Guest Blog: Reimagining Cyber Learning for Students, Featuring Divergence Academy

  • Sravan Ankaraju, President of Divergence Academy
  • March 04, 2019

 

It’s one thing to talk about the importance of teaching cybersecurity in an engaging way, and another thing to actually do it. Divergence Academy is proud to partner with Circadence to reimagine how cybersecurity is taught to current and aspiring professionals.

About Divergence Academy

Divergence Academy is an education institution creating adaptive learning solutions to empower individuals to pursue the work they love on the most relevant skills of the 21st century – from web development to data science to product management. It was established in 2014 as the first Data Science school in the Dallas/Fort Worth area school that used a hybrid approach to learning. It offers immersive and weekend programs for working professionals, college grads and transitioning workers.

In early 2017, the academy grew to partner with leading cybersecurity organizations including E.C. Council and CompTIA to offer certified learning for students. However, it found that the curriculum was missing something—a “WOW” factor—a platform where learning could be managed and developed using a more hands-on approach, allowing students to level up and reinforce the skills they were learning towards certification.

A Gamified Approach to Cyber Learning

In realizing that we needed a more robust learning platform that complemented the certifications we offered, we were introduced to Circadence, a market leader in cybersecurity readiness, known for its Project AresÒ cyber range solution. It incorporated gamification into every aspect of the learning process, which encouraged students to progress through real-world exercises at their own pace and with a level of engagement unseen in previous traditional course sessions.

Finding Project Ares put us on the map as an institution that put learning to work and it showed that we are not just an AI school but a school that teaches what we preach!

The Class: Cybersecurity Professional Penetration Tester

We launched our 12-week class using Project Ares in early February 2019. The program is a 400-hour course delivered over 2 weekday evenings and Saturday to prepare students for the role of Certified Ethical Hacker. We have a mix of students from mathematicians to software engineers to IT students all with varying levels of knowledge of cybersecurity, but anxious to learn.

In Project Ares, students are able to identify “learning moments” where they begin to connect the dots on how a cyber concept is applied to a real scenario. They try to solve problems together, which is exactly what a real cybersecurity job would require.

Not only are students learning industry-wide technical competencies such as information assurance, risk management and incident detection but also workplace competencies like teamwork, planning and organizing, problem-solving, and more. In preparing for a CEH role, students engage in the battle rooms, learning foundational skill sets and then apply them to a methodology in the missions. Skills like system hacking are learned in Missions 8-10, 12, and 13, and enumeration in Mission 1, and reconnaissance in Mission 1.

The feedback from them is reassuring that Divergence Academy and Circadence are a powerful partner. We hear they enjoy collaborating with their peers in exercises within the platform and they kind of form their own “tribes” if you will and that’s the beauty of gamified learning. It really teaches these students how to work together, build soft skills, and technical skills needed for today’s workforce.

The Impact of Project Ares

Project Ares has allowed our instructors to really focus on our student’s performance. The automated, in-game advisor Athena within Project Ares helps students progress from activity to activity and solve problems quicker, which helps instructors prioritize the pace of learning from all students and in using the trainer view in Project Ares, see where the skills gaps are and how to better inform the exercise content to meet the individual needs of the students. Further, the automatic scoring and badging in the platform coupled with the media center allows instructors to easily align course curriculum with the platform’s games, whether it’s in a mission, a battle room, or through a mini-game.

A Vision Come to Life

Divergence Academy is excited to build a network with local community colleges in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in order to help upcoming graduates and faculty see us as a school that takes student learning to new levels—applied levels—practical levels that are relevant to the workforce. We hope local schools see our trade school as the next step in their learning journey to cybersecurity professionalism and understand that they will be able to get hands-on skill building (or upskilling) and practical experience.

 

To learn more about Divergence Academy and how they’re using Project Ares to support student learning, visit https://divergenceacademy.com/.