Two Kennesaw State University (KSU) professors have launched a program to teach K-12 students cybersecurity basics through virtual reality video games.

Joy Li, assistant professor of computer game design and development, and Yan Huang, assistant professor of software engineering, developed the program with the hope of providing an alternative learning experience. The program uses 360-degree instructional videos to teach the cybersecurity material and then tests students’ knowledge using a virtual reality headset.

“Our aim is to take concepts that are otherwise very complex for students and put them in a format that is much simpler for them to understand,” said Huang. “This delivery method also allows us to continue refining our lesson plans to ensure they are accessible to students regardless of background and are effective in teaching them about cybersecurity.”

The virtual reality headset takes K-12 students to “Cybersecurity Park,” where they can learn about topics such as ransomware, hacking ethics, and phishing attempts. Each module has a unique theme and game for the kids, such as using a fishing rod and reel for identifying phishing messages or defending a medieval castle from ransomware threats disguised as armored knights.

Currently, four education modules are ready for students to play, with KSU undergraduate and graduate students developing two more. Once all six modules are complete, the program will be published online, allowing K-12 teachers and students to access the training modules for free from anywhere.

“Cybersecurity is not yet an official part of school curriculums, yet we are living in an increasingly digital world,” Li said. “This presented us a wonderful opportunity to make an impact on education by using games, which has become one of the most efficient ways to grab their attention. On a secondary level, we hope that this kind of exposure will encourage kids to pursue careers in cybersecurity.”

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