Teaching Cybersecurity to the Next Generation from Sea to Shining Sea

Project Sponsor:  National Science Foundation (NSF)

The purpose of this project was to make the George Washington University Cyber Corps (Scholarship for Service) seminar in which Federal and industry experts deliver guest lectures available through videos, notes, and instructor guides to two partner institutions (the University of Washington and the University of Hawaii) as a test of how students in cybersecurity educational programs outside the DC area can benefit from these presentations showing the experiences and leadership skills of on-the-ground Federal and industry cybersecurity leaders.  Another objective was to determine how much the use of the videos created interest in cyber security careers nationwide, and in particular in federal government cyber security careers. 

 Student participants overwhelmingly reported that they found the videos to be useful and that the presenters were knowledgeable.  Thus, the videos rated strongest and most relevant by the students will continue to be used in the associated courses and in relevant future courses at all of the participating institutions.

Several themes emerged from the student evaluation responses. In general, students learned something new; lecture content was applicable in the real world; the lecturers were perceived as knowledgeable professionals; the content was interesting to students; students were able to draw comparisons between the lecture material and their own work experiences; and students were able to critically engage the content of the lecture.  In general, students who participated in the review of the videos offered comments indicating that video presentations were useful, interesting, and valuable as a learning tool. 

In order to gauge student perceptions of their knowledge and understanding about Cyber Security topics, survey participants were asked to reflect on the following ten 10 topics: attack vulnerability, mitigation strategies, cybersecurity policy, FISMA requirements, federal agency structure and function, continuous monitoring, information assurance (IA) legislation, and IA security jobs in state agencies, corporations, and the federal government.  At the end of the course, a majority of the students felt they possessed at least a solid grasp of those topics.

All of the students said that employment in the federal government and/or their own personal interests were of high importance to their decision to enroll in the program and all indicated that urgency about national security was either of medium or high importance to their decision to participate in the program.  In addition, over 80% of the participants indicated that US government needs in the IA workforce, current news or journal articles on IA they read, and scholarship or financial support were all of medium or high importance in their decision to enroll.  Half of the participants indicated that the fact that the course was offered online was either of medium or high importance to them when deciding to participate in the course; the other half indicated that it was of no importance.