Web3 Ecosystems Need Real Educational Courses and Programs in Order to Thrive and Flourish

Tom Stine
11 min readApr 12, 2022
Cryptocurrency and blockchain education

For many months I have been engaged in learning smart contract development and the various technologies of blockchains and cryptocurrencies. During this time, I have been extremely frustrated by the difficulties of thoroughly educating oneself in the disparate technologies involved in creating applications in Web3.

While I have learned many things, done tutorials, read documentation, “played” with Cryptozombies, built NFT apps and DAOs, and done a wide variety of similar activities, all the while getting my hands dirty with code, I have noticed (painfully) the lack of sound and complete educational materials. A real Web3 Education has eluded me, as it has many others I’ve spoken with.

Furthermore, a few months ago I read with great interest Electric Capital’s 2021 Developer Report (1), and concluded from their data that Web3 would need to train and onboard as many as 80,000 new developers by 2024. My experiences, plus this growing demand for training new developers, has forced education solidly to the forefront of my thoughts over the past 3 months.

In addition, I was further inspired recently to think more deeply about developer education while listening to The Defiant podcast’s interview with Gavin Wood of Polkadot:

I want to ensure that we provide the very best platform for developers. Because in my view it is not about user acquisition at this point. It is about developer acquisition and ensuring we have the most compelling applications and that we have the most compelling platform for applications to be deployed onto.

— Gavin Wood, co-founder of Ethereum and Polkadot (2)

I knew instinctively that educating developers had to be on Gavin’s mind if he were to accomplish what he wants for Polkadot.

I decided, therefore, to apply my experience as a professional educator to the problem of education in Web3. After taking a thorough look around the vast Web3 landscape, and I reached the following conclusions, which will be further examined in the rest of this article:

  • Due to the fragmentation of Web3 into many distinct blockchains and their technologically disparate tech stacks, Web3/blockchain foundations/ecosystems will need to **self-produce** high quality, well-designed, and complete educational programs in order to onboard the next 80,000 developers into the crypto world over the next 2 years.
  • Ethereum is the only Web3 ecosystem that is seeing, and will continue to see for the foreseeable future, educational offerings produced by those outside of the ecosystem’s core development team/foundation (similar to bootcamps for front end web development).
  • Proper educational programs are essential to training developers, especially those from outside of Web3. Well-designed and complete educational courses and programs, that take new Web3 developers from the fundamentals of blockchains all the way to secure development of dApps, are an essential component of an “excellent developer experience”, and can lead to faster and wider adoption of a blockchain protocol. In other words, very well educated developers are happy and productive developers!

Web3 Could Need Upwards of 80,000 New Developers in the Next Few Years

There is little doubt that Web3 is growing, both in numbers of users and developers. With regard to new developers, some blockchain ecosystems are seeing an increase in developers at a rate of 200%-400% per year, which is phenomenal.

At the end of 2021, there were 18,416 full-time developers in Web3 according to Electric Capital. Moreover, by year end 2022, Electrical Capital estimates there could be upwards of 40–50,000 full-time Web3 developers, and by year end 2023, 80–100,000 full-time developers in Web3.

The result of this rapid growth would be 62,000 to 82,000 new developers entering Web3 by 2024.

Challenges for Web3 Ecosystems in Finding and Training New Devs

This incredible growth begs the question:

Where will these new developers come from?

The majority will most likely come from the existing cadre of non-Web3 developers doing frontend, backend, database, dev ops, etc. Some will also come from related fields like data science and IT, and there will be some completely new to software development who fall in love with some aspect of Web3 and want to learn development.

Some EVM compatible blockchain ecosystems will be able to draw some developers from Ethereum to meet demand, but given the low numbers currently in Web3 relative to demand, there simply are not enough devs in Web3 to scavenge from other ecosystems.

Moreover, while some may move around, the crypto world is fragmented into many distinct blockchains and disparate tech stacks and coding languages which form an impediment to easy movement. Web3 isn’t as simple and neat as “HTML, CSS, Javascript, React” as seen in frontend development, for example, with the resulting ease of movement this de facto standardization brings about.

The “Low Hanging Fruit” of Developers

Thus far, many if not most developers entering Web3 have been “homesteaders” in the wild west of crypto. Or, in modern tech and venture capital parlance, founders. They come to Web3, formulate an idea for an app they can build, start building, find funding, all the usual founder tasks and behaviors. Or maybe they find a niche they can fill, build something to fill that niche, find funding, etc.

These founder / entrepreneurs are, educationally, the low hanging fruit of developers. They will read documentation, hangout in Discords, ask questions, write code, struggle with concepts, take voluminous notes, and eventually find their way. They are highly motivated by their “big ideas and plans” and by the potentially huge payoff, and so they will do whatever it takes to get to the place of competency. They need minimal education, and are thus “easily plucked” off the developer tree.

However, it is apparent from the many hacks and rekts that have occurred, costing Web3 companies and investors billions of dollars in 2021 alone, that not every founder-developer has been adequately (self) trained in the complexities of creating complicated applications and projects in Web3. As one VC in Defi companies put it recently:

We have yet to come to terms with the fact that creating these applications is hard!

This state of affairs points to a need for better and more thorough training and educational materials for Web3 developers.

The Changing Need for Web3 Developer Education

Furthermore, Web3 now has a different educational need. While founders will always be needed, the many thousands of Web3 job postings over the past year have shown clearly that Web3 companies need “worker bees”, not queen bees. These companies need to find and attract mid-tier and more entry-level developers, most if not all new to Web3, and some relatively new to development in general.

The type of developer who is willing to be a worker bee at a Web3 company is not often the role-up-your-sleeves type, the read the docs, build some projects, build the next killer app developer like the founders already present are. These rank and file developers are not going to “figure it out” from existing concise documentation and simple tutorials. They need more complete courses and educational programs that are well designed to effectively onboard them into developing on a particular blockchain. They need courses, programs, and trainings that have been well thought out and designed by experienced educators and trainers who understand the needs of new learners and how best to present that information to them as well as by experienced developers knowledgable about the technology involved.

As state previously, many of these new developers are coming from frontend or full stack web development, data analysis, or similar fields, while some have no experience doing any type of development work whatsoever. Consequently, most new Web developers will have no clear understanding of blockchains, decentralization, smart contracts, Defi, DAO’s, etc. It will be difficult for them to acquire this knowledge given the current state of educational materials in Web3.

Moreover, it is quite difficult, given the decentralized nature of Web3, for new developers to find a “one stop shop” for the education they need. There is, to my knowledge, no single place to get a thorough grounding in the fundamentals of blockchains, cryptocurrencies, and the various components that make up Web3. There are a few “schools” and “universities”, but most of them are simply aggregators of tutorials and essays, not developers of comprehensive courses and curricula, or contain old or outdated information (the crypto world changes rapidly!).

Moreover, most learning materials are specific to one ecosystem (often Ethereum), and concentrate on that ecosystem’s technologies almost exclusively. Too often, these materials are lacking in the broader, more fundamental topics that need to be taught to properly ground new developers in the nuances of blockchains.

Again, there is nothing as simple as “HTML, CSS, Javascript, React” in the blockchain world!

All in all, it seems somewhat obvious that the next 80,000 developers in Web3 will need more formal educational methods. (To be honest, anyone familiar with education and training others needs to spend only a few weeks in Web3 to know the accuracy of this statement.) Complete courses and programs, that start with fundamentals and go through all the necessary knowledge, will do a far better job of training new developers than the current mass of tutorials and documentation.

Creating Excellent Educational Content Requires “Beginner’s Mind”

Curriculum and course writing, as well as creating education programs, requires beginners’ mind, and it is difficult for content experts to get into that mental state. Why? Because human beings almost always forget which topics they struggled with while learning. Since the expert is now adept at performing a skill or fluent in some field of knowledge, they are apt to perceive it as an “easy topic”. More poignantly, most cannot recall the steps they took to get to this advanced state of understanding, steps that were essential to their learning!

We see this all the time in a variety of areas. Every college graduate has had many experiences of professors who seem unable to teach their subject matter, despite having a PhD, being published, and being an “expert” in their field. The same is true of brilliant musicians. Some make excellent teachers. Others are horrendous.

A great example of “content experts” with whom everyone has had many negative experiences, and almost universally loathe, are math teachers, and for good reason! Many if not most high school math teachers can be (inadvertently) insensitive and dismissive of students, not because they are insensitive people, but because they cannot comprehend how their students don’t understand the simplest topics in math! They have lost all concept of “beginner’s mind”, and thus cannot unroll their knowledge back toward the essentials that need to be (and in many cases, should have been!) taught for a student to master a given topic in math. [N.B. I was a high school math teacher!]

The same is true, sadly, in all areas of software development, which is why educational programs such as bootcamps exist in frontend development. Coding bootcamps are educational in nature and design. While a coding bootcamp will not make anyone fully competent to build complex websites, they do impart the necessary fundamentals in a structured, organized, educationally sound way so that new developers can learn the fundamentals from which to build their careers as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

What Exactly Are Educationally Sound Courses and Programs?

An educationally sound course needs first and foremost to clearly define precisely what a student is expected to learn. These are referred to as learning objectives, and they are far more specific and detailed than simply saying “write smart contracts”. For example, a high school math course will have between 500 to 800 learning objectives, meaning that a student must have at least some level of competence with each and every one of these to have truly mastered a subject like Algebra or Geometry.

Secondly, an educationally sound course needs to have a well-defined, sequential series of lessons that cover each of these objectives in enough detail to insure student learning. These lessons need to be planned in advance, thoroughly outlined, and ordered in a logical sequence. Moreover, each lesson needs to have some method for having students practice the topic they are learning so as to acquire proficiency (exercises, small projects, coding snippets, etc.).

Lastly, an educationally sound course needs to have a method to assess student learning on a frequent basis. These assessments do NOT have to be formal tests with grades, etc. Students simply need feedback so that they can gauge their progress and relearn any topics they do not understand.

And while the above educational discussion may have some in Web3 hyperventilating upon reading the words “lessons”, “assessments”, and “tests”, please note that you can create valuable and effective courses in many different forms. A well designed project can be an effective means of instruction, as long as it has well thought out objectives, a thorough sequence of lessons or action steps, and some means for assessing student progress. Courses and programs can take various forms, but the underpinnings need to be there to make the course work effectively.

Note: for those interested, the above are referred to in education as the scope (learning objectives) and sequence (lessons and other instruction) of a course or curriculum.

Why Must Web3/Blockchain Foundations or Core Teams Provide These Educational Courses?

As stated above, in order to attract the developers needed by a blockchain’s existing companies, Web3 ecosystems will need to provide the education needed. Why?

Small start-ups and even mid-size companies cannot this education, primarily because they neither have the time nor the resources. If you look at recent job postings, you will see that these companies are currently placing job postings for technical writers and content creators to help with their particular projects. A full “Web3 Course” is far beyond their scope. Nor should they feel obligated to provide the education needed by their competitors.

If you look at the statements made by most if not all blockchain foundations, you will see something relating to “superior developer experience” or similar on their websites. All want to make their ecosystem not just developer friendly but developer “easier”. It almost goes without saying that amazing educational content is vital to creating an “easier and friendlier” developer experience!

One need look no further than the ReactJS team to understand this educational mindset and how it relates to the desire for a superior developer experience. The ReactJS documentation is being completely revamped by an experienced educator, creating in the process an educationally sound and complete React course that forms a powerful component of the learning materials provided to developers. (3) Clearly the ReactJS team has had a realization or two on the subject of “documentation”!

Moreover, it should be readily apparent to all that a blockchain ecosystem that provides a truly superior developer experience by thoroughly training and onboarding knowledgable and skilled developers has a greater chance of surviving in the “wild west” of crypto. There really can be no better argument in favor of making this move toward far better developer education.

In conclusion, I would like to call upon the blockchain foundations and Web3 core teams to create the following greatly needed courses:

Polkadot 101, Solana 101, Tezos 101, Avalanche 101, Cosmos 101, Terra 101, NEAR 101, Algorand 101, Fantom 101, Mina 101, Flow 101, etc.

In addition to these fundamental courses, each blockchain/Web3 foundation should create advanced level courses that focus on topics like contract security so as to help prevent the next company (and investors) from being rekt to the tune of $600 million!

Every non-Ethereum blockchain foundation needs first class education for developers as soon as yesterday. And for those that want to continue their upward growth trajectory, it is imperative that they make real education a priority by creating teams of experienced educators and knowledgable developers to build complete, thorough educational courses for new developers entering Web3.

Addendum
If Ethereum wants to retain its current pre-eminence in every area of smart contract development, the Ethereum Foundation should probably do the same. Education is too damn important to be left to chance!

Addendum 2024
While it is obvious to anyone involved in Web3 that 2022–2023 was another “crypto-winter” and the forecasts were quite optimistic, the reality of the need for Web3 developers and education has not changed. Blockchains are still difficult to build, talent developers are still needed, and the space is continuing to grow.

References
(1) Electric Capital’s 2021 Developer Report, as posted on Medium: https://medium.com/electric-capital/electric-capital-developer-report-2021-f37874efea6d

(2) Gavin Wood, Interview with Camila Russo, The Defiant, published to YouTube on February 28, 2022. https://youtu.be/-avBxG3u0ik

(3) https://beta.reactjs.org

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Tom Stine

Web3 Developer, Professional Educator, & Cryptocurrency Enthusiast. Lover and champion of Underdogs and Davids vs Overcats and Goliaths.