For people that have passed the CompTIA Security+ exam, the new issue is how to maintain your CEUs to maintain your certification. Though there are multiple methods for that process, I chose to host my own free, 7- week, once a week, online cybersecurity class this summer through a local nonprofit called LVL1 Hackerspace. Teaching a class of my own helped me learn things about myself. Here are some of the lessons that resulted for me:
Your first class is probably the most important
Many people come to a free class because they are curious about the class, but if they don’t feel engaged they may not return. Many people get more from a class if they pay money to attend. Psychologically, a free class has little worth compared to a class that you paid for.
Even if you are interested in the topic and the class is high quality, if you did not pay for the class, you might not feel invested in staying for all the sessions. Life gets in the way.
Even though I knew that my free class might have a lot of “no-shows” I decided to keep the class free anyway. I also continued to admit new people to the class throughout the 7 weeks I had the sessions so that more people could be exposed to the materials.
Preparing the materials for the class helps you review
I spent some time preparing slides for the classes I was going to teach, but I also included supplementary information in an online Google doc folder for people to read on their own.
I found this helped me organize everything in a way that would be helpful to most students. I started by having slides with a lot of words on them. People were not enjoying those slides. The text was not interesting for most students so then I switched my strategy.
I included a lot more visualizations and youtube videos for them to watch and to go over in class. Most importantly, I let the students know that I was not an expert and not working in the cybersecurity field but I wanted to help them learn. I was willing to find helpful links and videos to answer their questions.
Teaching online comes with its own set of challenges, but also perks
While teaching online I found that most people turned off their videos and tuned out. Some of the most motivated students found a way to work in the classes around their busy schedules. One of the most dedicated students opened the zoom app on his phone and listened to the class lectures while he was driving at work. I would never have known this until one day he decided to turn his video on.
He kept his eyes on the road the whole time, but intently listened as I explained topics with the help of youtube videos on cybersecurity. It did not bother me so much that people jumped in and out of the zoom meeting all the time. People came late and left early, but if that concerns you, it might be best to hold your class in person.
As long as one person decided to stay for the class session, I held class. Because I held this class online, people from other states were able to join. It was very convenient for reaching people from different walks of life.
You can only get better.
My first cybersecurity class coincided with my first experience teaching online. Some people might think it was highly chaotic, but I learned a lot during my teaching. I am so glad I took the time to volunteer and make the offering free. There was no monetary reward from helping others, but 2-3 of my best students really impressed me with their drive and dedication.
If I helped just one person, this was totally worth it. Now, I have learned to improve so many things if I want to teach again. It was, at times, a cringe-worthy experience, but one I am glad I did. It also brought me closer to local cybersecurity leaders that I asked for advice and support. Some leaders even came to my last class to help answer student questions about careers. This was a great value!
Don’t take things personally.
You never know what people are going through, so be kind. I know many people who signed up for my class did not end up being consistent with it. I guess, I could have taken that personally or felt bad about mistakes I made in the first class. But putting it all in perspective, I see that 7 weeks is a large commitment for people, I would not want anyone in the class that did not want to be there.
You will be glad you tried.
I am so glad I tried this. I never had done cybersecurity teaching as a hobby or volunteer event until this class. I am learning that I like volunteer work that stretches me and gives me new skills that I could later apply in other areas of my life. It was really ambitious of me to create a 7-week class based on passing Security+, but I learned so much from the process. It was definitely an opportunity disguised as hard work.
Your class is important to some students.
Some of the students that liked my teaching style and found benefit in my class really inspired me as well. I felt so honored that I could deliver something helpful for some students. This experience helped me see that I can try something new. I hope all of the students succeed.
Consider teaching your own class after you pass CompTIA Security+. You will learn much from the experience. Additionally, you will help others gain valuable skills. Furthermore, this will indirectly improve your managerial and mentoring skills if you teach. Finally, teaching will help you build credibility and trust with the cybersecurity industry.