Historically, colleges and universities have always been at the forefront of new thoughts and technologies, and college students often possess much higher levels of awareness and understanding about knowledge towards innovative ideas than the general public. Today, how sufficient is blockchain literacy among college students? PANews conducted a survey of nationwide colleges and universities in China to find out.
●23.4% of Chinese college students indicated they did not know anything about blockchain;
●Students majoring in economics, management, and engineering were overall more familiar with crypto-assets and indicated a higher interest in blockchain;
●8% of college students said they were holding crypto-assets and an additional 9% of respondents said they had previously invested in the cryptocurrency space but already exited. Most of the respondents who gave these answers were economics majors;
●The mass media appears to be the primary channel for college students to learn about blockchain, but nearly 40% of respondents thought media reports have insignificant influence on their views of blockchain;
●26.7% indicated that they would prefer to work in the blockchain industry following graduation;
● The blockchain education in colleges and universities is still in the early stage, and courses are mostly offered in cooperation with enterprises.
The survey was conducted using snowball sampling and 301 valid responses were obtained from 303 respondents, who were from 131 colleges and universities across 26 provinces.
Of these respondents, 77.5% were undergraduates and 17.8% postgraduates. A majority of respondents majored in engineering, literature, management, and economics.
“I often hear about blockchain, but never know what it means.”
College students seem to have a vague perception of blockchain. Among the respondents, 23.4% of them said that they did not know anything about blockchain, and another nearly 30% said they knew very little about it.
Regarding cryptocurrencies, only 13 students polled said they knew “very well” while 29% said they knew “nothing at all”.
67% of respondents indicated that they were familiar with bitcoin, and 31.6% reported that they were aware of Ethereum. Only a few correspondents said they knew other tokens, while nearly 15% said they were not aware of either of the cryptocurrencies mentioned in the survey.
Feiya Du, a student at the School of Economics and Management of the East China Normal University, told PANews that he often heard the buzz word “blockchain” in the media in recent years, and was aware that some students around him were buying cryptocurrencies. "There was a time when I kept hearing this concept. It made me curious, so that I googled it. I couldn’t understand its meaning and has left it behind since.”
In another question of the survey, respondents were asked whether they understand the meaning of 11 blockchain related terms including “cryptocurrency”, “mining”, “computational power”, “hash” and “DApp”. Only 7 students surveyed said they understood all the terms, and 15 reported they understood more than 8 terms.
When asked about sectors where blockchain is being adopted, only 6.6% of respondents chose all the 6 main sectors of blockchain application that we listed in the question. Students who were aware of more than 4 application sectors account for 18.2%. More than two-thirds of respondents (77.2%) knew that the blockchain technology is used in the financial sector. Although to date, the blockchain application has been extended to a range of sectors, only a small number of respondents knew about its application in fashion, culture, and humanity. Nevertheless, it appears that it is already widely known that the financial sector is the most popular application area of blockchain.
When we look at college students’ interest in blockchain, 22.3% of respondents said they were “moderately interested” in blockchain and 24.4% said they were “not very interested”. Only 7.9% of college students were very interested in blockchain.
A cross-analysis of the statistics showed that college students' awareness of and interest in blockchain are closely related to their majors. Most of the students who knew "very well" and were "very interested" in blockchain are economics, management and engineering majors, while students specializing in humanities and social sciences, as well as agriculture and medicine, in general, indicated that they knew "little" and were "not very interested” in the technology. It, therefore, can be concluded that blockchain is still not a novel topic on campuses and unknown to the majority of the students. From the perspective of the level of education, postgraduates have a better understanding of blockchain than undergraduates.
26.7% of college students will prefer to work in the blockchain industry
Among the respondents, 8% of them said they were holding cryptocurrencies. An additional 9% said they had previously invested in the cryptocurrency space but already exited, of whom nearly 40% (39.66%) entered the market between 2017 and 2018. By a cross-analysis with respondents’ majors, PANews found that most of the students who had bought cryptocurrencies were economics majors.
The survey reveals that 36% of respondents first learnt about blockchain from the mass media, and 15% from teachers. Nearly half of the college students said that they usually receive blockchain and crypto-related news and information through media subscriptions and pushes, and 41% indicated they would search the internet for blockchain and crypto-related information.
And 22% of respondents reported seeing more negative than positive news about blockchain in the media; while 17% reported the opposite.
Ziheng Liu, a researcher at the Institute of Economics of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, suggested that it is necessary to distinguish the types of media being discussed. “The mainstream media generally has a negative view of cryptocurrency. They either criticize it or simply do not report on it altogether. If only mainstream media outlets are considered, the result is apparent," he said.
While the mass media appears to be the main channel for college students to learn about blockchain, the survey found that media reports do not seem to have a significant influence on college students’ perception of crypto and blockchain, with nearly 40% of those polled saying that media reports were “influential, but not in a significant manner" on their view of crypto and blockchain.
It’s worth noting that, when asked about what kind of influence media reports have on their willingness to invest in crypto-assets, half (50.16%) of the students said they had been positively influenced by media reports and begun to be on the lookout for investment opportunities or entered the market at a result.
When asked about career choices, 26.7% of college students indicated that they would prefer to work in the blockchain industry following graduation. Yu Yunzhi, a student at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of the Shanghai Jiaotong University, told PANews that he might consider working in blockchain-related careers in the future. His specialization was network security, and he believed that the industry has a bright future.
Blockchain education in colleges and universities is just in the starting stage
In the survey, 76 respondents reported that their universities have blockchain related courses. However, judging by the names of the courses respondents provided, it looks like respondents seem to have a vague or wrong understanding of what can be considered blockchain related courses. If we only deem universities where two or more respondents say they have such courses to be truly having these courses, then 8 of the 131 universities have opened blockchain related courses.
According to relevant media reports, there are allegedly more than a dozen universities in China that offer courses related to blockchain, including Tsinghua University, Tongji University, Central University of Finance and Economics, etc. Of them, the Central University of Finance and Economics was the first, when it established China’s first joint laboratory on blockchain technology with enterprises in July 2016 and started to offer blockchain related courses.
At present, it seems that blockchain related courses are mainly offered as individual courses or as part of a special program, but not as part of a major. It is true both in Chinese and overseas colleges and universities.
In addition to courses and programs offered by universities, students’ societies and associations are also playing a part that cannot be overlooked in blockchain education on campus.
For example, the Student Blockchain Association of Tsinghua University, established in September 2017, has more than 700 members who are from a majority of the university’s departments. With over 10 core members, the association organizes offline lectures, seminars, and other activities regularly.
The Blockchain Club of Sun Yat-sen University organizes similar activities. The head of the club, Longqin Lai, told PANews that there are currently 11 members in the club, mainly from computer science majors, and they often invite industry experts to lecture them on the theories of blockchain technology. "We don't encourage members to invest in cryptocurrencies. That’s a set rule we have since founding the club," Lai said.
The survey results show that Chinese college students are still at the bottom of the S-curve in terms of awareness of blockchain, and how familiar with and interested in blockchain a student is, is very likely influenced by his/her major. Students majoring in economics and computer sciences are generally more familiar with and interested in blockchain, while students majoring in other fields know very little about this technology.
Most of the students get blockchain related news and information through the mass media, but their perception of blockchain has not been significantly “cultivated” by the mass media. They appeared to be unfazed by mainstream media’s reports on crypto and blockchain.
Judging by the courses and programs on offer, the blockchain education in Chinese universities is still at the early stage and has a long way to go to be included in liberal education.