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Let’s be honest. Not every organization is blessed with an endless educational budget. (If only that were the case!) 

But why should that stop you from having a killer, cyber skill-building training program? 

Designing a program (whether a single course or a full-blown curriculum) from scratch doesn’t have to be overwhelming or intimidating. In fact, it can even be better than buying a pre-packaged program, especially once you have all the yoga building blocks in place. Why? 

  • It lets you customize your curriculum (aka: “workouts”) exactly to your students’ needs  
  • Because you built it, you can change it at any time to better suit your students as they progress 
  • By investing your time, you save your money 

RELATED: Resource Roundup: Remote Teaching Resources for Educators

In this guide, we’ll learn about the building blocks that will help you create the cyber workout routine that’s Goldilocks-right for you and your students. (Grab a digital pen, you might want to take notes!)    

The Five Building Blocks

  1. Define Your Student Demographic  

Defining your student demographic means you have a clear idea of where your students are starting. 

Think of it this way: someone who can barely make it up the stairs with a gallon of milk isn’t going to be able to bench press 100 lbs in their first training session. Similarly, students with no cybersecurity experience aren’t going to be ready to conduct a brute force attack on the first day of class.  

 So instead of diving right in and drafting lesson plans, it’s a good idea to take a step back and consider where your students currently are in their journey. 

  • How much experience do they have with IT topics? 
  • How much experience do they have with cybersecurity and its associated technology?  
  • What level of study have they previously completed (high school, undergrad, grad school)? 

Once you understand where they’re starting, you’re ready to move on to the next building block.  

  1. Visualize the End Goal 

Designing a workout routine for your students is like mapping a race. In the first building block, you determined where your race should start. Now, where will it end?  

What will your students be able to do at the end of their training with you? After all, there’s a big difference between training for a marathon and training for a weight-lifting competition. A good gym will have all of the equipment needed for both, and it’s your job to figure out what to use to help your students reach their goals.  

  • Will they be able to complete a Project Ares Mission without any hints?
  • Will they move into a more focused class after this one?
  • Are they perhaps going to be interviewing for jobs?

Take time to visualize and write down what your students’ success will look like. Just like in the gym, visualization is a powerful tool to help make an end goal a reality. This exercise will help your students understand what your training routine will help them accomplish, and will also help keep you as their Trainer focused on the “why” as you design the individual workouts that will get them there.  

  1. Make A Schedule 

Now that you know where your students are starting and where they’re going, it’s time to break down the distance between those two points into smaller milestones. This could be as simple as dividing the workouts across the number of weeks in the training program or as intricate as calculating the hours spent “in the gym” in total.  

Regardless of how you decide to track the timeline (and this will vary widely from Trainer to Trainer), here are a few important things to keep in mind: 

  • Will there be mini-goals to achieve along the way? If so, how many and when?  
  • How long is the training program? Is it a sprint where students will be expected to show marked progress in a matter of weeks, or will you have a longer window to work with?  
  • How much time do you expect your students to train within that window? This can include the number of weeks or months to reach their end goal, as well as the number of hours your students can dedicate to learning.  
  • How frequently will your students “hit the gym”? How many of those training sessions will you be present at with them, and how many do you expect them to do on their own?    

Plot this schedule out on a calendar to give you a visual representation of your students’ goals. Continue detailing this “gym time” until you have a clear and easy-to-follow path that will allow your students to move from their starting point to their end goal across the duration of your training program.  

Browse the cyber curriculum guide to understand all the ‘gym’ equipment available to you.

  1. Plan for Different Levels of Independence 

While it would be lovely for every trainee to have a personal trainer right next to them during every gym visit, the fact is they’re not always going to be there. 

 And actually, it’s better that way. After all, while Trainers can give a trainee (aka: student) a plan and teach them to use the equipment, only the individual can accomplish the goal.  

Likewise, your students will have varying types of contact with you that you’ll need to plan for.

  • How many hours will they spend in a physical classroom with you?
  • How many hours will they be learning remotely?
  • How many more hours on top of that will they be training independently?
  • How large is the class, and will training be conducted in a group or will it be self-paced?   

Add these details to the schedule you created in the third building block and then take a step back to assess it more fully. Does your timeline still look realistic based on classroom synchronicity and student independence? If so, you’re ready to move to the final building block.  

  1. Choose Your Equipment 

This is the fun part! The building blocks above are super important to have mapped out, but they alone won’t help your students reach their goals without the tools or equipment needed to get there.  

The Project Ares gym is chock full of equipment to help train any cybersecurity skill. Let’s take a look at the three main categories of tools.  

Cyber Learning Games  

Foundational Scenarios: Battle Rooms 

Specialized Scenarios: Missions 

Each of these areas of the Project Ares gym contain different “workout machines” designed to train specific cybersecurity skills. Want to train Network Analyst skills? There’s a Foundational Scenario for that. Looking to improve your students’ ability to conduct forensics in Autopsy? There’s a Specialized Scenario for that, too.  

Head over to our Cyber Curriculum Guide to see the full range of equipment that Project Ares has to offer or click here to learn more about how your Project Ares team can help you choose the right equipment for your training program.  

The Path to Success

You’ve built your race in its entirety now, from the starting point, to the length, to the terrain, to the finish line. Now it’s time to put your custom-made training program into action!

In the next article in this series, we’ll tackle common struggles that students often face on their path to success inside the gym and how you as a Trainer can proactively help them to overcome these hurdles. Remember the 3 T’s: Training and Tools are important, but Tenacity might just top the list. 💪🏼

Coming soon! 👇👇👇