Course Syllabus

Welcome to ECON120: Monetary History

Specific information about this course and its requirements can be found below. For more general information about taking Saylor Academy courses, including information about Community and Academic Codes of Conduct, please read the Student Handbook.


Course Description

Explore the past, present, and potential future of money through the lens of a layered framework.


Course Introduction

The international monetary system is on the precipice of change. This course suggests a topography of money at this crossroads. Maps help us navigate geographies and terrains, but they have never been associated with money until now. This course walks through a map of the financial system throughout time and a preview of what the map of digital money might look like in the future. It suggests a framework called "layered money" to describe the evolving monetary system, which seeks to explain how different forms of money relate to each other.

By tracing the evolution of layered money, we gain a fascinating perspective on how and why humans interact with currencies. Along with dissecting currency progression, this course asks what the future of money entails. Many will say, "it's digital", but to most of us, money already seems digital. We use smartphone applications to manage checking accounts, make contactless payments, and move to a cashless existence. But with the growth of Bitcoin, digital money has taken on a whole new meaning.

The study of money has thus far lacked a vernacular that incorporates Bitcoin. This course seeks to look at money in the past to contextualize Bitcoin's potential effects on the future of money. This course attempts to explain how Bitcoin might integrate with and change the monetary system. This course aims to explain the monetary system from the beginning.

This course makes the claim that money is a "layered system". This course will attempt to explain why human beings began using monetary systems, how these systems evolved, and how complicated and multilayered they have become today. It will attempt to explain which layer of money certain types of assets are located on and how individuals can navigate between the "layers" of money.

This course includes the following units:

  • Unit 1: Introduction to Monetary History
  • Unit 2: The Hierarchy of Money
  • Unit 3: Money Market History (16th–19th century)
  • Unit 4: Federal Reserve System (1913–1944)
  • Unit 5: Eurodollar System (1944–Present)
  • Unit 6: Bitcoin (2009–Present)
  • Unit 7: Cryptocurrencies, Stablecoins, and Central Bank Digital Currencies (2013–Present)


    Course Learning Outcomes

    Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

    • explain why humans use monetary systems;
    • summarize the evolution of the money hierarchy from 16th-century Europe until today;
    • explain the Federal Reserve system and describe how money is created by non-central bank financial institutions;
    • compare Bitcoin to the layered system of money;
    • outline how Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and stablecoins will function within a monetary system; and
    • explain from an economic perspective what digital money portends for citizens worldwide.

      Throughout this course, you will also see learning outcomes in each unit. You can use those learning outcomes to help organize your studies and gauge your progress.


      Course Materials

      The primary learning materials for this course are readings, lectures, and videos.

      All course materials are free to access, and can be found in each unit of the course. Pay close attention to the notes that accompany these course materials, as they will tell you what to focus on in each resource, and will help you to understand how the learning materials fit into the course as a whole. You can also see a list of all the learning materials in this course by clicking on Resources  in the navigation bar.


      Evaluation and Minimum Passing Score

      Only the final exam is considered when awarding you a grade for this course. In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you may take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt. Once you have successfully passed the final exam you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.

      There are also end-of-unit assessments  in this course. These are designed to help you study, and do not factor into your final course grade. You can take these as many times as you want to, until you understand the concepts and material covered. You can see all of these assessments by clicking on Quizzes in the course's navigation bar.



      Tips for Success

      ECON120: Monetary History is a self-paced course, which means that you can decide when you will start and when you will complete the course. There is no instructor or set schedule to follow. We estimate that the "average" student will take 11 hours to complete this course. We recommend that you work through the course at a pace that is comfortable for you and allows you to make regular progress. It's a good idea to also schedule your study time in advance and try as best as you can to stick to that schedule.

      Learning new material can be challenging, so we've compiled a few study strategies to help you succeed:

      • Take notes on the various terms, practices, and theories that you come across. This can help you put each concept into context, and will create a refresher that you can use as you study later on.
      • As you work through the materials, take some time to test yourself on what you remember and how well you understand the concepts. Reflecting on what you've learned is important for your long-term memory, and will make you more likely to retain information over time.


      Technical Requirements

      This course is delivered entirely online. You will be required to have access to a computer or web-capable mobile device and have consistent access to the internet to either view or download the necessary course resources and to attempt any auto-graded course assessments and the final exam.

      • To access the full course including assessments and the final exam, you will need to be logged into your Saylor Academy account and enrolled in the course. If you do not already have an account, you may create one for free here. Although you can access some of the course without logging in to your account, you should log in to maximize your course experience. For example, you cannot take assessments or track your progress unless you are logged in.

      For additional guidance, check out Saylor Academy's FAQ.



      This course is entirely free to enroll in and to access. Everything linked in the course, including textbooks, videos, webpages, and activities, are all available for no charge. This course also contains a free final exam and course completion certificate.

      Last modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2022, 4:47 PM