Decentralized Futures- PBA-X

Dear Polkadot Community!

The Polkadot Blockchain Academy team is thrilled to present our new project, PBA-X. This is an opportunity to aggressively scale the impact of the Polkadot Blockchain Academy as well as the W3F edX courses. We will use the power of online education and online communities combined with the academic rigor proven to be effective by these existing programs.

Our Project:

We are committing to launching a new online offering to educate aspiring Polkadot Blockchain developers, expanding the educational footprint of the in-person Polkadot Blockchain Academy program and building on the foundations of the online edX courses from the Web3 Foundation.

The current proposal aims at building the content, online program and operations to aggressively scale the reach and educational impact, whilst creating a sustainable program which is able to onboard and train multiple cohorts of hundreds of online learners each year.

The Need:

To support and seed the Polkadot ecosystem with next generation developers, there is a need to sustain growth in general understanding of both blockchain and Polkadot and to create a sustainable funnel of highly skilled technical engineering talent. The Polkadot Blockchain Academy (PBA), since its inception in the Summer of 2022, has made such rapid progress that it can now confidently contribute to both these key objectives. However, given its highly selective and in-person nature, the PBA can only support a controlled growth in the numbers of students who are being trained and supported onsite.

The edX courses developed by the W3F have built strong introductory content on Blockchain Technology and Polkadot and have acted as an accessible gateway for knowledge seekers and has over 10K registered learners across the globe. They have created a stepping stone and community of learners that need to be harnessed and developed alongside other courses and programs with technical rigor.

The Program:

To design and deliver the program, we will build on our core value proposition of designing and developing extremely high value educational content, for speed we will buy proven third party services for the other aspects of online content delivery. By focusing our core resources on creating a rigorous academic experience and by buying services and white label solutions for the rest, we will deliver a quality scalable learning offering for the Polkadot ecosystem before the end of the year.

The online content offering will rely on the top Faculty and experts who have contributed to the previous waves of the Polkadot Blockchain Academy developers track. The content will be redesigned to accommodate an online format with a mix of pre-recorded lectures and live streamed sessions.

The students’ experience will also differ from the in-person program with a higher focus on online forum, peer collaboration and online mentoring and support.

To deliver the program, we will resort to proven platforms for online learning and MOOCs combined with Github to store the content repos and a learners management system.

Unlike the fully sponsored in-person PBA, the online program will charge students who wish to participate, this will help us work towards financial sustainability. A pricing scale will be introduced with options for online learners to buy their seat in the full program or to buy incremental pieces of the course.

The Team:

Our team has launched and run the PBA and the edX online Polkadot courses for the last year and a half, we have gained relevant experience to support the planning, creation and maintenance of these educational offerings. We also bring a mix of relevant prior experience in online and in-person education, curriculum expertise, student support and student management experience to guarantee success.

Previous achievements:

The Polkadot Blockchain Academy is the first of its kind — a classroom-based educational program covering the conceptual underpinnings and the hands-on application of blockchain technology, using Polkadot and Substrate as its foundations. Founded by Gavin Wood, the Academy is run by leading engineers, researchers, and project founders from the Polkadot ecosystem, Parity Technologies, and the Web3 Foundation.

The Academy’s goal is to equip developers with all the necessary knowledge to build blockchains and give Web3 entrepreneurs practical guidance for project founding and growth within the Polkadot ecosystem. Deep Dive in the PBA curriculum and slides

edX-W3F online courses
Two online courses were launched in October 2022 and have educated a total of 11,185 Enrolled online learners so far, among which 429 graduated with verifiable credentials.

We are currently building our full proposal but wanted to submit already the core idea to the Community and are looking forward to engaging with comments, inputs and suggestions.

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I have been going through the PBA slides lately, and they are really good. Online courses like those on edX are a great option for people who can’t attend classes in person.

also would love to see content around
“creating alternative Polkadot client” by @tomaka

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As an instructor in the PBA, I think an online introductory course will solve many of the problems faced when trying to provide high quality education to the ecosystem.

  1. Making it accessible to all: the academy is a 5 week in person program. Not everyone can commit to that kind of thing in their life. Having some content which is accessible after work hours, from your home computer could be enough to bridge people into our world.

  2. Making more of everyone’s time at the academy: Students spend 5 weeks getting a deep dive into 8 different modules across crypto, econ, blockchain, polkadot and more. While the content gets deep very quick, we always need to start at an intro level to ensure everyone is at the same starting point. Delegating that to before the academy will give us more time in person to provide high quality and deep content, and allow individuals to learn the introductory content at their own pace. I could imagine it saves up to 1 day per week or more on lecture material.

  3. Helping evaluate students sooner: The process for student selection is already pretty intense, but in many ways we are forced to test them only on skills outside of what they would learn in the academy (otherwise they wouldn’t really need to be a student!) Having students start absorbing our content before we interview them for the in person academy would allow us to actually evaluate their ability to learn and comprehend our ecosystem, and thus select students which are more capable in our field.

  4. Ability to reference content across modules from the start: To keep fair to everyone, we hardly reference content from future modules in earlier lectures. This is because we do not assume that students have a base level understanding of all future concepts. So if there are relevant conversations to be had about game theory in the context of Polkadot, we must wait until Polkadot to bring that up. If instead we can expose all the introductory material to students early on, then we can start to integrate cross module insights into early lectures, and actually directly show examples which are relatable to everyone, rather than talking around specific topics.

From my perspective, an online curriculum can not and will not replace the experience, quality, or level of depth of the in person academies. But I think we can look at it as a way to make the in person academy even better, while also providing a common good to our whole ecosystem along the way.

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Wow! I’m currently attending PBA4 in Hong Kong, and it has been an amazing experience. It’s been great to learn from the expert builders from W3F, Parity and the ecosystem who are create the core parts of Polkadot, as well as to get to know all of the other students who are on the same learning journey.

Coming from a wallet/retail user background, I understood a lot about how Polkadot works from an end-user perspective, but it’s been great to be able to study all of the underlying concepts that come together - from cryptography to economics/game theory to how blockchains work to consensus to newer topics like governance and coretime. I have a much richer understanding and appreciation for the design and principles behind Polkadot which is very hard to get if you are just an ecosystem participant, so I am very thankful to have had this opportunity.

Beyond that, the team running the PBA has been great in terms of creating a learning experience - not just the classes but a supportive environment where we students can really make connections that will last into the future as we build on Polkadot. I know that the other students here will be in my network for a long time because of the bonds we have made from the program.

Scaling out to create an online version is a great idea to expand the reach of the program especially for those whom the in-person is too much of a commitment, and I fully support the PBA team to be able to create a unique Polkadot online learning experience that can really push the ecosystem forward.

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I am currently enrolled in the PBA in Hong Kong cohort, and I totally agree with @shawntabrizi.

As much as I like the current setup, taking these 5 weeks to come wasn’t an easy decision by any means for me due to some family circumstances. Having a pre PBA online course could have helped a lot and bridged the gap I needed in a way.

Additionally, I believe that taking an online course before the in-person one could have enhanced the overall experience. I came with too little background on most of the topics and have learned a lot during the past couple of weeks. However, having exposure to these topics beforehand could have made the experience smoother and more enriching. This approach might also enable instructors to introduce more advanced materials, fostering a community of stronger candidates in the ecosystem.

One thing I’m a bit worried about is completely losing the immersion we had as it is one of the very strong points in the current setup. I’d like to make sure not to drop the live sessions as mentioned in the initial suggestion as well as having some ways of virtual immersion (office hours, breakout rooms during sessions with TAs to help working on specific activities,… etc).

Overall, I am supportive of the idea and believe it’s worth exploring, with a focus on maintaining good levels of immersion. Introducing the online PBA as a prerequisite for the in-person one could ensure that all students start with the same foundational knowledge.

Lastly, I would like to highlight the financial aspect. Not all students can afford the program based on their backgrounds. Therefore, incorporating a student support program would be ideal, ensuring inclusivity and accessibility.

I appreciate the suggestion and extend my gratitude to all the instructors and facilitators who have contributed to making the PBA such a fantastic experience. Thank you!

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Dear Polkadot Community and Team,

I am writing to express my enthusiastic support for the PBA-X project, particularly the initiative to launch an online introductory course as outlined by the @shawntabrizi. As a student who has had the privilege of experiencing the transformative education offered by the Polkadot Blockchain Academy and the W3F edX courses, I wholeheartedly agree with the points raised regarding the benefits of this new online program.

Firstly, the aspect of accessibility cannot be overstated. The physical constraints and time commitments of the in-person academy, while immensely valuable, do limit the reach and inclusivity of the program. The introduction of an online format, accessible from anywhere and at any time, promises to bridge this gap effectively. It opens doors for a broader range of individuals, who, due to geographical, financial, or time constraints, may have found it challenging to engage with the in-person format. This expansion is crucial for nurturing a diverse and global community of Polkadot developers and enthusiasts.

Moreover, the proposed online introductory course addresses the need for a more efficient use of time during the in-person academy. By acquainting students with fundamental concepts beforehand, the academy can delve deeper into advanced topics, thereby enriching the learning experience. This approach not only optimizes the time spent during the in-person sessions but also empowers students to learn at their own pace, ensuring that they arrive well-prepared and ready to engage with the more complex advanced material.

As a dedicated member of the Polkadot community and a beneficiary of its educational programs, I am thrilled about the prospects of the PBA-X project. The online program not only complements but significantly enhances the overall educational experience offered by the Polkadot Blockchain Academy. It promises to democratize access to quality blockchain education, streamline the learning process, and foster a more interconnected understanding of the Polkadot ecosystem.

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Hello Everyone

I am currently doing the PBA Hong Kong cohort ( founders track ).

First, the PBA team deserves applause for making the PBA experience truly incredible!

They created a supportive environment for students to connect (devs and founders). Learning from the expert builders from W3F, Parity, and the ecosystem has been great.

I understood a lot about how Polkadot worked before coming to the PBA. However, it’s been great to learn how all the underlying concepts fit together ( governance, coretime, etc). I understand much better the mount of work and thought that went into designing the Polkadot protocol.

I agree with the idea of creating an online version for these reasons:

  1. For many, a 5-week in-person event is not a possible commitment. Having some content that is accessible online could be enough to bridge people into our world.
  2. Prepare students for the actual in-person event. For those who can make the 5-week commitment, taking the online course before would be a great first step. This will enable the developers to come prepared for the PBA dev course.
  3. Understand student pain points sooner: Having spoken to almost all PBA Hong Kong cohort developers, I can confidently say that learning substrate is difficult. An online course would expose those pain points sooner, which could be addressed at the in-person event. This will help with improving the curriculum.

While there is value in creating an online version, I think it won’t replicate the experience, quality, or level of depth of the in-person academies. However, the online version can help improve in-person academic events.

Overall, I support the initiative and have complete confidence in the PBA team to execute this initiative successfully.

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As someone who has supported the team with the technical delivery of the PBA, I fully support the vision and the team behind it.

Cannot stress enough how important this program is to the wider ecosystem. Talking to stakeholders in other ecosystems, everyone speaks very highly of this program. Launching an online version would be an amazing step forward and would take this best-in-class initiative to the next level.

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This looks like a great idea and something that can really allow all the hard work done developing and designing these courses to reach a much wider audience (and potentially non English speaking audience, if language reversioning is also considered).

One of the component parts of our recent proposal via OpenGov for a follow up series for Behind the Code - was to also give access to filmed material (rushes) interviews / testimonies from people working in the ecosystem / building on Polkadot for use in an educational context. (We did this previously for the edXWeb3 intro polkadot course from rushes from the first series.) Hopefully in a similar way you can use some of this new material for PBA X.

As we will be starting filming soon (in the next few weeks) it would be great to have a discussion about what kind content questions to try and cover.

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Mario | Softlaw | Rotam

I am currently a student in PBA founders track, and I find this an awesome idea, we need to onboard more devs to the ecosystem, and online lessons would be great, also the opportunity to continue in educate ourselves with more technical expertise.

My only concern is that with hundred of students the education is diluted, but also I think it depends on the performance of each person.

In conclusion I support 100% this proposal.

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I was a student in the first cohort at Cambridge and also served as a teaching assistant in the latest cohort in Hong Kong. It has been really amazing to see how PBA content has matured and evolved in between. PBA has played a crucial role for many like me who had little blockchain experience coming in but successfully pivoted into a career in Web3.

While in-person program is exceptional, PBA-X is a crucial step to scale and reach many more talented developers who unfortunately do not have the luxury of being able to attend a 5 week program in-person. There have been examples of outstanding students who had to quit their jobs or even travel on their parental leave to attend PBA. An online program would allow many more aspiring developers to attend, graduate and succeed in the Polkadot ecosystem.

Bullish on PBA-X.

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I’m Currently Attending PBA HongKong Cohort and PBA team do a great job make this experience amazing. With the modul start in the Basic, the primitive. Its challenging but give me deep perspective how Blockchain works. This is great learning experience and also, another great part is the networking, love to be with all amazing mind from Founder and Developer track also the Ecosystem Parachain that come also. Its unforgetable.
PBA is a must, to be in this industry we need basic understanding how it work. PBA have an important job to shape the future industry generation, especially for Polkadot Ecosystem. Therefore, this program need to be sustain and can scale up. Scaling up with current program (5 weeks offline) can have lot of challenge. I agree to creating the course online for some of the course.
Learn, Practice and Networking is 3 main aspect that i see from PBA. The online PBA can be done on the first attemp for the basic of Blockchain and still have offline meeting in the end of the session maybe not 5 weeks, 1 or 2 weeks only. No basic anymore, but go to deep and the attendance on Offline course need to be sellected after the candidate can do online course and done the exam with certain level.
With online PBA opening, its will help to spread up and make biger audience.

I Support the initiative and i have lot of confidence in the PBA team.

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I’m a graduate of the PBA Hong Kong Cohort, and I find PBA-X a great solution for many of the students, on-site courses are great, and they leverage the potential of each dev and founder. The PBA has the fundamentals of a great and capable team, which has proved that education is a valuable asset and skill, and the PBA team has the know-how.

The problem the PBA faces is to offer mastery for each attendee, and this is something close to the impossible, they keep records and provide the right tools and materials for every student in a digital way, but the current focus for all on-site, is exhausting and inefficient for diverse processes, from the learning/teaching side to the operational that implies this great endeavor on their side, and the challenges that every student faces on leaping the web3 ecosystem, that commonly are solved through time and dedication, and 5 weeks are just the beginning of the journey.

This approach is going to be a great step for scaling the operations and making it self-sustainable. I’m bullish on this approach.

As the PBA HK Cohort came to an end, I’m still processing those 5 weeks, feeling grateful, and motivated, that’s why I agree with the idea, of having the PBA-X project as the introduction for the fundamentals of Polkadot, and the most technical concepts, so the 5 weeks in person can be something more specialized for the learning of the students, and more time for diversified activities like the Office Hours, one on ones, and other activities to integrate Devs and Founders.

Thanks for the great effort PBA, Polkadot lead the next wave of web3 visionaries.

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I had the pleasure of attending the Hong Kong PBA and I’ve been into online education for quite a while.
Online education is undoubtedly replacing traditional offline methods, but humans are not made with bits. We are social animals. Face-to-face interactions create lasting bonds that can bind people together to achieve common goals. My experience at the in-person PBA reinforced this belief. Yes, it’s economically challenging to sustain such efforts without clear ROI metrics, but measuring the success of this kind of event is hard or impossible.
Moving everything online has its benefits of reaching a broad audience and reducing costs, but it can’t replicate all the benefits of an in-person PBA.
I envision a hybrid future of the PBA where part of the learning process occurs online and part happens in person to foster connections.

Regarding PBA-X, I know the good quality of the EDX platform and I saw the previous course “Web3x: Introduction to Polkadot”. I had the pleasure of meeting Radha, the Technical Education Lead at Web3, and enjoying his insight on online education. These are the ingredients to see PBA continue to evolve, reach more audiences and improve the student’s learning journey.

Thanks for this Shawn, I agree with all of this and love point 4 in particular, really good point.

Hey Mario,

Thanks for your thoughts, to make sure something is clear here, we have no plans to stop doing in person educational events, we share your beliefs about the value they create. However, we want to add online as another option for students.

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