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How to Overcome 3 Digital Forensics Experiential Learning Challenges

By Jamie Taralunga • Posted 7 months ago

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Digital forensic and cybersecurity professionals are in high demand. To keep up with this demand, educational institutions have nurtured the digital forensics program since the late 1970s. As the program grows, its curriculums and tools evolve to keep up with modern threats. However, this level of advancement, at such as quick pace, creates teaching challenges for educators.

What Are Your Digital Forensics Teaching Challenges?

During the Project Ares’ Live Play of Battle Room 9 Digital Forensics Webinar (opens new window), we polled our attendees about the teaching challenges they felt hindered their progress. Their responses:

  • 33% answered, lack of subject matter expertise
  • 67% answered, difficulty designing hands-on lab experience

Experiential learning (opens new window), also known as learning by doing, comes with many life-long learning benefits for students. In digital forensics, experiential learning prepares students for a hands-on, cyber investigative environment. However, adopting and sustaining experiential learning also carries its challenges for educators with complex curriculums or under-developed cyber programs. We’ve learned through our research and conversations with educators that digital forensic teaching challenges include:

  • Implementing hands-on labs
  • Designing a cyber range
  • Having minimal resources

So, what are the solutions to these digital forensics teaching barriers (opens new window)? There are many ways to look at these complications, and there are just as many ways to solve them. Let’s examine a few of these solutions.

Teaching Challenge #1: Digital Forensics Curriculum Planning

There’s more content than there’s time to teach it. Careful planning and time go into creating a purposeful curriculum that will advance future digital forensic experts (opens new window). The thought of adding hands-on labs may feel daunting. They also take time out of your lecture and meaningful discussion. In short, there’s a lack of time to plan and incorporate them into your teachings.

Yet, in the digital forensics hands-on profession, they’re necessary. That’s why, by design, many hands-on labs supplement classroom theory.

Core Curriculum Elements

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Designing a class curriculum or a full-blown course to align with hands-on labs doesn’t have to be overwhelming or intimidating. Try these three tips to guide you in your planning:

  1. Customize your curriculum to your student’s needs
  2. Make pivots in your lesson plan to suit your students as they progress
  3. Give yourself enough time to plan ahead

Remember the basics! As an educator, you’re likely familiar with these core curriculum-building elements. Use them to help you identify where hands-on labs will be an asset to your students’ learning. Remember, you can always pivot along the way to adjust for how well your students are progressing. One of the benefits of experiential learning (opens new window) is that hands-on practice accurately assesses when and where students need extra time to grasp the learning material.

However, aligning your curriculum to hands-on practice alone isn’t enough to help you overcome your challenges. You need the tools to get you there.

Teaching Challenge #2: Designing InfoSec Hands-on Labs

The effectiveness of experiential (opens new window) learning in digital forensics, as in cybersecurity, is through the implementation of hands-on labs. Better yet, it’s an engaging cyber range (opens new window). Providing realistic scenarios for your students to practice their skillset is invaluable to their learning and cements your lectures in their minds.

Where the challenge comes in is designing an information security range (opens new window). In fact, our poll revealed this as the biggest pain point. Why? Home-grown, home-built cyber ranges are expensive and laborious to maintain.

  • Do you have subject matter experts available to write up and validate the content?
  • How about the time to gather the open-source tools?
  • Can your software skills execute the content in an engaging environment that aligns with real-world scenarios?
  • Who provides the tech support and maintains the environment?

If you can, that’s awesome! If this doesn’t sound like something you want or can do, why reinvent the wheel? Educators don’t have time to do this, nor do they need to. These cyber EdTech platforms exist and come with experts, resources, and support. Save your time and save your money, by finding an existing platform that fits your teaching needs.

Learn More About Project Ares

Teaching Challenge #3: Minimal Cyber EdTech Resources

Although, teaching digital forensics involves more than just embracing and sustaining a new teaching approach. The addition of a virtual cyber range can change your position in the classroom. In addition to teaching your students, you'll need to facilitate instructional delivery with labs.

Most educators can manage to teach and facilitate this type of experiential learning tool. However, it’s not ideal for everyone. Educators have varying degrees of comfort when it comes to adopting technology in the classroom. To increase your tech comfort, review your capabilities and identify where you need the most help and who can help you.

Once you identify your needs, choosing the right platform can actually save you time. With the right EdTech platform resources, consider working with a teaching assistant who can provide you with options:

A teaching assistant is a great resource to support cyber range adoption. Having someone who encourages progress and allows you to get back to what you do best: teaching. You can talk through ideas with each other and determine where you’re needed the most in the classroom.

Aside from a teaching assistant, ensure that your team includes tech support. They’ll minimize your stress and maximize your time by applying a fix on the spot. Selecting a solution that provides these turnkey resources built-in should be a high priority for any educator seeking EdTech teaching support.

Experiential learning done right can offer solutions to these teaching challenges. Connect your core curriculum building blocks with the right resources to help you simplify administrative teaching duties, empower your classroom culture, and demonstrate teaching success.

Innovate Your Digital Forensics Classroom with Experiential Learning

With the right planning, tools, and teams in place, you’ll experience tangible evidence of experiential learning progress. We’re talking about the type of progress that fosters innovation. In other words, the hands-on cyber learning your students will achieve in your classroom will directly translate into the work your students will do in the professional world. 

Project Ares Committed to empowering, educating, encouraging, and equipping instructors

Whether you are a beginner or incredibly advanced in cybersecurity expertise, you’ll find that Project Ares can help you as an instructor or student. After all, our commitment is to you and your students. We want to help empower, educate, encourage, and equip you to overcome these teaching barriers.

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