University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Blockchains, Tokens, and The Decentralized Future
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Blockchains, Tokens, and The Decentralized Future

Taught in English


Gain insight into a topic and learn the fundamentals

Robert J. Brunner

Instructor: Robert J. Brunner

Beginner level

Recommended experience

17 hours to complete
3 weeks at 5 hours a week
Flexible schedule
Learn at your own pace
Progress towards a degree

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February 2024


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There are 4 modules in this course

The first module explores the core concepts of blockchain, the revolutionary technology powering cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. You will gain an understanding of how distributed ledgers revolutionize data security, transparency, and trust in various industries. The module continues to demystify the cryptographic building blocks that ensure secure and verifiable transactions on blockchain networks. As the module goes further, we will explore the intricacies of Bitcoin transactions, wallets, and the consensus mechanism that maintains network integrity. Later in this module, we will uncover the technical foundations of the Bitcoin network, including Proof of Work and its implications. You will gain hands-on experience with Bitcoin transactions by using a blockchain explorer. In the end, we will analyze the challenges and opportunities presented by Bitcoin, including the promising Lightning Network. By the end of this module, you will be equipped with a strong understanding of blockchain technology, its potential for disruption, and how Bitcoin fits into the larger financial landscape. This knowledge will enhance your ability to evaluate blockchain-based ventures, navigate emerging financial trends, and make informed decisions in a rapidly evolving technological landscape.

What's included

20 videos6 readings7 quizzes1 discussion prompt1 plugin

The second module covers the evolution and technological advancements of Ethereum, exploring its foundational concepts, the development of smart contracts, decentralized applications (DApps), and the significant transition from the proof-of-work to the proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. You will explore Ethereum's history, its role in creating a decentralized web, the challenges of scalability and privacy, and the introduction of zero-knowledge proofs to enhance security and efficiency. Innovations in Ethereum's ecosystem, such as novel implementations of the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) and cryptographic techniques like zero-knowledge proofs, are highlighted for their potential to revolutionize smart contracts by ensuring privacy, reducing transaction costs, and improving execution speed. The module emphasizes Ethereum's impact on fostering trustless transactions and its ongoing research areas aimed at overcoming the limitations of current blockchain technologies, illustrating Ethereum's pivotal role in shaping the future of decentralized finance and applications.

What's included

16 videos2 readings6 quizzes

Module 3 offers a comprehensive exploration into various facets of the blockchain and Web3 technologies, highlighting their potential to revolutionize the digital landscape. Module 3 introduces Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), presenting case studies on POAP, ENS, CryptoKitties, and the Bored Ape Yacht Club. You will also explore how NFTs leverage Ethereum's smart contracts to authenticate ownership, demonstrate provenance, and manage the scarcity of digital assets, ranging from art to domain names. The discussion extends to platforms like OpenSea and Etherscan, illustrating how they facilitate interaction with NFTs on the blockchain, thereby underscoring the burgeoning diversity and creativity within the NFT ecosystem. Module 3 further explores Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), introducing Aragon as a tool for creating and managing DAOs, and introduces Web3 projects such as Ocean Protocol, Audius, and Decentraland. These lessons shed light on how DAOs offer a novel approach to governance, leveraging blockchain technology to enable a decentralized and autonomous organizational structure. Meanwhile, Web3 projects are presented as exemplars of how blockchain technology empowers users with greater control over data, enhances digital content ownership, and fosters direct creator-consumer connections. Collectively, module 3 offers a glimpse into the transformative potential of blockchain and Web3 technologies, suggesting a future where digital interactions are more decentralized, transparent, and user-centric.

What's included

14 videos2 readings6 quizzes

Module 4 provides an in-depth look at blockchain technology’s transformative nature of decentralization and its applications in different sectors such as governance, finance, health care and nonprofits. It starts with its foundational impact on digital governance, emphasizing decentralized government, digital identities, and voting mechanisms. It showcases blockchain's versatility in sectors like healthcare, supply chain, and beyond, while also considering its integration with AI and IoT for innovative solutions. The module explores blockchain's role in promoting sustainable development, environmental conservation, financial inclusion, and economic empowerment, highlighting its potential to enhance transparency, efficiency, and access across global communities. Through theoretical and practical insights, learners are equipped to understand and engage with the complex implications of blockchain's expanding influence.

What's included

18 videos4 readings6 quizzes1 peer review1 plugin


Robert J. Brunner
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
5 Courses11,581 learners

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