Universities Should Offer Students Bitcoin for Engagement and Value Increase

Universities Should Offer Students Bitcoin for Engagement and Value Increase

The Evolving Landscape of Higher Education and the Potential of Blockchain Technology

This is an opinion editorial by Rupert Matthews, a lecturer at the Nottingham Business School.

University education is often seen as a significant investment, requiring students to take on substantial debt in pursuit of a degree. However, in recent years, the value of a university education has come into question, as students face escalating costs and increased pressures on their time. The traditional model of higher education is being challenged, and new solutions are needed to adapt to the changing landscape.

To understand the challenges faced by higher education, it is crucial to recognize the impact of these financial burdens on students. Tales of students graduating with significant debt are all too common in the United Kingdom, with individuals burdened by loans of up to £90,000 (about $115,000). This raises concerns about the value students derive from their university degrees compared to the significant costs incurred.

Moreover, the demand for part-time or full-time employment among students has increased, as they seek to manage the financial strain of their education. Recent statistics show that a majority of students in the UK now hold jobs alongside their studies. Unfortunately, this often results in compromised academic performance, as students struggle to balance their work responsibilities with their coursework.

This dilemma presents a critical question for prospective university students: Is the investment of time and money into a university education worth it, when alternatively, they could be developing practical skills or investing in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin? This conundrum highlights the need for innovative solutions in the higher education system to improve the value and outcomes for students.

The challenges in higher education have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has blurred the line between in-person and online learning. Students historically faced issues with attendance and engagement, with limited motivation to attend early morning lectures or stay for extensive seminar sessions. The availability of lecture recordings and online materials further diminishes the incentives for in-person attendance.

To address these pressing issues, institutions are exploring potential solutions to increase student engagement. One approach involves the introduction of “digital badges” for completing activities or attending sessions, as well as progress tests during modules to link early engagement to final grades. However, implementing such options comes with significant costs and administrative burdens for universities.

The difficulties are particularly evident in modules that require independent learning, such as dissertation modules. These modules often rely on students developing research skills and completing self-directed projects. In comparison to more structured modules with gradual content coverage, students need to engage with the material from the outset to choose an appropriate topic and effectively plan their projects.

Attempts to incentivize engagement, such as providing cash prizes for the best work, have proven limited in their effectiveness. While high-performing students tend to engage regardless of the presence of prizes, those who are less engaged may view winning as unattainable and maintain their suboptimal work habits.

In light of these challenges, an alternative approach emerges: incorporating blockchain technology, specifically Bitcoin, into the university learning experience. By embedding a Bitcoin wallet seed phrase within course material, students could be incentivized to engage with the material and attend sessions to complete a “treasure hunt” challenge. This approach capitalizes on the power of blockchain technology to promote engagement and reward students who actively participate.

The premise is simple: at the beginning of the module, students are introduced to the challenge of finding a 12- or 24-word seed phrase within specific materials throughout the early parts of the module. By staging the availability of material and seed words, the risk of students hastily scanning through all the material on the first day is reduced, while providing slower starters with the opportunity to catch up gradually.

Implementing this approach incurs minimal costs apart from the bitcoin prize itself. By keeping the information about the prize relatively low-key, the impact on the module’s curriculum is limited. Students would be required to explore Bitcoin-related terminology, download a wallet, restore it from the seed phrase, and complete a transaction by sending the bitcoin to a wallet with private key control. This ensures that the students not only learn about Bitcoin but also demonstrate their ability to utilize the technology.

While this approach may not be an explicit attempt to “orange pill” students about Bitcoin, it does introduce them to the technology and incentivizes their interaction with the network. Through this engaging experience, students acquire firsthand knowledge and can develop a deeper understanding of Bitcoin beyond its popular association with price speculation.

From an educational perspective, this initiative aims to promote earlier engagement with course materials, enabling students to plan their projects effectively. The indirect “orange pilling” occurs naturally as students become aware of Bitcoin, understand its network dynamics, and potentially embark on their own exploration of the cryptocurrency world.

Apart from facilitating engagement, this approach also enhances the students’ university experience. It encourages collaboration and discussion among students, spreading awareness and understanding of Bitcoin within the academic community. Students who can draw upon personal experiences rather than relying solely on media portrayals of Bitcoin may develop more nuanced opinions and contribute fresh perspectives when they enter the business world.

By embracing this innovative method, universities can equip their graduates with substantial knowledge about the transformative potential of Bitcoin. Through informed insights, these graduates can drive change within established businesses and expedite Bitcoin adoption in various industries. Such graduates may proudly share stories like, “I once had a lecturer who put 200,000 sats in a wallet for us to claim,” reflecting the impact of their early introduction to Bitcoin.

In conclusion, the higher education sector faces multiple challenges, including rising costs, time commitments, and evolving learning environments. To address these issues, integrating blockchain technology, specifically Bitcoin, into the university experience can provide a unique and engaging solution. By embedding Bitcoin wallet seed phrases within course materials, universities can incentivize student engagement, foster deeper understanding of Bitcoin, and equip graduates with knowledge that can shape the future of businesses and industries.

Note: This article is a guest post by Rupert Matthews and the opinions expressed within are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

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