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The Basics of Blockchain

A Beginner's Guide to Blockchain
4.2 (262 ratings)
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1,174 students enrolled
Last updated 11/2016
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Animal Labs, Tom Serres, Bettina Warburg, and John Fitch are proud to present: The Basics of Blockchain: A Beginner's Guide to Blockchain Technology.

Imagine it’s 1994. The internet exists, but is still referred to as an “information superhighway.” This may feel a long way off from the Digital Age that defines our lives today -- where objects in our pockets power much of our activity, where we are connected to parts of the world previously unknown, and where our relationship to reality grows increasingly blended. We are well beyond websites. Blockchain technology is in that same 1994 moment, trying to imagine its own future. 

Say goodbye to the Information Superhighway and hello to the Decentralized Economy. Blockchain is about to radically transform how humans and machines engage in economic activity, forever. While humans have been using formal institutions to reduce uncertainty in trade since the dawn of time, Blockchain is evolving this age-old model into something far more interesting: the distributed autonomous institution.

This course is designed to take you through the basics of Blockchain Technology. A Beginner's Guide, if you will. Even for the most informed technologists, Blockchain Technology is very difficult and often dense subject matter to fully internalize and understand. This course is here to help students unpack the ideas and better understand what the most important opportunities are in and around this new technology. We cover the Economics, Technology, and Business of Blockchain.

The Basics of Blockchain also includes expert interviews with some of the top thinkers, creators, and innovators of blockchain technology, people like:

  • Gavin Wood, one of the founders of the Ethereum Network
  • Dominic Williams, one of the founders of Dfinity and String Labs
  • Vlad Zamfir, Blockchain Researcher and Designer of Casper
  • Jutta Steiner, one of the founders of Ethcore

In addition to expert interviews, the course also includes various other articles, podcasts, and video series to help ground the student in the subject mater.

Who is the target audience?
  • Corporate Executives looking to connect corproate strategy to technology
  • Government Executives looking to better understand Blockchain opportunities
  • High school & college students
  • Supply Chain Managers
  • CEO's, Boards, and Senior VP's
  • Entrepreneurs looking for something new
  • Consultants and Professional Service Providers
  • Technology Enthusiasts
  • Anyone looking to better prepare for long term career potential in the future
Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed
What Will I Learn?
Define Blockchain Technology, in your own words
Understand how Blockchain could potentially impact your business and industry.
Write a thought leadership piece regarding use cases and industry potential of Blockchain technology.
Explain Blockchain Technology to your clients, friends, and business colleagues
Set a strategy to prepare your business or your clients for the emerging Decentralized Economy
Join a community of economists, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and technologists that are shaping this technology as we speak.
Identify which aspects of Blockchain Technology seem most important and relevant to you
Walk away with a strong foundation in where blockchain is going, what it does, and how to prepare for it
View Curriculum
  • A basic understanding of the internet.
  • Have an open mind and be prepared to get very curious
Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 33 Lectures Collapse All 33 Lectures 01:37:41
Blockchain Overview
10 Lectures 22:48

Tom and Bettina introduce themselves as your guides to blockchain on this course. You do not need any additional skills or expertise to get started!

Preview 02:16

Who can learn about Blockchain technology
1 question

We approach blockchain from three perspectives: economics, technology, and technology. But first, we'll cover some of the blockchain basics!

Preview 02:23

Understand the course's structure and final project.

Structure of this course
1 question

There are many ways people try to describe what a blockchain is. In this lecture, we give you a basic functional definition to hold onto throughout the rest of the course.

Preview 02:31

Understanding the basic parts of a Blockchain
1 question

Meet Gavin Wood, one of the founders of the Ethereum Project and founder of Ethcore. In this video, Gavin offers up his own definition of blockchain technology.

Preview 03:07

You may be wondering what a block in a blockchain holds. This lecture covers the mechanics of how blocks hold data and are chained together to form a chronology of events in the network.

What is a block?

Understanding the blocks in a Blockchain
1 question

Gavin Wood joins us to explain the logic behind why this technology is called "blockchain." Don't miss his awesome analogy to checkbooks!

Optional Bonus Content: A conversation with an expert!

In this lecture we break down one of definitional parts of a blockchain -- a registry of transactions. 

What is a registry of transactions?

Understanding a registry of transactions
1 question

In this lecture we break down another of the definitional parts of a blockchain -- peer-to-peer networks.

What do we mean by peer-to-peer?

Understanding a peer-to-peer network
1 question

Hopefully you have your feet wet by now. But here's a quick recap of the functional definition we started the section with to keep it top of mind. 

Recap of the definition of Blockchain

Blockchain recap
1 question

Adding to the functional definition of blockchain, we go through four key traits of blockchains. These traits: permissionless, transparent, immutable, and secure, give blockchains more special capabilities.

What are some traits of a Blockchain?

Understanding key Blockchain traits
1 question
The Economics of Blockchain
8 Lectures 25:52

Imagine it's 1994. In this section we take you back to the early days of mainstream internet adoption, to help you think about the same early days of the blockchain space.

A flashback to the 1990s

1990s flashback
1 question

Our economic history is all about lowering our uncertainty about one another so that we can trade. We did this as tribes, and we still do it today -- online. Usually, institutions have helped lower this uncertainty. This is the basis of a field called New Institutional Economics.

From tribes to platforms

Blockchain and trade
1 question

We don't necessarily need institutions -- middlemen -- to do business. With blockchain, we have a new way to lower uncertainty, through machine trust. We can write rules and have them executed on a blockchain without interference.

Lowering our dependence on institutions

Understanding the changing role of institutions
1 question

What if we think about the corporation or firm as a group of contracts? In this lecture we talk about how blockchains allow us to code rules in software, and bundle them into a firm. 

The new firm, and the promise of Blockchain

Understanding the new firm
1 question

An example of the new firm

Understanding an example of the new firm
1 question

Optional Bonus Content: A conversation with an expert!

What is a smart contract? Gavin Wood gives us examples of smart contracts -- using the idea of checks.

Recap: the nexus of (smart) contracts

Recap: Nexus of smart contracts
1 question

Gavin Wood gives us a glimpse into how he thinks about economic transactions and blockchain.

Optional Bonus Content: A conversation with an expert!
The Technology of Blockchain
7 Lectures 31:21

How did Bitcoin emerge and what's next? This lecture covers the early history and pipeline of blockchain innovation.

The origin of Bitcoin and Blockchain

Understanding the origin of Bitcoin
1 question

Moving beyond Bitcoin, Tom explains the Ethereum network and its purpose as a giant decentralized world computer. 

What is the Ethereum network?

Understanding the Ethereum Network
1 question

Gavin Wood talks about the technology stack of the blockchain space. Computers love working numbers, so he starts with those functions.

Optional Bonus Content: A conversation with an expert!

The decentralized economy will change how we create and trade value. In this lecture, Tom covers how the technology stack fits into the evolving decentralized economy.

The technology stack of Blockchain

Understanding the tech stack
1 question

Gavin Wood gives us a sense of how the nature of business will move toward decentralized activity. We moved from a postal system to email. This is the kind of shift we are headed toward.

Optional Bonus Content: A conversation with an expert!

Where is blockchain technology headed? There are several themes that are emerging as important, one of which is solving for scalability. Moving away from Proof of Work may be one of the ways to scale.

How is the technology evolving?

Understanding Blockchain tech evolution
1 question

Gavin Wood and his team at Ethcore work on many parts of current blockchain technology. One opportunity in the coming years is to create interoperability between private and public blockchains (which form camps in the blockchain community).   

Optional Bonus Content: A conversation with an expert!
The Business of Blockchain
7 Lectures 16:59

Tracking food, conflict diamonds and minerals, or other goods, can be done on a blockchain to keep records of provenance and certification during a product's life.

Imagining new business ideas of blockchain

Understanding business ideas for blockchain
1 question

Along with asset tracking, identity is an emerging business opportunity in the blockchain space. This could help organizations meet Know-Your-Customer (KYC) regulations, and other current identity burdens.

How identity will change with blockchain

Understanding identity with blockchain
1 question

The Internet of Things is the third business case we think is important. This lecture explores how machines, not just humans, might use blockchain going forward.

Beyond blockchain for people

Understanding smart objects
1 question

Supply chains are a way to bring all these use case ideas together. They track assets, they require some identification, and they incorporate sensors and other IoT devices. 

The changing world of supply chains

Understanding Blockchain for supply chains
1 question

What are some glaring challenges to seeing services built on a blockchain? Gavin Wood talks about how our legacy systems might be the biggest hurdle to change.

Optional Bonus Content: A conversation with an expert!

Technology is either invisible or beautiful: right now blockchains are more invisible than beautiful, since they are still early in consumer adoption. It may be easier to pursue a business to business strategy.

Recap: Business to Business

Recap: Business of Blockchain
1 question

This is your chance to discover existing companies solving for asset tracking, identity, and the internet of things, using blockchain!

Final Project
Farewell and stay involved!
1 Lecture 00:41
Congrats! This is only the beginning
About the Instructor
4.2 Average rating
261 Reviews
1,174 Students
1 Course
Entrepreneur, Public Speaker, Host of Tech on Politics

Tom Serres is a seasoned entrepreneur, public speaker, and technology executive. He is Co-Founder of Animal Ventures, a venture studio and consultancy focused on building startups, educating executives, and designing comprehensive strategies to help large companies, governments, and SMEs take advantage some of the most advanced technology companies coming into the market. Animal Ventures focuses on tech companies operating in verticals such as Blockchain, Digital Media, Artificial and Augmented Intelligence, and Internet of Things.

Tom is the host of a new tech show called Tech on Politics, a personal experiment to interview some of the greatest minds in technology, media, venture capital, and government about the convergence of technology, politics, and government.

Tom’s first company, Rally, was the largest political fundraising platform in the United States. He is considered one of country’s leading thinkers on entrepreneurship, corporate innovation, technology, politics and online fundraising. In 2013, Tom was named one of America’s Most Promising CEO’s under 35 by Forbes Magazine for his work with Rally. Tom has helped millions of users connect with nonprofits, advocacy groups, political campaigns, and individual causes to raise awareness and money online. Over a few short years, Rally hosted 70,000 organizations and grew to nearly a billion dollars in fundraising volume.

In June 2012, Tom made history by raising Rally’s $7.9 million Series A venture capital round — the largest ever — entirely online. As one leading tech publication put it, Rally’s founder decided “to put his desired-money where his mouth was and raise the cash online.”Tom’s been recognized by Campaigns and Elections Magazine with their Innovator Award in 2012 and as a Rising Political Star. He has discussed online fundraising, the cause economy, and entrepreneurship on CNN, ABC News, CNBC, and Fox News.

Forbes Magazine also named Rally one of America’s Most Promising Companies of 2013. Rally raised venture capital from some of the first investors in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and PayPal.

4.2 Average rating
261 Reviews
1,174 Students
1 Course

Bettina Warburg is Co-Founder of Animal Ventures, a venture studio and consultancy focused on building startups, educating executives, and designing comprehensive strategies to help large companies, governments, and SMEs take advantage some of the most advanced technology companies coming to market. Animal Ventures focuses on tech companies operating in verticals such as Blockchain, Digital Platforms, Artificial and Augmented Intelligence, and the Internet of Things.

Bettina is a thought-leader in the emerging blockchain space and leads the blockchain practice at Animal Ventures, including research, development, and commercialization across the ecosystem of blockchain innovation. She partners her network with governments and members of the Fortune 500 to help drive the global commercialization and integration of blockchain technology. Bettina first became interested in blockchain technology’s ability to shift entire systems, disintermediating many traditional trusted parties through her research on cutting-edge governance practices.

Bettina is passionate about the convergence of technology and politics and the impact it will have on our future. She is the Executive Producer of a new tech show called Tech on Politics, interviewing some of the greatest minds in technology, media, venture capital, and government about the convergence of technology and politics. Prior to Animal Ventures, Bettina received her MSc from Oxford University and BS from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and developed a keen interest in global governance and cultural diplomacy. As a Public Foresight Strategist at the Institute for the Future, a Silicon Valley think tank, Bettina brought a futures lens to a variety of strategic initiatives with top corporations, foundations, education institutions, and city governments. While at IFTF, she also developed its future of philanthropy and future of governance research practices, looking to reimagine society for an age of planetary challenges and human responsibility.

In 2016, Bettina was invited by TED to be one the first speakers ever to unpack the topic of blockchain to a global audience. She has given talks and curated conferences such as Skoll World Forum, Salzburg Global Seminar, City Innovate Summit, Personal Democracy Forum, and numerous universities around the world. Bettina’s work has been cited in publications such as The Atlantic, Center for Public Impact,, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

4.2 Average rating
261 Reviews
1,174 Students
1 Course
Product Designer & Software Entrepreneur

I am a documentary filmmaker turned software entrepreneur.

I was Director of Product at Ticketbud, lead a small design firm named Initial, created a documentary VR company called Dox, and currently leading product at Twyla, an art + tech company.

I am a proud altMBA grad that balances modern work life with the martial arts and improv cooking.

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