BitDegree – An Incentivized Solidity Developer Training Ground

ICO

I’ve taken quite a few free courses online from what are known as MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) from a variety of sources. I slogged through CodeAcademy and TreeHouse’s course material for a while to teach myself enough coding not to look stupid. I signed up and missed all my Coursera classes because I slept late. The problem for me is that I get bored and sidetracked easily and so having to wait for each week to come to digest new material is tough for me. It’s better if I get to push through a large amount of info in a short amount of time, then test out and move on. This is a good way to pass tests, but as for mastery of information, it takes a bit more time to absorb.

The marketplace for online learning is pretty big. Well, billions of dollars big. Every major university offers online programs now and there are many free alternatives like Coursera, which provide university level courses in just a few clicks.

BitDegree CEO Andrius Putna said that the idea for BitDegree came from a trip he took to India, where education is expensive and limited to the upper classes. Andrius was a project manager at 000webhost.com, one of the largest free web hosting services in the world. The purpose of the trip was to see what life was like in India and figure out why they had many free client signups, but few actual conversions. What he found was that people are pretty poor in the part of the world and many receive basic services such as 4G internet for free. The idea came then to fruition to create BitDegree, an education platform that was not only free, but provided incentives for people to learn using a gamified model.

A person who signs up to the platform would be offered a variety of courses, most likely on coding and other blockchain related classes. Once they chose their subject, they would then be put into a series of gamified learning experiences. With every passing grade, they would receive BitDegree tokens for their achievement and when a course is finally passed, only then could the student unlock the next course to move on. Students would have a chance to use their tokens to fund the cost of their education, or they could sell their tokens on the open market and profit.

It’s not just students who stand to be incentivized with BitDegree tokens, anyone who provides value will also be rewarded with tokens. This could be mentors who help students, third party content providers, teachers, and other value creators. Earning is a big part of their platform and they firmly believe that the ecosystem needs to be fully incentivized.

It’s not just students who stand to be incentivized with BitDegree tokens, anyone who provides value will also be rewarded with tokens. This could be mentors who help students, third party content providers, teachers, and other value creators. Earning is a big part of their platform and they firmly believe that the ecosystem needs to be fully incentivized.

In the beginning, BitDegree and Hostinger will seed the community, but content providers will also pay to promote courses. Students might also need to pay some tokens to access intermediate and advanced content. At the moment, institutions and other platforms use Coursera as a way to attract new students to their online programs. If the student wants to actually receive credit for taking the course, then they usually have to pay to receive the accredited course hours. In the BitDegree model, Companies can also create content in the platform. This is a venue to recruit developers to their platform. At Coursera, Google invested a lot of $$ trying teaching developers how to use Google Cloud instead of Amazon’s S3. This type of activity is actually quite common to gain adoption among developers. This is particularly important for blockchain companies because there are always new standards emerging.

The first sponsor for BitDegree will be Hostinger and 000webhost.com, Andrius’ former company. Andrius told me that “Hostinger, our main partner, is constantly looking for ‘customer success agents.’ The company will provide its internal material used to train these type of employees to BitDegree. Students who finish the course will be candidates to be employed to work for Hostinger. This is an important part of BitDegree, to connect students with real employers.” BitDegree will have to prove to other companies that it can train reputable workers before other companies come on, but at least it’s a good start in the beginning.

I’m always a bit wary of companies who are trying to reinvent the wheel. In the current model, it’s just unknown whether they will be able to attract a significant amount of companies to pay users to use the platform. I’ve always liked this idea. I think university should be corporatized in some respects (not that it already isn’t), where you go to Google University for a few years and then afterwards you are bound to work for them for a few years. They get to train students exactly Google needs them, while the students get the cost of their education subsidized by the internet giant. BitDegree takes this idea and applies it to the blockchain. Whether this will work, again, is an unknown.

BitDegree will have to work on this after the ICO launches. In the beginning though, regardless of the raise of their ICO, they already have enough capital to fund and grow the platform. However, one of the main goals of the token sale is to have enough resources to fund content development. BitDegree need to pay content providers at first, just like Netflix pays studios to produce content.. Other education providers have not raised that much: Bitjob raised 8,000 ETH (2.5 mil), DLS Academy didn’t do so well and there are a few others I haven’t heard of. Education is tough. Without good partnerships, students are not going to flock to your course to take it. Edx preforms well because Harvard, Stanford and other major US universities all offer courses through it. The success of BitDegree is going to be based on whether it can attract major partners to provide content for its site, if it fails to do it, I don’t see it gaining significant adoption.

An MVP is already live on BitDegree’s sister site solidity.bitdegree.org. I tried it out and it was actually pretty easy to use. I need to sit down and learn solidity basics at some point, so it will be a nice tool to have.

BitDegree mentions gamification quite a bit in the Whitepaper, but I didn’t see any of that in the demo they offered. In response advisor James Scarborough said “Over the longer term, BitDegree will consider adding an interesting narrative to each course. For instance, rather than simply doing the assignment, tell us we are on a mission to disarm a bomb or address world hunger and the only way to do that is to write a program that contains the exact same features as the abstract version of the course. Some arbitrary graphics like a burning fuse or a hungry child can help provide context. Eventually, we consider creating a higher level context for the entire program that would provide a reason for doing this task whether it be killing the dragon or saving the real world. By creating a contextualized identity for learners, we make course assignments more personally relevant thereby enhancing both learning and motivation to continue and complete the work.” The timeline for the gamification implementation though could take some time.

The team is the saving grace of this ICO. For all the issues I talked about above, CEO Andrius Putna already has setup 000webhost and Hostinger, a profitable business with over 29 million users. This alone shows that he has experience in creating a large functioning, growing, and profitable company. 000webhost is the “world’ first and biggest free cloud hosting platform designed for learning, testing and experimenting,” so making the jump to BitDegree shouldn’t be that big. The hosting site is actually the basis for BitDegree, if you check out the demo, the site is fully integrated and used as the means to try out different code.

Chief Engineer Balys Krikščiūnas is Head of Engineering at Hostinger, he is following Andrius into this offshoot and will provide support for the setup of the ecosystem. The majority of all public Github edits have been completed by product designer Dovilė Tarutytė, a former freelance illustrator and experienced artist, now a professional UX designer who worked with multiple international web hosting brands. Dovilė helped to successfully launch 65+ international websites. Next in commits was Andrius and after him is smrt contract developer Martynas Andriuškevičius, who also was a software engineer at Hostinger. The smart contract code is posted on reddit and the link is also posted on their github.

I don’t usually take into account advisors, but Jeff Burton, EA co-founder is prominently on the team. He setup a multi-billion dollar company and I’m sure that he has good contacts he can bring to the table. Andrius said that “Jeff is advising on partnerships. His huge list of network opens many doors for us. We are really glad we have him on our team. Jeff is an amazing guy, its an honour to be friends with him.”

Token Sale

I’m actually pretty impressed with what BitDegree are doing with their token sale. As the project has been completely bootstrapped by the team and there is a functioning business behind it, they team has not needed to sell a large amount of tokens at a deep discount. In fact there is not private sale. There will just be the ICO and everyone will pay the same price. It’s a genuine approach to an ICO sale. I really like it as it levels the playing field for everyone.

More than 40,000 users from 000webhost.com have already signed up to receive a free airdropped token from BitDegree.

Token Symbol: BDG  

Exchange Rate:  1 ETH = 10,000 BDG*  

Soft Cap:  16,000 ETH*  

Hard Cap:  75,000 ETH*  

Total Tokens: 1.5 billion  

 

Conclusion

The education space is difficult and it is hard to get traction. Andrius told me his goal is to “become a #1 education provider for blockchain education” and I have no doubts that it will be a difficult goal to achieve. While BitDegree is a startup, it has funding, it does not need to raise millions in the ICO, even though they plan to. This sets BitDegree apart from other education platforms I’ve seen, as the raised amount will not determine the health of the company.

Andrius in response to my comments sent me this quote by Cristobal Alonso, “The success rate of the ICO is comparable to the usual startup success rate. An ICO is just an innovative way to raise money and it is here to stay (just look at how many people are making fun and trying to write them off, which is always a good sign). However what needs to be eradicated are the scams. What needs to stay are startups willing to use the raised funds and execute.”

Their platform has a ways to go to be comparable to competitors like CodeAcademy. There is no gamification apart of the platform yet and the information is not structured well yet. As BitDegree is an ongoing project, it will take some time to implement this. It looks as if the team is built to bring the project to a completed state. However, they have a MVP, it’s there to try and I suggest you do. I always want to see more education, and I’ll be watching to see if BitDegree can grow their business model out.

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