In general, blockchain has been a topic that has been in-demand over the last few years, especially with the increase in popularity of cryptocurrency, which runs on blockchain technology. However, this demand has become even more pronounced in recent times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with governments needing blockchain processes now more than ever to process data transparently and without making contact, due to the need for physical distancing. In such a scenario, the York University School of Continuing Studies has come up with the first blockchain education programs in Canada, with part-time and full-time degrees beginning in September 2020.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions all over the world have been faced with the issues of continuing their classes online, while also ensuring the safety of their students, especially those living on campus or in accommodation provided by the institution. It is thus heartening to see how the Canadian government has put out specific guidelines regarding international students, who may be stranded in Canada due to lockdowns in their respective countries, and thus have no way to go back home till the crisis passes. International students in Canada can apply to renew their study permits and can remain in the country while their applications are processed, while all students granted permits before 18th March 2020 can travel to Canada freely. There are also a number of relief measures announced by the government, with international students being eligible for some of these as well. Scholarships remain active, and students whose universities are offering the option to complete their courses from home are allowed to travel back to their home countries and complete their coursework, with no penalties. Students choosing to withdraw from their programs will still receive pro-rated scholarship amounts as well.
With all these measures in place to help international students, Canadian universities are also instituting programs and courses to allow people to learn the skills that are most in-demand at the moment, such as blockchain. As stated earlier, blockchain is extremely useful at times like these where physical distancing needs to be maintained, allowing for processing and transferring huge amounts of data transparently. Canada has generally been seeing a spurt in blockchain and cryptocurrency adoption, with a few casinos, for example, being the leaders in using cryptocurrencies as payment options, also known as cryptocurrency casino. In general, though, blockchain has huge potential during a pandemic such as this, with the Blockchain Research Institute identifying five key areas of opportunity for blockchain at this time – supply chains and manufacturing, financial services, identity and data governance, healthcare management, and mapping out behavioural changes. There are examples of governments using blockchain technology already – for example, in the United States, it is likely that blockchain will be used to effectively and securely distribute stimulus cheques to those who have not received their money yet. Blockchain can allow for easing global supply-chain issues which have been caused by the pandemic, while digitization of record enables organizations to have more visibility across the entire chain, thus being able to identify bottlenecks and disruptions and plan solutions for them.
The York University is offering a part-time Certificate in Blockchain Development, and a full-time Post-Graduate Certificate in Back-End and Blockchain Development. These have been created in consultation with industry experts and will be delivered online in light of the current situation, with the Post-Graduate program transitioning to on-campus work when public health guidelines permit this. These programs are part of four new courses being offered by the university to fill gaps in fields that are in-demand at the moment and thus will allow students to be able to learn skills that are extremely relevant.