Published: Oct. 10, 2018

MSU launches blockchain course

Contact(s): Omar Sofradzija Broad College of Business office: 517-884-8866, Caroline Brooks Communications and Brand Strategy office: 517-432-0920, Neil Kane Undergraduate Entrepreneurship cell: (312) 404-3507

If you aren’t familiar with blockchain, you might be long behind the current wave of entrepreneurial innovation. Blockchain – the digital open-ledger system behind the success of Bitcoin – has been adopted by some of the world’s largest organizations, from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to Walmart, and is one of the latest additions to Michigan State University’s curriculum.

Taught in the Broad College of Business, MSU is the first Michigan school to offer a course in the cutting-edge ledgering system, according to Neil Kane, director of undergraduate entrepreneurship and leader of the course.

“Blockchain is going to change the way that we do business. It is going to change the way we might do marketing; the way we do accounting; the way we do financing,” said Sanjay Gupta, dean of the Broad College. “While we are far from saying what ‘official curriculum’ in blockchain means, it’s of sufficient import we cannot sit on the sidelines.”

Kane learned that other universities recently launched blockchain curriculum and saw the opportunity to position MSU as a leader in the technology by developing a class for the university.

“I took it as a personal challenge because I had never developed a course before,” Kane said. “This was an opportunity for me to learn the subject matter, figure out how to teach it, develop the course and learn all the systems at MSU.”

The end result was MGT 491: Blockchain Foundations and Applications. The course, offered as an elective through the minor in entrepreneurship and innovation, covers the technology behind blockchain and the multiple opportunities for its applications.

Blockchain’s popularity in the business and entrepreneurial world boded for immediate popularity to the course.

“We’ve got 32 students enrolled in the class, which is a mix of undergrads, grad students, MBAs and law students,” Kane said. “Our undergrads are business, computer science, and other programs. It makes for an interesting amalgam of people which reflects the many facets of blockchain.”

To reflect blockchain’s vast applicability, Kane drew from experts in and outside the business world.

“The way I got around being the expert in everything was to invite different professors and visiting speakers from other areas and other colleges around campus to talk,” Kane said.

“We’ve had faculty from computer science, law, economics, supply chain management and entrepreneurship all contributing, as well as speakers from IBM and Deloitte.”

Students will work in teams throughout the semester to design their own application of blockchain, as well as review real-time case studies.

“One of the class case studies is Walmart and IBM working together with produce suppliers,” Kane said. “They do that not only to save money, but particularly in the food application, if there’s ever a recall or a contamination they instantly can know where every leaf of lettuce and every banana and mango came from.”