying on the information on this page, you acknowledge that you are acting knowingly and independently and that you accept all the risks involved.
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