During the 4th School of Computing and Communications AL Professional Development Conference (OU blog post) I facilitated a session about continuing professional development. In that session, some of the tutors shared experiences of what they had done before.
As mentioned in one of the keynote introductions, one area of growth within the school is cybersecurity. What follows is a summary of resources and materials that may be useful for any tutor (or student) who might be looking to move into the area.
This blog, which is intended for existing OU tutors emphasises OU resources that are available, but useful external resources are highlighted too. Since cybersecurity is a fast moving area, the links and resources highlighted on this page are likely to age relatively quickly.
A good place to start is something called the Cyber Security Body Of Knowledge. A recommended area to look at is the CyBok Knowledgebase.
The aim of the CyBok is to provide a summary of the topics and subjects that make up cybersecurity. It presents a lot of materials and concepts. Since some of these pages can be (sometimes) quite heavy going, it might be a good idea to look to other resources to get an introduction to some of the areas.
The OUs OpenLearn platform has a wealth of useful resources, which are presented in the form of bite sized short courses. OpenLearn has a whole section dedicated to cybersecurity.
This takes us to the following courses:
- Introduction to cyber security
- Learning from major cyber security incidents
- Digital forensics
- The psychology of cybercrime
OpenLearn courses can offer a helpful introduction. When you have finished working through one of these short modules, learners can gain a digital badge (if these things are of interest). You can, of course, reference completing an OpenLearn module on a CV or application form.
One of the best ways to upskill and to gain familiarity with a subject is to study an OU module using a tutor fee waiver. Depending on your interests, you can either study undergraduate or postgraduate modules. The undergraduate named degree has the title BSc (Honours) Cyber Security.
Notable modules which could be studied on a fee waiver include:
The school offers a Postgraduate Diploma in Cyber Security which contains four modules:
Postgraduate modules do differ from undergraduate modules in the extent to which students are required to carry out their own research. Students are also required to demonstrate advanced critical thinking skills. Also, since the postgraduate qualifications have an industrial focus, students are often required to relate their work based activity to their studies.
Before studying a postgraduate module, I would recommend any potential student to work through the following Open Learn module: Success in postgraduate study.
Cyber security is a dynamic subject; computing technologies are continually changing and adapting, often driven by the needs of industry. Industrial providers and businesses need people to know how to use their tools of services. This means there are a lot industry led certifications which are designed to help IT practioners to understand and master their technologies.
One of the world’s leading suppliers of networking systems and technologies is Cisco. To help the users of its systems, it has devised a set of certifications and a learning platform called NetAcad.
Through NetAcad, OU tutors can study a number of short courses that relate to networking and cyber security, gaining digital badges. These badges that can be mentioned to on a CV (and, theoretically, mentioned during an OU skills audit with a friendly staff tutor). What follows is a short summary of free online self-paced study courses that can be accessed through Cisco NetAcad.
Introduction to Cybersecurity: Two key objectives are: “Learn what cybersecurity is and its potential impact to you. Understand the most common threats, attacks and vulnerabilities.” 15 hours.
Networking Essentials: This introductory level module is described as being able to “Develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills using Cisco Packet Tracer”. 70 hours.
Cybersecurity Essentials: Two key objectives are: “Understand security controls for networks, servers and applications. Learn valuable security principals and how to develop compliant policies.” 30 hours.
Introduction to IoT: IoT is an abbreviation for the Internet of Things. This course is said to help learners to “understand how the IoT is bridging the gap between operational and information technology systems”. 20 hours.
NDG Linux Unhatched: The “Start From Scratch” Linux Course, which is described as learning basic installation and configuration of Linux software and get introduced to the Linux command line. 8 hours.
PCAP: Programming Essentials in Python: “Learn programming from scratch and master Python”. 75 hours.
OU development events
A final category that is worth mentioning is the continuing professional development events that are organised by the OU. In addition to regular compulsory training that all tutors must go through, there are two broad categories of events that tutors can go to: general AL development events, and school specific events.
A personal recommendation is that you find the time to attend at least one CPD events a year, just to keep up to date with what is happening across the university. If you’re able to attend more, then so much the better.
If you are tutor and you’re thinking about teaching cyber security, some of these suggestions might be more useful than others. One of the best things that you could do is to study a module that you might be interested in teaching, perhaps in combination with some of the other options and materials that have been highlighted.
As well as an OU fee waiver, another source of funding is the AL development fund. This is a small pot of money that can be used for on going professional development that relates to your discipline, which isn’t immediate or directly provided by the university. The fund could be used for attending conferences, or completing short courses.
When upskilling, I find it is important to bear in mind the distinction between cyber security education and training. Whilst industrial certifications have their place, they often emphasise training. Training is about how to solve certain problems. Education is (of course) about how best apply training given a set of circumstances, and to have the ability to quickly gain new knowledge after having acquired and understood some fundamental concepts. I guess my point here is: the fundamental concepts are important.
From a personal perspective, I’ve used the fee waiver to study at least three different OU computing modules. Although I’ve always found studying quite a bit of work, it has always been rewarding. It has enabled me to not only learn about a new subject, but also to learn more about the experience of a student. I’ve also registered for Cisco NetAcad, but I haven’t made much progress. Doing more Cisco self-study is something I need to do.
If you would like to upskill, a final recommendation is to have a chat with your friendly staff tutor, particularly during your CDSA or skills audit conversation. They will have some practical advice about what you can do to ensure that you’re best placed to help students to study a particular subject.