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Utilizing Cyber Range Learning in Academia

By Angela Shugarts • Posted over 3 years ago


Cyber ranges are virtual learning environments used for cyber warfare skills development. A cyber range offers hands-on learning opportunities for cybersecurity professionals by marrying traditional classroom concepts with more ‘sticky’ experiential learning techniques.

By effectively preparing students to address real-world cyberattack scenarios now, academic institutions will increase their success rate of achieving learning outcomes pertinent to the cybersecurity profession. Further, the students benefit by applying what they’ve learned to realistic cyber situations they’d experience in the workplace.

While there are many cyber range solutions on the market today, there are several key learning capabilities missing on their platforms. Some examples of this are:

  • Game-inspired exercises for fundamental concept learning and skill-building with repetitive, hands-on activities.
  • Defense strategy teaching, which involves engaging in multiple cybersecurity job roles to problem-solve challenges.
  • Limited or non-existent scoring methods for learners to assess skills performance.
  • Lack of team play for collaborative learning and greater strategic work.
  • Infrastructure-only ranges with no pre-programmed learning curriculum.
  • Prescriptive, “check the box” approaches with fixed content (that, over time, will become irrelative and disengage learners).
  • The limited number of virtual environments.

To read more about cyber range learning environments for student skill building, download: “The Faces of Cyber Ranges: Tapping into Experiential Skill Building for Cybersecurity Teaching and Learning.”

To ensure your academic institution gets the most out of its cyber range investment, the following features and capabilities should be considered to best maximize student learning and skill building:

  • Ensure the cyber range comes installed with pre-existing content that is informed by real-threat scenarios and attack methods.
  • Look for cyber range content that is diverse, offering a mix of both concept-driven exercises and real-world, team-based activities for holistic learning.
  • Consider custom mission builders (like Circadence’s OrionÔ Mission Builder) to create scenarios that mirror the latest threats happening today. This can ensure the learning material is constantly evolving, just as threats are.
  • Assess instructor capabilities for reviewing and grading student performance to prevent tedious log review work.
  • Confirm that course syllabi and other learning materials can be integrated into the cyber range platform to tie learning objectives to actual student performance.
  • Consider gamified activities that encourage students to “learn by doing,” individually and in teams.

In order to address these glaring needs, Circadence created Project AresÒ, the face of the next generation of cyber ranges. Project Ares delivers learning and assessment opportunities to anyone from cyber newbies to cyber ninjas, with both individual and team-based engagements. It can be adapted to students in undergraduate and graduate university programs as well as Middle/High/Primary level schools. High engagement in cybersecurity education is critical because if students are not interested in learning new skills, and aren’t encouraged to think outside of the box, they won’t be adequately prepared to handle threats that are always changing and evolving in the workplace.

Academic institutions have an exciting opportunity in front of them – to lead the way with progressive, next-generation learning approaches that utilize cyber ranges to prepare students for the cybersecurity workplace. Don’t fall behind the times, look into learning through this exciting platform in order to better serve the future workforce.

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Project Ares is designed and built by Circadence®.

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