Facing an investigation by the New York Attorney General, a class-action lawsuit, and accusations of price manipulation, Bitfinex and associated stablecoin issuer Tether have been on the defensive for most of the last year. 

A new partnership to deliver “educational programs” may help the exchange to rewrite its narrative. 

Bitfinex announced today a "strategic cooperation" with ODEM, a blockchain-based "on-demand education marketplace," to create courses about digital tokens in the blockchain economy. As part of the deal, Bitfinex will become ODEM's "premier liquidity platform," according to a press release, meaning it will help facilitate purchases on the education site.

At its most basic, ODEM is a bit like Udemy—it allows people who fancy themselves subject matter experts to create and deliver online courses and programs directly to students. (ODEM also allows for in-person training). 

One key difference is that ODEM is blockchain-based. According to ODEM, distributed ledger technology "helps us remove obstacles to education, training, and employment," in part "by allowing students to validate and verify their educational and work credentials on the blockchain, ensuring they have control over their records and career paths." The platform's own sketches for an ODEM Trust Network include an employment network, suggesting its aspirations extend beyond credential verification. Users' credentials could be fed directly to employers scouting talent on the site. ODEM, then, seeks to create a new education ecosystem.

To access course offerings, users need the ODEM token, an ERC-20-compatible token on the Ethereum network. Thanks to the partnership, Bitfinex users "will be able to view their ODEM Token transactions on Bitfinex’s order book."

The big news, however, is that Bitfinex and ODEM "will launch a series of programs and courses aiming at increasing the level of education of both novice and advanced Bitfinex users" about the token economy. This will be added to ODEM's already significant catalog of blockchain and cryptocurrency content.

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Though ODEM says it's reducing middlemen from the education sector, it's simultaneously curating the contents of a platform it sees as decentralized. While a handful of courses in its catalog are supplied by individuals, the overwhelming majority of its programs are conducted by the Blockchain Intelligence Group and Chart Learning Solutions, both of which are identified as partners. That's a bit more reminiscent of the Coursera model of online learning, in which existing universities place select content on the platform.

The dynamics of ODEM's stated decentralization aims may change as the network expands and attracts users. But one question, for those taking notes, is whether Bitfinex, which has watched its market share decline during its extended legal troubles, is the right partner to help it grow.