Collegiate Cyber Defense Class and the Benefits of Discovery Learning

The Collegiate Cyber Defense class is a "Choose your own adventure" type of course. Instead of providing a predetermined set of lessons, the instructor encourages students to explore their own interests. The class also encompasses preparation for and participation in a Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC). We play capture the flag, give weekly presentations and mentor other students. 

Before students can get into the CCDC class, they have to get approval from the professor and current CCDC team members. Students who get into the class must contribute to CCDC competitions and capture the flag events. The professors and CCDC team members proactively recruit self-starts to join the team and take the class. 

We Protect PHX

Students are also encouraged to attend networking events and join the cyber security community. We learned quickly that even though Phoenix is the fifth biggest city in the country, the cyber security community is pretty small and engaged. 


Students get to choose an area of network security, network engineering or technology forensics to explore and present on during weekly class presentations.

The open-ended nature and repetition of these weekly presentations helps students think outside of the box, take ownership of their education and improve their presentation skills. Students can also do live demonstrations, which helps them think on their feet and multitask. 

The diverse nature of these presentations help students learn new ideas and provide refreshers on old concepts. 


Capture the flag involves a team or individual finding a hidden file on a computer. These exercises teach creative problem solving and help student develop their technical skills.

Some of the capture the flag events focus on teaching students how to break into a computer while others can teach the basics of using a Linux command prompt.


Students in the class are also required to complete one hour of mentoring every week. They can mentor students in 100-level cyber security classes or anyone interested in learning more about cyber security. The mentorship sessions reinforce what students have learned in class. The teach-backs also help students retain more information. 


The class also has a competition requirement, so everyone in the class gets to compete in a local or national competition and write a paper about the experience. These competitions challenge students in unique ways and make them meet new people.

The competition aspect of the class teaches students how to work as a team under stressful situations. According to Processor Wayne Kibbe, these online and in-person computer defense competitions prepare for the workforce because they are "designed to simulate real-world scenarios."

My favorite part of the class is training for the competitions and then being able to use the skillset that we gained in training during the competitions.

The capture the flag part of the class is also another assignment I liked doing because of how they are set up it is more like a puzzle. It involves trial and error with methods of getting to the file and then finding the solution which is rewording.

The reason that I work well in this class is it is almost entirely hands on which is my favorite way to learn a new topic.

The class also offers the freedom of looking to very specific topics that interested the student which is also another way I like to learn.

The Collegiate Cyber Defense Class is a good class for students who do a lot of research in their free time and likes to test the skills they learned throughout the semester.


Posted on Apr 18, 2018 11:53:30 AM by Jeremy Bunce in Cyber Security, in Software Engineering, in project-based curriculum

Jeremy Bunce

Written by Jeremy Bunce


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