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A Longitudinal Study of Students in an Introductory Cybersecurity Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Information and Network Security

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.61.1 - 24.61.11



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Paper Authors


Richard Scott Bell Kansas State University

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Scott Bell is a PhD candidate in the Computing and Information Sciences department at Kansas State University and is currently researching ways to improve Cybersecurity Education. Before beginning pursuit of his PhD, Scott worked as an Instructor at both Northwest Missouri State University, the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and State Fair Communit College. He earned his Master of Science degree in computer science and his Bachelor of Science degree in geological engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

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Eugene Y. Vasserman Kansas State University

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Eugene Vasserman received his Ph.D. and master's degrees in Computer Science in 2010 and 2008, respectively, from the University of Minnesota. His B.S., in Biochemistry and Neuroscience with a Computer Science minor, is also from the University of Minnesota (2003). In 2013 he received the NSF CAREER award for work on secure next-generation medical systems.

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Eleanor C. Sayre Kansas State University

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Eleanor Sayre received her Ph.D. and M.S.T. degrees in physics in 2007 and 2005 (respectively) from the University of Maine, with research emphasis in physics education. Her B.A. in physics from Grinnell College in 2002 involved research in computer science education. Her current research interests include identity development in undergraduate STEM majors, time-evolution of student understanding, and community practices in physics and physics education. In 2012 and 2013, she and her collaborators received NSF WIDER awards for building faculty resources for assessment on the Physics Education Research User's Guide.

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A Longitudinal Study of Students in an Introductory Cybersecurity CourseWhile some aspects of information assurance can be traced back to the earliest implementationsof cryptography, the field of cybersecurity is relatively new, and thus, pedagogical “best practices”have not been adequately investigated. The tremendous growth within the field over the past twodecades has resulted in a substantial number of organizations (both education and commercial)offering a wide variety of educational approaches in an attempt to meet the growing demand forgraduates and employees possessing skills in cybersecurity. This growth has been so rapid thatno one has taken the time to ask the question: are we doing this the right way? In order for usto identify and promote instructional best practices within cybersecurity courses, an instrumentcapable of measuring these values is needed. This paper contains the results of the initial phase inour development of such an instrument.This work is a longitudinal study of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in an intro-ductory cybersecurity course. The purpose of the study is to identify course components andinstructional approaches that affect both students’ success in the classroom and the likelihood thatthey will continue to pursue cybersecurity both as a student and as part of their career. Given thevariation in the content being presented in such courses, we focus this effort on student charac-teristics that have been shown to lead towards student success in the classroom and student careerselection. These characteristics include: the self-efficacy of students in relation to cybersecurityas well as student interest in further coursework, research and/or jobs that involve cybersecurityconcepts. [1, 2] Using a series of student interviews over the course of the semester, we are able toidentify and measure the changes in student self-efficacy and interest that occur as the semester pro-gresses. Furthermore, we identify pedagogical practices which students found most useful throughthis semester-long investigation. The results from this study will be used to construct a Likert-scalesurvey that will allow cybersecurity educators to evaluate student outcomes consistently betweenvarious teaching approaches. This will allow for systematic, informed, pedagogical decisions tobe made in the cybersecurity classroom.References[1] A. Bandura, C. Barbaranelli, G. V. Caprara, and C. Pastorelli. Self-Efficacy Beliefs as Shapers of Children’s Aspirations and Career Trajectories. Child Development, 72(1):187–206, 2001.[2] H. Fencl and K. Scheel. Engaging Students: An Examination of the Effects of Teaching Strategies on Self-Efficacy and Course Climate in a Nonmajors Physics Course. Journal of College Science Teaching, 35(1):20, 2005. 1

Bell, R. S., & Vasserman, E. Y., & Sayre, E. C. (2014, June), A Longitudinal Study of Students in an Introductory Cybersecurity Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19953

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