GHD Students Explore Applications for Blockchain in International Development

In January 2018, 27 GHD students and a GHD professor, along with 71 other participants from various institutions and countries, enrolled in an online certificate course on blockchain technology. Developed by the social enterprise TechChange, the Blockchain for International Development course centered on how blockchain is being used to address pressing international development challenges. This course was the first online offering to GHD students and was met with resounding appreciation for the exposure to real-world technological applications it provided.

A blockchain case study

A blockchain case study course activity.

Blockchain for International Development focused on providing a thorough understanding of blockchain technology through background readings, interviews with subject-matter experts, and applied exercises. Students participated in daily live-streams where they interacted with experts in blockchain implementation. The course website also contained activities designed to further students' understanding of blockchain and encourage them to consider innovative ways in which the technology can be applied. Course milestones included the creation of an online wallet for cryptocurrency trading and a customized final project.

Students discussing blockchain applications

Guest expert Qusai Jouda explains how UNICEF has applied blockchain.

In the final week of the course, a first-year student hosted a ‘block party’, a gathering that served both as her final project and as an opportunity for course participants to discuss their experiences and how they plan to use the knowledge they gained in the future. “It was nice to have the opportunity to meet in person specifically to talk about what we’d been learning and to consider the implications for our various fields." Students described their experience positively, noting that, "the course provided both an effective overview of the fundamentals of blockchain and insight into how development practitioners across sectors are incorporating the technology into their work."

Blockchain for International Development allowed students to engage with the material in a different format. The live stream videos and online forums presented opportunities to engage regularly with the material and students appreciated the ability to watch the archived live stream videos, reporting that, "it was reassuring to know that even when I missed a video because of a time conflict or I couldn't grasp a challenging concept, I could go back and watch the video later."

Describing blockchain

Blockchain buddies planning their final project.

This experience was a successful entree into the world of online learning, with one student commenting that “I see online courses as a way for GHD students to supplement their existing skills and explore content and critical skill areas outside the primary curriculum."

As Nick Martin of TechChange noted, "Georgetown GHD enrolled the largest cohort of students in our new course offering. This demonstrates the program's commitment to bringing the latest in development innovation on a unique learning platform to these emerging global development practitioners."