BLOG | Evidence-Based Innovation in Cybersecurity Education

September 18, 2019

An educational pathway that moves everyone at the same pace

A typical school of thought is that everyone learns the same way and receives the same amount of information, especially when it comes to cybersecurity education. But that’s not always the best or most successful method. This year’s Innovations in Cybersecurity Education Evidence-based Strategies winner has a new plan.

Behzad Izadi, from Cypress College in California, created the Pathway to Advancement in Cybersecurity Education (PACE) to examine the cybersecurity career pathway to yield more success. The current structure has a skewed single goal of preparing students for four-year colleges and universities rather than providing the multifaceted approach to career development. This weakened pathway construction contributes to high school dropout rates even in relatively affluent districts. Using Cypress as an example, only 53.1% of first-time students received a degree, certificate and/or transferred after six years beginning in 2010 through 2011.

A guided, secure pathway that builds on cyber content developed during middle school is needed. A dual enrollment program that offers multiple education and employment exit points is the highway to reducing high school and college dropout rates. The goal of this innovation is to develop and implement PACE from middle school through a four-year college or university with several opportunities along the way. Goals include developing a plan based on collaboration with all stakeholders; embedding cybersecurity content in middle and high school curricula; providing outreach activities to generate interest in cybersecurity; developing and revising cybersecurity certificate and Associate in Arts degree programs; providing articulation and alignment with four-year institutions; and recommending best practices.

Izadi tested this method for two years through a pilot with a targeted middle and high school, yielding positive results. The Cybersecurity Competition Fundamentals course was created, which required CyberPatriot training and competition in addition to CompTIA’s ITF+ certification. Roughly 1,170 students participated in monthly trainings, and 53 teams took part in the CyberPatriot competition. A cybersecurity certificate, cyber defense certificate and Associate in Science in Cyber Defense were created. Thirty-seven high school students completed college certificates in cybersecurity, Cisco networking or cyber defense. Nearly 130 high school students also completed industry certificates.

Based on this pilot, implementing PACE in curricula throughout the country should only increase student success and swell the cybersecurity job field.

Read more about this innovative submission on page 6 of the publication HERE.