Developing an Accelerated Cybersecurity Program Aligned with Workforce Needs

Keeping computers and information systems secure is a major challenge. Business, industry, and government need well-prepared technicians who can detect, investigate, and prevent cybersecurity breaches. The growth of cyber-threats has created a need for many more workers who have specific knowledge and skills to meet these workforce demands. In response to a persistent demand for a skilled cybersecurity workforce in Maryland, this project will develop an accelerated cybersecurity degree program. This program aims to prepare students for jobs at the nearby Aberdeen Proving Ground and other companies in the surrounding area. The program will be designed to maximize opportunities for online learning, incorporate a "competency-based" approach, and promote quicker entry into employment. The resulting 18-month degree program should be attractive to a diverse population of students, promote their persistence and completion, and give them the skills needed tackle dynamic, real-world challenges which will have immediate value to their employers.

By working closely with government and industry partners, this project will ensure that the college's cybersecurity program addresses the workforce skills and competencies needed by regional employers. The project has three main objectives: (1) Develop an accelerated Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program in information assurance and cybersecurity, which students can complete in 18 months and which aims to produce at least 40 graduates (in two cohorts) by the end of the grant. (2) Modify two of the AAS program's 13 core cybersecurity courses to an adaptive-learning, competency-based format, and train faculty to convert topical modules in courses to competency-based learning, so that the entire program curriculum will become competency-based over time. (3) Determine whether the competency-based learning approach is more effective than the traditional outcomes-based approach in developing cybersecurity skills. To achieve these objectives, the investigators will adapt the curriculum of the college's current two-year AAS program in information assurance and cybersecurity to include more online learning; establish a new cybersecurity teaching laboratory at a convenient off-campus location; and oversee the adaptation of two courses to a competency-based format, while assessing the skills and experiences of the students compared to a control group taking outcomes-based courses.

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