One might be forgiven for thinking that blockchain technology is somewhat overhyped. After all, several major cryptocurrencies have continued to decline in price this year. Nonetheless, institutional interest in blockchain technology continues to pick up. The industry’s rapid growth is ratcheting up the number of people seeking careers within the field, fuelled by larger companies desperate for talent. The job of developing blockchain distributed ledgers for businesses was recently ranked first among the top 20 fastest-growing job skills, and postings for workers with those skills grew more than 200% last year.
“For blockchain technology to gain traction, it will require more developers to acquire the skills to be able to work with the technology,” Windsor Holden, a blockchain analyst with Juniper Research told ComputerWorld. “Even assuming 20,000 developers have worked with blockchain in some form or another, this is less than 1 in 1,000 developers worldwide. For the moment, those developers that do have experience in the field are in great demand.”
Not surprisingly, learning resources to meet this demand are quickly popping up. For the uninitiated, however, it’s helpful to ascertain beforehand whether such courses are geared toward permissionless or permissioned (private) blockchains. The resource list below includes both.
While blockchain courses primarily tend to attract developers, you don’t have to be a coder to gain business-centric knowledge about distributed ledger technology. Indeed, you don’t even need to know how to build a basic network.
For example, Hyperledger offers an introductory course on how to apply blockchain technology in the business environment. The course includes a primer for those who want to start building blockchain applications with Hyperledger frameworks. Other providers include:
- Udemy offers a number of online courses from overviews for beginners to programming.
- IBM offers a free online course explaining blockchain technology and how businesses can employ it.
- Coursera provides online classes that range from simple courses to full “degrees” and certificates.
- Edx offers online courses about blockchain basics, blockchain-related business applications, and cryptocurrencies.
For those interested in formal training, MIT, Stanford, and several other accredited U.S. universities now offer courses on blockchain technology. The latter also includes Blockchain University in Mountain View, CA and London-based B9lab, which launched an online Certified Ethereum Developer training program in 2016.
Read, Read, Read
If you prefer to learn by reading, several books, whitepapers, and online FAQs may help to answer your questions. Among them are:
- Mastering Bitcoin by Andreas M. Antonopoulos provides a great overview of blockchain technology for the technically inclined.
- Blockchain Revolution by Don and Alex Tapscott provides an introduction to blockchain and its potential impact on the economy, industry and individual lives.
- The Business Blockchain by William Mougayar reviews blockchain’s use within the business world (and is thus geared toward business professionals).
- Blockchain by Josh Thompson offers an overview for beginners.
For the technically inclined, the Bitcoin whitepaper published in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto explains blockchain technology in-depth. Likewise, the Ethereum whitepaper published in 2013 by Vitalik Buterin is also helpful in this regard.
You can find more information online in any number of FAQs, about pages and online forums. The community-generated FAQ on Reddit includes videos and other background material as does the FAQ from weusecoins.com. Blockchain enthusiasts should also visit The Ethereum Foundation, which provides a number of resources from developer tools to industry news. News outlets that cover blockchain industry developments include Bitcoin Magazine, Coindesk, Cointelegraph, and CCN.
Several online and in-person communities also serve as worthwhile educational resources. These include Bitcointalk, the Reddit Blockchain Forum, and Blockchain Forums. In addition, many cities host Meetup groups for individuals with varying technical knowledge within the industry. Check the site to find one near you.
Exploring Other Blockchains
If you would like to expand your understanding of blockchain, there are many types to explore, from public to private to consortium and hybrids. You can also begin to delve into specific blockchains, including Ethereum, Zcash, Dash, Monero, and others. Join their communities on Reddit or Slack and read their whitepapers. Additional information about the types of blockchains that exists is available at Blockchainhub. You can find all publicly-listed blockchains here.
Build Your Own
Building your own blockchain is perhaps the best way to fully understand the tech. That’s because a not insubstantial number of tech enthusiasts learn by doing. This reality is especially true when working at the code level, as it helps one move beyond just a cursory understanding of the tech.
Udemy lists several excellent courses to start the beginner off. For those that know basic Python and how basic HTTP requests work, a step-by-step article detailing this process can be found here. Likewise, quick guides exist detailing how to build your own blockchain using Java, Go, and Haskell (with detailed coding instructions laid out).
So don’t be intimidated by the code! Achieving success sometimes requires taking small steps at first.