Since the end of August, my students and I have been running full-tilt in IT security subjects. I have been drilling them in code, information assurance (IA) policy strategy, network security and mathematics, among a host of other subjects. While we educators change the curriculum — generally feeling it is guided by industry changes and evolution of technology — do we consider the opinions of the students, and do these opinions drive curricular change?
Now, as we close the calendar year and take a break from our academics for the holidays, I find time to think about what it really means to be a student of information assurance.
Participatory curriculum — participation by the students in changing content, courses offered and how courses are taught — that’s the ticket for what I like to call full-circle curriculum development. Recently, I have conducted a few focus groups with students at different levels of our program and am currently churning the data. Major themes and patterns that have emerged thus far are “more” of everything we are already giving them — more programming languages, keep getting professors with industry experience, support us in our participation in national forensics competitions. Ruby on Rails, AJAX, forensic tools, steganography, and the list goes on and on.
Can we educators keep up? We had better. Students want more, more, more, and I don’t blame them. I want it too. An exciting field deserves excited people entering it out of college and we need to support that. We need to listen. No excuses. Students participating in course content changes opens up our curriculum for a host of fresh ideas and perspectives.
Face it, we are not the proverbial spring chickens that they are. They are the next generation and we are passing the baton. And this applies not just to educators in universities, but to all of the information security professionals in the field who can mentor this new generation.
Student input keeps educators from creating curricula in a vacuum. This is a good thing. I certainly don’t let my students create code in one.