September 28, 2021

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Six Tenets of Modern Cybersecurity Training

Classroom training is rarely able to address the needs of all students. Some students will require extra time and instruction, while others may grasp contacts quickly and be bored by repetition. By the time something new is introduced, their attention might be gone. Similarly, traditional lectures have limited impact for digital native learners who use technology and the internet as their first point of contact for gathering information.

To overcome these challenges, organizations should consider the following seven best practices for cyber security training that address different learning styles and the need to present material in a practical, Web-based method.

1) Distance learning, which was already prevalent before the COVID-19 pandemic, offers flexibility for learners who are often too busy for structured, in-person courses. Digital training is obviously well-suited for distance learning, since it can be delivered anywhere, anytime over an internet-connected device. It can be supplemented with face-to-face contact for helping learners with questions and problems.

2) The role of teacher has changed from the transmitter and guardian of information to facilitator and coach. The way material is consumed has changed as well, primarily due to macro level trends and global “remote” culture. COVID-19 has accelerated this transition, as we saw with remote learning and homeschooling over the last year.

3) Self-directed training, made possible by digital platforms, has resulted in more engagement and better learning performance than classroom-based sessions. These platforms can provide guidance and adapt to learners’ individual needs. Technology, when used properly, can facilitate responsive, reflective learning and support employees’ learning needs and styles in a flexible, scalable manner.

3) Online courses, which recently saw a 250% increase in usage, have become more common due to their ability to deliver training material at scale. However, some challenges remain, including providing constructive feedback and maintaining both attention and retention levels. As learners continue to opt-in to online training, we need to find effective ways to monitor performance.

4) Results-driven learning, which demands focus and practice, can force the brain to change by growing new cells and strengthening neurological pathways. This is called neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to rewire itself based on repetitive practices. This doesn’t happen when a student is watching a video or a lecture without thinking along.

That’s why video environments can mimic learning, but non-problem-based learning, i.e. linear learning based on the consumption of information, is ineffective. When learning security or IT skills, problem-based hands-on training with tasks that require critical thinking and effort will deliver better results.

5) Simulation training is the best way to learn new skills because it requires problem solving. In a traditional lecture setting, course material is given first, followed by a task. Rather than teaching relevant material and subsequently having students apply the knowledge to solve problems, simulation training presents the problem first.

This approach, sometimes called Problem-Based Learning (PBL), makes learners work in groups to solve open-ended problems. Digital-first learners don’t read a book to solve a problem. They use online resources to search for an answer or solution to a specific problem.

6) Bite-sized learning, which replaces classic long-form lesson formats with assignments that are shorter and problem-based, is better suited for time-strapped cybersecurity personnel who typically prefer to consume course content using real-world scenarios.

Implementing these tenets of modern training, which all orbit around the concept of PBL, for cyberskills development will increase learners’ confidence and enable them to apply what they’ve learned to similar problems in the future. The way we all interact with content has changed dramatically in the last decade, and our methods of teaching cybersecurity skills need to keep pace and adapt to how digital-first learners want to learn.


Taavi Must is CEO of RangeForce.

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