Building awareness in the classroom to enable the cyber workforce of the future, today

Mon, 07/12/2020 - 08:00

Understanding how our digital world works, how it is designed to protect us and how we can keep our information safe is critical for both adults and children to learn.

The University of Adelaide (UoA)’s Computer Science Education Research Group (CSER Group) have been operating digital technologies programs for Australian teachers since 2014.

“The entire CSER program, which includes eight MOOCs on various technology curriculum related areas, has attracted over 38,000 enrolments,” said Dr Rebecca Vivian, CSER Project Lead.

This year, they partnered with AustCyber, CSIRO and Google Australia to develop free, self-paced Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to build primary and secondary teachers’ confidence and capacity to integrate the learning of cyber security and awareness into the classroom.

Two new courses – one for primary teachers (K-6) and one for secondary teachers (years 7-10) – contain practical classroom activity ideas and examples of career pathways. Both courses are aligned to the Australian Curriculum (Digital Technologies and ICT Capabilities) and focus areas include data security, encryption, cryptography, networks, information systems and safety, cyber security risks and security measures, and cyber ethics.

“The Cyber Security and Awareness MOOCs for Primary and Secondary Classrooms have been live since mid 2020, with over 770 teachers enrolled to date,” said Dr Vivian. “Given there are over 288,000 teachers in Australia, we have many more to reach. Learning about cyber security not only enables students to adopt safe practices in their own use of technology, but importantly, can inspire a future cyber security workforce.”

In today’s digital world where children are exposed to social media and they consume large amounts of online content at an early age, the need for early and relevant cyber education is crucial. The UoA’s MOOCs are an important tool for building cyber awareness. Nurturing cyber literacy amongst school students also helps grow the sector’s talent pipeline by highlighting the various pathways available to students.

Over the past three years, there has been significant progress in the availability of cyber security courses and training. This momentum needs to continue to meet the growing demand for cyber security professionals, with the workforce estimated to increase to 33,500 by 2024.

Primary and secondary schools play a crucial role in ensuring this demand is met. If schools can encourage students to consider a career in cyber security, while also building early cyber skills, both the quality and number of students looking to undertake cyber security qualifications will improve.

This case study is featured in Australia’s Cyber Security Sector Competitiveness Plan 2020, which can be viewed here and downloaded here.