In our on-demand world, why is cyber skills development still so rigid?

The way we learn is changing. Digital solutions that accommodate (and even respond to) individual needs are finally ousting traditional training methods.

The way we learn is changing. Digital solutions that accommodate (and even respond to) individual needs are finally ousting traditional training methods. But why, in the era of on-demand everything, has education taken so long to catch up? We’ve been streaming movies, hailing cabs and buying food on demand for years, yet the cerebrum-pounding learning process has been constrained by time and space. 

Many organisations still dictate how and when their employees develop skills (if they develop them at all), but an increasing number are seeing the light. LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report demonstrates this, finding that, since 2017, 59% of talent developers spend more on online learning and 39% spend less on instructor-led training (ILT). 

Clearly, the shift is underway.

Is this the end for classroom-based skills development?

It’s not that old-school learning methods are useless; certain subjects have been, and will continue to be, taught in classrooms with great success. Most of us arrived where we are today via this well-trodden path. Highly technical fields, however, cannot be mastered in the classroom – and cybersecurity is a prime example.

One reason for this is that cybersecurity is best learned through facilitation rather than instruction. Another is the subject matter itself, which is constantly evolving and thus demands continuous study. Such intensity cannot be achieved in the classroom, where the material – accessible for a limited time – is outdated soon after being delivered.

More importantly, traditional learning methods fail to align with cybersecurity personas. Cyber enthusiasts are typically the most curious among us – the type who break things apart just to better understand how they work. The best way to satisfy this curiosity is by providing hands-on experience in an engaging, interactive environment. 

The importance of anytime access (and having fun)

LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report found that 74% of employees want to learn in their spare time at work, and this makes perfect business sense. But in order for workers to upskill on demand, they first need access to a lightweight resource that’s available 24/7. It’s here that SaaS platforms like Immersive Labs enter the fray. 

The automated training such solutions provide can save companies both time and money – especially if employees have unlimited access to training they genuinely enjoy. And there is a failsafe tactic to ensure that employees do enjoy learning, and that’s gamification. In 2012, for instance, US pharmacy Omnicare introduced game mechanics to its IT service desk and achieved a 100% participation rate, demonstrating the method’s effectiveness. It is also especially useful for training non-specialist employees, who typically need more encouragement to engage with cybersecurity.

Automated solutions also enable greater training frequency and, in turn, greater skills development. And when considering over half of all cyber experts feel their employers don’t provide sufficient training, all-you-can-eat solutions look increasingly like the way forward.

Self-guided learning

While travelling through India in 2014, Immersive Labs’ Chief Cyber Officer Max Vetter was introduced to an effective way of learning by Sugata Mitra – winner of the 2013 TED prize of $1million for his work on Self-Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs). Mitra’s gloriously simple findings showed children can teach themselves anything if given the correct tools. In fact, his research showed that children cannot only teach themselves; they can learn faster and more comprehensively teaching themselves than they can through classroom-based learning.

The immersive and self-guided style of learning is what those children in India found so exciting. Self-organised learning encourages users to research for themselves rather than giving walkthrough guides or step-by-step explanations. The knowledge gained from this type of work goes above and beyond what standard classroom exercises can achieve and results in a much wider breadth of a user’s cyber skills.

So, if your workplace cyber training consists of stale e-courses or company away days, employee potential isn’t just sitting unrealised – it’s being wasted.

We help businesses to increase and evidence human capability in every part of cybersecurity.

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