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The Latest Course Catalog Trend? Blockchain 101

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Colleges' embrace of blockchain is part of a broader trend of universities trying to be more responsive to business and labor-market needs.

A growing number of classes and research initiatives on blockchain technology are emerging at universities. Blockchain is best known for its role in powering the virtual currency bitcoin. Applications for the technology are springing up in sectors including retail, humanitarian aid, real estate, and finance. Although some analysts believe blockchain won't gain widespread adoption for another five or 10 years, companies are investing heavily in the technology—and universities are taking note.

New York University, Georgetown, and Stanford are among the institutions that offer blockchain technology courses to get students thinking about its potential uses and to better prepare them for the workforce. Job postings requiring blockchain skills ballooned by 200 percent in the first five months of this year, compared with the same period a year earlier, though they remain less than 1 percent of software development jobs, according to the research firm Burning Glass Technologies. Universities including MIT, Cornell, and Columbia are launching labs and research centers to explore the technology and its policy implications and seed the development of rigorous curricula on the topic.

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