Universities Have Almost Missed the Boat on Web3

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The Web3 industry — defined as the internet owned by the builders and users, orchestrated with tokens — has been growing exponentially over the past several years. While it’s clear that the world around us has embraced Web3, what about higher education?

In 2021 alone, blockchain-related job postings saw a surge of nearly 400%.

And while we’ve seen a handful of universities offer Web3 educational opportunities, most institutions are still reluctant to deploy resources to study and teach decentralized finance and Web3 at scale.

Web3-deficient universities will continue to disappoint students if they don’t start seriously integrating Web3 education into their curricula — and they need to act now.

Why universities are still hesitant to embrace Web3

Having seen firsthand how some universities fail to embrace new trends, I understand their hesitation: Why should we invest time and resources into something that may not even be around in five years?

Given the fluid regulatory environment, the prevalence of malicious actors, and the disregard for responsible risk management, the return on investment for Web3 coursework may not be as attractive as corporate strategy or data science, for example.

The aforementioned risks of exploring fast-developing Web3 technologies can be countered by emphasizing that many courses in business technology are themselves dated by at least a few years. Although there may be a few exceptions, reading a case study that is 10-20 years old is unlikely to provide relevant insights and can be seen as a somewhat trivial exercise.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some lessons to be learned by analyzing a case study on how executives would have employed a different growth strategy many years ago — but there is still a clear problem at hand in most universities’ aversion to further Web3 literacy.

Academia focuses on how to employ dated business and technology solutions to dated business problems. Given the speed at which technology and business are evolving, academia should decrease the latency in their curricula and focus on how to employ modern business and technology solutions to modern business problems. And there’s a need to do it at scale — immediately.

Still not convinced that universities should act now to embrace Web3?

Let’s take blockchain out of the equation and take social media as an example. Looking back on the early 2000s, do you think it would’ve made sense for educators to discuss and consider the disruptive nature of social media and its capabilities? Do you think it would have been worthwhile to teach students how to leverage their critical thinking abilities to develop use cases for how this technology could help businesses obtain a competitive advantage?

The answers here are rhetorical, but it’s clearly time for universities to catch up with the times.

Universities should’ve adopted and supported the Web3 revolution…yesterday

Is there really a business need for Web3 features in today’s economy?

As previously mentioned, there was a 395% increase in blockchain-related job postings in 2021, with the number of companies hiring increasing by about 10.5% in 2022 despite the market downturn. Despite such strong growth, just 14 universities in the United States currently offer blockchain and crypto courses.

If universities offered formal and experiential educational opportunities in Web3 to their students, career centers could likely increase their job placement rates alongside market growth rates. Job placement rate is a critical key performance indicator for professional schools, so why not strive to increase it?

Another point for universities to consider when discussing Web3 is an important one: salaries. While Web2 and Web3 startup salaries are comparable in the United States, the real differentiation comes in the form of equity and upside potential in Web3 — especially if you’re an early employee.

Web3 initiatives are not just for increasing current job placements, they are a long-term investment for universities. For employees, premium compensation packages provide the financial ability to donate to their alma mater. For universities, this could mean a higher alumni donation participation rate and donation amounts — think of it like a delayed student experience satisfaction metric. Like any technology, though, these equity compensation premiums may soon decrease as more employees enter the job market.

Challenging the norm

I’m a strong proponent of learning through practical and relevant experiential education. Formal course content takes time to develop and deliver: Learning methods like mentorship programs or event attendance can be put forward as alternatives.

I would encourage university administrators, faculty, and students to explore attending or hosting an industry conference. Even if there aren’t resources readily available on or near campus, there’s often a way to attract talent to campus.

Universities have significant brand equity, so partnering with nearby accelerators, incubators or other entrepreneurship or innovation centers can be beneficial for students, universities and outside entities. While they are usually not 100% Web3 focused, these events offer an opportunity for students and educators to surround themselves with like-minded individuals who are exploring new frontiers and embracing the latest technology to build and optimize their ideas.

There’s still hope

There’s no doubt Web3 is here to stay.

And while most universities missed the first phase of adoption, they should now rush to explore both formal and informal coursework and experiential learning opportunities to equip students with the skills to build and manage Web3 businesses — it is what’s best for universities, students, businesses and innovation at large.

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Universities Have Almost Missed the Boat on Web3 is written by Frank Bolella for blockworks.co

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