CSEE faculty Alan Sherman and Dhananjay Phatak and Education Professor Linda Oliva received a research grant from the Department of Defense to create educational assessment tools to improve the teaching of cybersecurity. The one-year funded project is a collaboration with Geoffrey Herman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The research is being carried out at the UMBC Cyber Defense Laboratory.

The project will create infrastructure for a rigorous evidence-based improvement of cybersecurity education by developing Cybersecurity Assessment Tools (CATs) targeted at measuring the quality of instruction. The first CAT will be a Cybersecurity Concept Inventory that measures how well students understand basic concepts in cybersecurity after a first course in the field. The second CAT will be a Cybersecurity Curriculum Assessment that measures how well curricula prepared students graduating from college on fundamentals needed for careers in cybersecurity. Each CAT will be a multiple-choice test with approximately thirty questions.

Inspired by the highly influential Force Concept Inventory from physics, the investigators are following a three-step process. In fall 2014, with MS student Geet Parekh, they carried out two Delphi processes to identify an initial set of important and difficult concepts in cybersecurity. The second step will involve interviews with students to uncover their misconceptions about these concepts. In the final step, the team will draft and psychometrically evaluate questions whose incorrect answers are driven by the uncovered misconceptions. Information on the work and its results will be available on the Cybersecurity Assessment Tools web site.