Discipline: Computer Sciences and Information Management
Subcategory: Computer Science & Information Systems
Room: Park Tower 8219
Ayodeji Ogundiran - Bowie State University
As our society increasingly depends on information systems, it is very important for government and organizations to have access to a skilled pool of individuals who are trained in confronting threats to information security, responding to emergencies, protecting vital information technology assets, and helping to create policies that ensure the privacy of individuals. Unfortunately, the educational sector of information security is not really up-to-date in the latest cyber threats encountered every day. Fortunately, however, schools and colleges are trying to teach students on how to face the daily challenges brought about by this very vast field of science.
Cryptography is one of the most important tools for building secure systems. It can be used to achieve several goals of information security. Through the proper use of cryptography, one can ensure the confidentiality of data, protect data from unauthorized modification, and authenticate the source of data.
In cyber security, cryptography is a very important and necessary tool that covers encryption and decryption algorithms, cryptographic protocols, and cryptanalysis.
Due to the importance of cryptography, National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) guidelines have included cryptography as the core knowledge for information assurance and cybersecurity education accreditation. These guidelines have been incorporated into the syllabi and curriculum of colleges offering computer science and information security as majors. However, there are still a few major barriers for students at HBCU institutions to comprehend the core concepts of the cryptography.
Firstly, the dominant pedagogical approach that uses the cryptographic exercises in a lab setting might not deliver compelling learning experiences due to the decontextualized learning. For example, most of the existing cryptographic labs in these institutes of higher learning use abstract interactions, such as simple message-sending and receiving scenarios between two people, to teach cryptographic protocols and encryption methods. However, it is not suitable in real-life scenarios; a student who learns cryptographic concepts solely in a decontextualized setting might not be able to apply the necessary skills when facing real-life security threats.
Secondly, some math concepts used in cryptographical algorithms are complex and hard for students to understand. Cryptography heavily relies on math to build encryption and decryption algorithms. Students who have weak math backgrounds often dislike cryptographic topics due to the abstract math concepts.
Thirdly, there is a lack of publicly available instructional materials for teaching and learning cryptographic topics. Designing instructional materials, including cryptographic courseware and lab manuals, is a time-consuming task for faculty members. Even if faculty members develop their instructional materials, the materials used in the classrooms are often not reviewed and tested by the public, and therefore may be error-prone and outdated.
With this project, we aim at implementing a cloud-based cryptographic simulator with a contextualized learning approach to help students comprehend the fundamental concepts of cryptography, including protocols and cryptanalysis, and studying to what extent that the simulator can enhance undergraduates’ learning experience. We pick the Cryptography courses (COSC 345 for undergraduates) at Bowie State University for the empirical study. Students in the classes will be divided into two groups, named control group and experimental group. Each group has a student lab observer during lab sessions. The student lab observers are the trainees participating in the research. Each lab is designed for two-and-a-half hours to be consistent with the length of the current lectures. Two assessment tools are used for the study, including quizze and surveys. The quizzes and surveys will cover questions that are related to math concepts in cryptography and the attrative level of the cryptographic scenarios. At the completion each lab, all students will take post-lab quizzes and turn in lab reports. Faculty will use the same rubrics for grading.
Two animation labs have been completed so far. The lab demonstrations are posted on YouTube. Although there is no official empirical study conducted, excellent feedbacks have been recieved from our peer students. We plan to finish implementing all five labs and disseminate all materials this year.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): Dr. Frank Xu; Dr. Jie Yan
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Jie Yan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Role: Creation of Animation Videos