Nation’s Top Cybersecurity Instructors Discuss Evolution of Teaching, the Cyber Jobs Gap, and Diversity
TAMPA, Fla, Jan. 12, 2023– EC-Council announced today its 2022 Academia award winning instructors of the year. The five honored instructors include a diverse group of teachers from academic institutions of higher education across the United States, chosen from over 500 different institutions that provide cybersecurity education.
“Training the next generation of cybersecurity leaders is critical in a nation where as many as half of all cyber jobs are currently unfilled. Nothing is more important to that education than the quality and commitment of our nation’s cybersecurity instructors,” said Wesley Alvarez, Director of Academics at EC-Council. “This year’s winners reflect a high level of innovation and adaptability in their teaching, which is vital to produce cyber leaders who are ready to respond to new and evolving cyber threats.”
Award recipients are selected based on the nominee’s impact on teaching, an assessment of their instruction, student experiences, leadership, and engagement with the cybersecurity community at large. The winners include the Academia Instructor of the Year award, issued to Dr. Diego Tibaquirá of Miami Dade College (Miami, FL); and five Instructor Circle of Excellence Awards, issued to Nicole Dyess of Eastern Florida State College (Cocoa, FL); Larry Atkinson of Lorain County College (Elyria, OH); Christopher Hope of Southern Crescent Technical College (Griffin, GA); Greg Hirsch of Vincennes University (Vincennes, IN).
Evolution in Teaching Approach
These award-winning educators spoke about how teaching pedagogy has evolved in the past years, with an emphasis on hands-on training, competency-based education, and other types of practical learning enabling students to move beyond knowledge acquisition and into the development of real skills immediately applicable to today’s workplace.
“Taking a hands-on approach, I have to ensure that students are aware not just of textbook information, but current issues and the resolution that can be taken,” said Christopher Hope. “I like the gamification approach to teaching,” said Nicole Dyess. Dyess goes on to say, “Rather than focusing on testing, my approach is to give them hands-on professional development opportunities. Capture the Flag competitions are another important teaching method which I’ve found to be a valuable tool to level up students quickly.”
Addressing the Cybersecurity Workforce Gap
Instructors and their students are acutely aware of the national cybersecurity workforce gap. According to industry sources, there are nearly half a million open positions in the U.S. alone. “I think there is such a shortage of students entering the STEM disciplines as it is,” said Larry Atkinson. Atkinson goes on to say, “We must create new and state of the art programs and advertise those to our new generation of students.”
Dr. Diego Tibaquirá, Academia Instructor of the Year, elaborated, “We need to start at the high school level, middle school level, and even elementary school level. We must educate the entire population on the risks and need for the field of cybersecurity.”
Another key theme that arose in conversations with these top cybersecurity instructors is the matter of diversity. “As a woman in the field of information systems for over 20 years, it has often been a lonely journey. I understand the difficulties in balancing a family with school and work. I encourage all my students to always put their family first, but also remind them that by improving their skills and participating in Capture the Flags, they are in fact doing the best possible thing for their family. Students who can get employment in this industry will help secure their financial future and provide the best life possible for them.” said Nicole Dyess.
Still, there are signs of progress. Most of the instructors spoke about improvements in the representation of women in their classes. “In one of my cybersecurity classes this semester, almost half of the class were females,” said Dr. Diego Tibaquirá. “Our numbers have grown, but there must be a real, direct, and intentional approach to get those numbers up.”
EC-Council Academia honors leading instructors and programs annually through the EC-Council Academia Partner Awards. In addition to the 2022 faculty awards, leading cybersecurity programs including Western Governors University, University of Maryland Global Campus, University of Phoenix, ECPI University, Forsyth Technical Community College, Maryville University, Collin College, and Queen’s College of Business, Technology & Public Safety (Lambton College in Mississauga), were highlighted for their outstanding efforts and commitment to cybersecurity education this past year.
About EC-Council Academia
The EC-Council Academia partner program, led by EC-Council’s academic division, offers free partnership opportunities to academic institutions globally. These partnerships establish cybersecurity education ecosystems that support students, alumni, faculty, employees, and communities. Through established partnerships, academic institutions can access extensive discounts on content, evaluate learning resources, offer student-stackable credentials, initiate faculty development, provide scholarships, and facilitate cyber competitions. To date, EC-Council supports upwards of 2,500 education networks and institutions globally, with over 1,000 recently participating since the relaunch of the academia program in 2018. EC-Council works with many top cybersecurity programs worldwide, including Western Governors University, the University of Maryland Global Campus, the NATO School, many National Centers of Academic Excellence, statewide education systems, and many ministry initiatives. EC-Council’s Academia partner program helps certify tens of thousands of students annually with industry-leading credentials. For more information on EC-Council Academia, please visit www.eccouncil.org/academia.
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