Experts have urged higher education institutions looking to close the cybersecurity skills gap to reshape their curricula to provide programs that are really for everyone.
“There are so many different careers available within the field that there really is a place for everyone,” says Hyde.
From providing opportunities for diverse students to creating hands-on learning, Hyde outlines how colleges can create a unique cybersecurity program.
1. Ease from Fundamentals to Security Intensives
Considering that many young women have not even contemplated cybersecurity careers because of the field’s stigma, it’s important for higher education leaders to emphasize that cybersecurity isn’t just for those interested in tech.
At Champlain College, Hyde says cybersecurity education begins with the fundamental aspects of operating systems and network controls.
“[Students] need to understand how networks fit together with all of the other components, then you overlay your security on top of that,” says Hyde.
2. Use Online Classes to Create Opportunities
Because Champlain’s cybersecurity program is dedicated strictly to online learning, Hyde says it has a diverse group of students from around the world.
“Because we’re drawing on all of those different experiences from our students and they’re bringing that to the classroom, when we look at cybersecurity, we’ve got a global perspective,” says Hyde.
Also by virtue of teaching an online-only program, Champlain is able to target students who Hyde calls “career changers.” These adult learners might not come from a technical background, but Hyde says their experience and unique skills are often a great fit for the program.
Champlain College Online’s virtual environment also allows students to get practical experience with tools they’ll use in the real world.
3. Put the Focus on Industry Needs
One of the best ways to make sure that students are prepared for future careers is by looking to the industry itself to shape curriculum and provide hands-on experience.
While Hyde recognizes that her institution has certain needs of its own, Champlain’s staff consistently reviews what industry needs are and makes sure the program’s educational model fits that format.
“I really think a lot of it comes down to constantly monitoring the landscape to see what is out there for new technology,” says Hyde.
Champlain has done this in part by getting curriculum verified and certified by agencies such as the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security, as well as the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.