Class Central is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Duke University

Decentralized Finance (DeFi) Primitives

Duke University via Coursera


DeFi and the Future of Finance is a set of four courses that focus on decentralized finance. The second course is called DeFi Primitives. It is recommended that you take the first course, DeFi Infrastructure, before this course. In this course, we talk about transaction mechanics and introduce both fungible and non-fungible tokens – or NFTs. The course explores the important issue of custody (holding private keys). The course then explores supply adjustment which includes the minting and burning of tokens. The mechanics of bonding curves are introduced. The course then explores the role of direct as well as indirect incentives in the DeFi system. We then analyze swaps or decentralized exchange. We begin by contrasting DEX with centralized exchange (e.g., Coinbase or Binance). The course details the mechanics of Automated Market Makers and provides a number of detailed examples. There is a discussion of impermanent loss as well as (legal) front-running. We end the course by exploring both collateralized and flash loans.


  • Mechanics
    • The first module explores some key primitives such as how Ethereum transactions occur including the differences between externally owned accounts and contract accounts. We then explore fungible and non-fungible (NFT) tokens and miner extractable value.
  • Supply and Ownership
    • The second module focuses on supply adjustment (minting and burning), the atomic nature of transactions in Ethereum, as well as incentives. The concept of a keeper in the Ethereum ecosystem is introduced.
  • Loans and Swaps
    • The third module introduces decentralized exchange and explores in considerable detail Automated Market Makers. The module also introduces the idea of collateralized loans as well as uncollateralized flash loans.
  • Joining the World of DeFi
    • The final module shows step-by-step how to set up a MetaMask wallet allowing the student to join the world of DeFi. The second part of the module conducts a deep dive into some of the key blockchain concepts such as digital signatures and consensus mechanisms (including Proof of Stake).

Taught by

Cam Harvey

Related Courses


Start your review of Decentralized Finance (DeFi) Primitives

Never Stop Learning!

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.

Sign up for free