8 Reasons Hands-On Learning is Vital to Cybersecurity Education

The coronavirus pandemic forced thousands of students and educators to utilize virtual education. While online classrooms proved beneficial to many students and permitted education to continue during the lockdown, not every subject can be taught effectively online. Some programs require hands-on learning. Cybersecurity education needs hands-on opportunities to improve student understanding of the complex nature of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity and computer science professors understand that informational analysis is essential to planning and activating security measures to protect information. Professors should understand that utilizing hands-on exercises for students is crucial.

An integral part of cybersecurity training is working in an interactive environment. Cybersecurity professionals are required to review security issues from both the attacker and defender’s position. Simply attending to listening to lectures on cybersecurity practices is not enough.

Courses that offer hands-on experience provides students with these skills:

  • administrating and troubleshooting
  • planning and implementing security measures
  • consistently monitoring networks for security breaches
  • responding to security incidents
  • formatting security policies and guidelines for the organization
  • training others in basic security protocols

So, here are 8 reasons why hands-on learning is vital to cybersecurity education.

1. Not Everyone Learns the Same Way

Auditory or visual learners can master skills by simply watching their professors perform a task. Kinesthetic learners, on the other hand, learn better if they perform the task themselves. Hands-on activities in cybersecurity education can benefit auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners alike.

2. You Learn Better by Doing

People are more likely to learn and remember by doing the work. A theoretical approach, such as lectures and presentations, expects students to jump from understanding the material to the application. In some information technology fields, trial and error are part of the process, like creating a line of code and seeing if it works. However, regarding security, there can be no trial and error. Hands-on knowledge eliminates that cognitive leap.

Additionally, hands-on learning engages both sides of the brain. The left hemisphere deals with listening and analysis processes, while the right hemisphere covers visual and spatial processes. By utilizing multiple learning approaches, your students’ brains form stronger connections and store more relevant and vital information.

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Brain scans also indicate increased activity in the sensory and motor-related parts of the brain when thinking about concepts where the hands-on experience was applied. Simply put, you learn better by doing.

3. Students Stay Engaged

When you’re sitting through an hour or longer lecture, you tend to shift in and out of focus. Everyone does it, even if it’s something interesting. Inattention leads to huge learning gaps that can severely impact the student’s progress. And, as a teacher, it can be disheartening to see your students’ eyes glaze over.

81% of high school dropouts say they would have remained in school if they were given hands-on learning opportunities that included relevant, real-world applications. Considering that 38% of dropouts are due to poor grades and 36.6% were because students did not like school, you have to wonder if part of the reason was that the courses were too dull.

An interactive, hands-on learning experience allows educators to engage a student’s mind and keep them engaged. To progress through a lesson, students must keep working and remain actively focused on the task at hand. Therefore, even if their minds do wander, it won’t last long.

4. Real Results

You’re lecturing a room full of students over cybersecurity. It’s a tricky course, and you’re going over the intricacies of preventing a cyber attack. What do your students leave with? Some notes that they’ll put aside until exam or essay time? Sure, some students learn just fine with their detailed notes and study guides. But in the end, notes are just words on paper.

When students leave class after a hands-on exercise, they’ll likely have produced real, tangible results. Perhaps a student has created a unique line of code that can be effectively utilized by a company to automatically identify vulnerabilities before they are compromised.

When students succeed at something that they can take pride in or even actually use, they are more motivated to return to class and continue their education.

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5. Improved Information Retention

High test scores do not necessarily mean that students are learning the material. If a student were to get a hundred percent on an exam in class, that’s great! But would they get the same score a year later? They’re more likely to get a much lower score. That’s because students did not actually learn the material; they just memorized it for the exam and then forgot it.

Retaining information is no easy task. If the information doesn’t sink in, you can forget it as soon as it’s told to you. As mentioned before, you learn better by doing. Students can grasp what they are being taught because they are doing it themselves. One study found that students who did not use hands-on learning were 1.5 times more likely to fail a class than students who did.

6. Students Get Their Practice In

Hands-on learning allows students to practice skills that they have previously learned. Anyone who plays an instrument or participates in sports knows that the more practice one gets, the better they will be at that skill. More practice also allows you to retain more information.

Students who can practice cybersecurity protocols through hands-on learning are better prepared to apply their studies to real-world applications.

7. Experimentation

Students may change their minds. It’s just a fact of life. It’s incredible how we expect young adults to choose a career without any previous experience in that field. About a third of college students switch majors at least once, and 1 in 10 students switch majors multiple times.

You want your students to find their true passions but switching from a business to art major can be costly. By utilizing hands-on approaches in your courses, students can find out what their passions genuinely are. By giving students a chance to do actual work, they are able to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and interests.

Hands-on experience is vital in education so students can know what they may be interested in for future careers.

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8. Better Preparation for Future Careers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a 31% job growth for information security analysts through 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. This incredible growth is due to the increased amount of cyberattacks that have occurred over recent years.

As technological advancements continue, it can be expected that cyberterrorism will continue to grow as well. As a result, experienced and talented cybersecurity analysts are going to remain in high demand. Future employers are going to be on the lookout for recent graduates who have hands-on knowledge in cybersecurity. As mentioned before, there can be no trial and error when protecting sensitive data from cyberattacks and potential leaks.

Most professors want their students to succeed. While there is a growing need for cybersecurity analysts, there is competition for the best positions. Applicants with hands-on knowledge are more prepared and more likely to be chosen for that position.

Bottom Line

Students must be able to utilize hands-on skills to be fully prepared for a cybersecurity career. Hands-on exercises are not only critical for students to be prepared for future careers but also so they can adequately retain information. Professionals are required to examine security issues from all perspectives and to examine line after line of code to discover vulnerabilities. With the growing threat of cybersecurity attacks in today’s business world, students must be given every opportunity to excel. Cybersecurity professors need to prepare students effectively so that they can face any cyber-attack or vulnerability in their future careers.

Government agencies and private corporations need a well-trained and ready cybersecurity workforce immediately. The best way for students to gain a comprehensive knowledge of cybersecurity measures is by doing. Professors who offer hands-on experience provide a more holistic approach of education and training, an approach necessary for students who want to launch their cybersecurity careers.

To enhance your degree program with practical skills training, learn more about Cyber Arcade.

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