Module 1: What is Bitcoin?

This module will provide a basic introduction to bitcoin, a digital currency that was invented in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto. Since its humble beginnings, known only to a few programmers who communicated online, it has grown to a global phenomenon, with steady adoption by users and merchants, along with a growing value (though with many wild price swings along the way). This module will introduce students to the basics of bitcoin, describing what it is, some details on its history, theories on why it has value, and how to find information about the bitcoin price and network. Finally, the module also reviews some important warnings and cautions about using bitcoin.

Module 2: Cryptography for Beginners

Encryption, ciphers, hashing, protocols… it all sounds like something out of a spy movie. However, these topics are key components of a field of computer science known as cryptography. This module begins assuming the student is not familiar with any of these topics and explains each of them in detail with many examples. Students then will learn how cryptography allows bitcoin to work, and how relying on cryptography allowed bitcoin to succeed where previous attempts at creating a digital currency failed.

Module 3: Public and Private Keys

This module will introduce public key cryptography and describe its importance to the inner workings of bitcoin. Students will learn how a private key controls the ownership of bitcoin. They will also demonstrate the use of a digital signature and compare it to a physical signature. The module also explains multi-signature or ‘multi-sig’ and how it is used in bitcoin. Students will also become familiar with best practices for securing private keys. Finally, students will be introduced to some potential career paths within the bitcoin space.

Module 4: Nodes, Wallets, and Addresses

This module will discuss some key components of bitcoin. First, it will start with a bitcoin node, which is simply any person or system that participates in the bitcoin network. Next, the module will discuss bitcoin wallets and addresses, how they are created, and how they are used. Students will evaluate the difference between digital and physical wallets, and demonstrate how to open a bitcoin wallet.

Module 5: Bitcoin Mining

This module will discuss the ins and outs of bitcoin mining: what it is, how it works, and who is doing it. As early proponents compared bitcoin to “digital gold,” it naturally followed that the process of creating of new bitcoin, like the process of finding gold, should be called mining. Students will learn the elegantly simple solution of bitcoin mining and how it incentivizes people to contribute to the bitcoin network. Students will also discuss important societal issues such as the high energy use and carbon emissions of bitcoin mining.

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Module 6: Transacting Bitcoin

Do you envision a world where you can buy a coffee with bitcoin (or some other cryptocurrency)? High transaction costs have made this scenario less feasible, though solutions are coming! This module dives into the nuts and bolts of how to use bitcoin to purchase things. Students will learn how to transfer, receive, and spend bitcoin. The module also evaluates transactions costs for bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, and other payment methods.

Module 7: Bitcoin Security

This module dives into security and discusses the problems and vulnerabilities of the bitcoin network. It will compare the security of the bitcoin network with other financial institutions. Students will learn what a 51% attack is and how it could affect bitcoin’s price and credibility. Students will also learn about how best to secure their own wallets and bitcoin holdings.

Module 8: Bitcoin and Money

This module provides a basic introduction to the economic concept of money. The module will define and describe the three traditional characteristics of money, as well as the seven properties of a strong currency. It will also discuss the two sides of inflation and deflation, in addition to touching on some historical and current examples of hyperinflation. Next, we’ll examine historical types of money, and this will include a research assignment on a historical monetary unit (there are lots to choose from!). Finally, the module will conclude with a discussion of money and trust.

Module 9: Altcoins and Regulations

Bitcoin is just the first of hundreds of similar cryptocurrencies! This module will discuss the other major cryptocurrency projects and how they compare to bitcoin. Students will be introduced to Ethereum and examine its impact and potential. Finally, the module will introduce how regulation in the U.S. and other countries may affect bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Module 10: Bitcoin: the Past and the Future

Are bitcoin and cryptocurrencies the future of money? A big bubble? An interesting idea, but ultimately not that important? This module will take a look at the latest topics trends and issues of bitcoin. Students will learn how and where to continue learning about issues surrounding bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. As part of this module, students will choose a topic and research the situation and both sides of an issue. The module will conclude with a discussion of the potential of bitcoin and blockchain technology.

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Course Description:
Upon completion of this course, students will understand bitcoin, including its history, development, and context within the modern global economy. Students will learn the basic cryptographic principles that underlie bitcoin, and gain confidence by demonstrating strong security principles in storing and transaction bitcoin. Key principles such as mining, wallets, and hashing will be introduced. And finally they will be familiarized with the nascent industry of digital currencies and how they function.