Blockchain Fundamentals

Location: Pittsburgh

Semester Offered: Fall, Summer

Cross listed Courses:

Course Number Department Units
95-410 Heinz College 6
95-810 Heinz College 6

This class will be a deep-dive into blockchain technology. We will discuss the fundamental cryptographic underpinnings of the technology as well as different consensus mechanisms currently available. Well discuss both single-purpose blockchains such as Bitcoin as well as general-purpose implementations. Well discuss governance of blockchain technology and related challenges, as well as legal challenges and concerns. This course will also provide an overview of blockchain programming, highlighting both existing challenges and specific nuances in blockchain programming.


Class format

Lecture and project-based

Home department


Target audience

  • Students in the Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) program

Background required


Learning objectives

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Be able to explain cryptographic concepts underlying blockchain technology in layman terminology
  • Describe how cryptography applies to blockchain and impacts implementation-related decisions
  • Describe blockchain technology, how it relates to the myriad of associated technologies and concepts (communication, consensus, architecture, identity, among others)
  • Assess the relevance of blockchain technology to arbitrary use cases
  • Evaluate the risks of using blockchain technology
  • Describe current attacks on blockchain technology, as well as possible attack surfaces to be aware of in the future
  • Discuss how blockchain fits in existing legal, political, and societal frameworks
  • Create a minimalist blockchain application 

Faculty and instructors who have taught this course in the past

Samuel Perl