There is a growing demand for cyber security professionals due to the proliferation of new digital technologies in areas such as industrial automation, healthcare, smart cities, etc. Ironically, it is expected that these very technologies could displace a certain section of other workers employed in vulnerable sectors. While there is a global shortage of cyber security professionals and a clear skills gap, a job in cyber security is currently out of reach for many people (National Security Strategy, 2020). GICAST was developed in response to this, as part of the CareerTech Challenge and has been designed specifically for those job seekers who are living in England with no formal degree-level qualification and who may have worked or are working in an industry sector that is shrinking or undergoing significant change.
Who are we?
The Open University is a leading distance learning provider with over 50 years of experience in designing learning content for adult learners. OpenLearn is our digital learning platform that hosts short informal online courses for all, but particularly targets low-confidence learners. The courses are free and short, spread across eight weeks with 20-24 hours of learning. The learners can access the courses on any device, anytime and can acquire a digital certificate or a badge on successful completion. The GICAST course was developed by Open University and hosted on OpenLearn.
What we did
GICAST has enhanced the existing Badged Open Course (BOC) called ‘An Introduction to Cyber Security’ (ICS) with two key innovations, game-based intervention and content adaptation.
Key enhancements made to the GICAST course to meet the needs of the target learners are:
Our initial evaluation has shown promising outcomes and positive impact on the following five metrics:
2. Positive learning experience
3. Career adaptability
4. Cyber security behaviour
The qualitative data indicate that GICAST participants have experienced many ‘Aha! moments’ during the course, which exposed their habitual poor cyber practices and motivated them to change. Games seem to have played a significant role in supporting the learner’s self-reflection over their cyber practices:
“Playing the Open Sesame Game made me confront a situation that I was habitually employing. I am always duplicating passwords, and this game made it impossible to do this […] This now highlights the problem and laziness in this situation.”
5. Confidence in Digital Learning
Statistical analysis of the pre and post-survey in digital learning measures showed a positive impact on learners’ confidence in digital learning with the most substantial improvements in knowing how to find appropriate digital resources and enjoyment of digital learning.
GICAST will continue to be hosted on OpenLearn and will be accessible to the vast demography of learners that the platform attracts. We aim to offer reskilling opportunities to learners from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and abilities through informal and formal learning journeys and take them one step closer to a job in the growing cyber security sector. A sector that has a clear skills gap and will benefit from wider representation. We will use our findings from the CareerTech Challenge to more effectively support adult learners. There are also plans to modify the course to suit younger learners, as part of the Government's efforts to cyber security capacity building and nurturing sustainable talent pipeline. If you want to know more or collaborate with the project team, do get in touch.
Video: About GICAST
Contact: Dr. Chitra Balakrishna
Email: [email protected]
You can watch the Open University CareerTech Challenge pitch video below