Asee peer logo

Assessment of the Educational Benefits Produced by Peer Learning Activities in Cybersecurity

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Curriculum and Assessment III

Tagged Division

Computing and Information Technology

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jeremy Straub North Dakota State University

visit author page

Jeremy Straub is the Associate Director of the NDSU Institute for Cyber Security Education and Research and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the North Dakota State University. He holds a Ph.D. in Scientific Computing, an M.S. and an M.B.A. and has published over 40 journal articles and over 120 full conference papers, in addition to making numerous other conference presentations. Straub’s research spans the gauntlet between technology, commercialization and technology policy. In particular, his research has recently focused on cybersecurity topics including intrusion detection and forensics, robotic command and control, aerospace command and 3D printing quality assurance. Straub is a member of Sigma Xi, the AAAS, the AIAA and several other technical societies, he has also served as a track or session chair for numerous conferences.

visit author page

Download Paper |


There is a significant and growing need, both in the United States and around the world, for graduates with strong skills in the area of cybersecurity. These individuals are highly sought after and command some of the highest first post-graduation job salaries. As part of the cybersecurity development efforts at [blinded], a student association was formed for students pursuing coursework in the cybersecurity field. This organization hosts multiple types of activities, including participation in cybersecurity competitions, outreach events and speakers. One of the best received type of events that it hosts is peer learning sessions. Initially, these peer learning events were sporadic; however, in recent semesters they have been more regimented and organized into key categories including red team, blue team and reverse engineering. Some general (non-categorized) ones are occasionally held too.

Students benefit from these activities significantly. Those attending these peer learning sessions benefit from participating in the typically very hands-on activities. However, the students that are, generally, receiving the greatest benefit are those that are organizing the activities, who have to prepare the material to lead the sessions. In additional to learning knowledge and developing skills related to the technical topic, peer learning leaders also develop communications, project and time management skills.

These peer learning activities are covering lots of areas related to cybersecurity that are not covered by the basic curriculum and covering some areas that are in a more hands-on way. The activities typically involve the learning leader demonstrating key skills and imparting knowledge, while the learners follow along and try the same tools and techniques that the leader demonstrates. The enthusiasm of the peer learning leaders typically transfers to the peer learning session learners. These learners also typically see the material that is being presented as being within their reach because their peer (who is leading / presenting it) has understood and worked with the material successfully.

This paper presents the results of a survey to characterize the benefits enjoyed by students participating in these peer learning activities. This survey collects demographic information about the student participants, including their role in the peer learning activities. Students are asked about their reason for deciding to participate. They are also asked to indicate what their expectations for participation were and whether each is being met. It also asks the students about their per- and post-participation status with regards to several key areas of potential growth. The survey also collects information about whether participants engaged in a variety of different activities as part of their peer learning experience and about multiple participation-related outcomes.

In addition to presenting and analyzing the basic results of this survey, the results are analyzed with regards to students’ role in the peer learning process and demographic characteristics such as their current academic level and year in their program.

The paper closes with a discussion of the efficacy of peer learning activities for teaching students cybersecurity skills. Prospective areas for future work, including longitudinal tracking of participants and a broader study are also discussed.

Straub, J. (2019, June), Assessment of the Educational Benefits Produced by Peer Learning Activities in Cybersecurity Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32131

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015