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Is Interactive Training Right for You? What Security Training Will Look like in 5 Years

Justin Boyer By Justin Boyer
January 2, 2019

Is training ever truly complete? When can you say you’re finished training?

In colonial times and into the 19th century, apprenticeships were common. In the 20th century, and into the 21st, training has changed quite a bit due to computers becoming mainstream and corporations becoming the main employer of people. Training is undergoing another metamorphosis right now. This change, which will take over the training industry in the next 5 years, will return training practices to the ways of apprenticeships with a digital twist.

We’ll see what that looks like in a minute. First, let’s examine the history of training in both colonial and corporate life.

Apprenticeships: working with your hands and proving your skill

Apprenticeships are generally associated with craftsmen. Perhaps a silversmith, blacksmith, or carpenter would take an on an apprentice in order to teach him the trade. The apprentice worked with the master and learned the tricks of the trade.

Eventually, it was time to create a masterpiece. The apprentice created a piece of work that was submitted to a group of masters for inspection. Once the masters deemed the piece worthy, the apprentice could join the guild and work on becoming a master himself.

Apprenticeship represented the ability to learn in a customized, one-on-one environment. The master taught you, then you proved your mettle by creating a masterpiece that demonstrated your skill. In the 20th century, this one-on-one style of learning would all but disappear in the corporate world.

Corporate training: sit and listen to your trainer

The industrial revolution brought about sweeping changes which then bled into the corporate world of the 20th century. Gone were the days of craftsmen and artisans working to create unique and useful pieces of furniture or other commodities. Factories started to take over and the amount of merchandise created became more important than the quality of each individual piece.

Large amounts of people were brought in to work on the front lines and required training. In the corporate world, new hires are commonly trained in large groups to more efficiently teach as many people as possible. Then they are often sent to do some on-the-job training to really learn how to do their job. The good corporate citizen can look forward to spending two or three weeks out of the year in a training room with 30 others learning a new skill or reinforcing an existing one.

Computer based training: all your training belongs to us

As computers began their march toward the mainstream, early programs such as PLATO and The Oregon Trail were developed to help teach and train. As the 1980’s and 1990’s brought more personal computers and better processing power, training was enhanced as well. Computer-based training (CBT) became a popular way to train employees as more and more software programs were developed that allowed the training to be created without programmers.

CBT training generally includes information given in the form of slides or multimedia with a voice-over. It could be created once and given over and over again without having to gather a group of workers and a corporate trainer for every training session. Efficiency is king once again in this environment.

One downside of CBT training is the difficulty of making sure the training is effective and retained by the employee. Measuring the learner’s ability to apply the topic being taught is not an easy problem to solve. Do you try to get the learner to complete an interactive exercise? Do you give them a quiz? Do these techniques actually work in helping the learner to retain the material?

CBTs still are around today in one form or another. The software has improved and so has the learning experience. But these improvements are still not enough. Before we speak about where training is going in the future, let’s discuss another interesting trend in learning that has grown quite a bit over the last few years.

MOOCs: University classes online

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, first appeared on the scene in 2008. Their original purpose was to allow universities to enroll many students (often into the thousands) from around the world into a class where they can learn together and help each other. It offers access to professors as well as real assignments to complete and be graded. MOOCs open up previously proprietary information and classes to people all over the world. The most widely known MOOC providers are Coursera and Udacity.

A major criticism of MOOCs is the low completion rate. Only about 5% of the people who register for MOOCs actually finish them. Even though the thought of getting a university education for free works to get people to sign up, most only want to take a look around and aren’t interested in doing homework assignments or finishing the course.

This begs the question: Where is training going? What will it look like in 5 years?

Apprenticeship with a digital twist

Here’s what we have so far in the history of training:

  • Apprenticeships that involve one-on-one mentorship followed by a test of skills to prove mastery
  • In-person classroom training where corporate trainers sit in a room with 30 people and teach them how to do their job
  • Computer-based training modules that can be built once and consumed by large amounts of employees
  • MOOCS, which give quality education to people all over the world, but suffer from low completion rates

For their time, these training methods have worked well. However, times are changing. The pace of technology has increased the pace of change in training techniques. The change from apprenticeship to corporate-style training took centuries. The change from classroom training to computer-based training and MOOCs only took decades. Changes are happening more rapidly as learning what is effective happens more rapidly.

A recent trend in training will shape the future for the next 5 years. Training is becoming self-paced, fully interactive, and specific to the day-to-day situations you face.

Think of this kind of training as apprenticeship with a digital twist. Apprentices studied for months or even years, practicing what they were taught and then demonstrating mastery.  Apprenticeship had an advantage in that the quality of training was likely to be good because of the one-on-one and customized aspect. We can bring back those good things with interactive labs that teach by demonstrating mastery while also retaining the efficient use of resources.

Fully interactive lab environments, made possible by cloud computing and container technologies, allow students to fully demonstrate mastery of topics within the training session itself. Using containers, learners can be placed into a fully functional, and realistic, environment to practice and play. Passing the training cannot be done without writing real code that works.

Gone will be the days of trainers speaking to a class and handing out quizzes. Gone will be the high-level theory with little practical application. Gone will be the timetable that is decided by the employer instead of the employee.

The future of training will put the power into the hand of the apprentice. An automated master will be ready and waiting when the student requires more instruction. The student will go through the cycle of an apprentice in a matter of minutes, not months or years. In terms of security training, they’ll see the vulnerability, exploit it themselves, and then fix it, showing mastery of the subject. If a refresher is needed later, the lab is always there to help them keep up with the latest security changes. And this training will be customized to each organization’s needs.

You can either wait until everyone is doing this training, or you can start training your employees this way right now. Security Labs offers a customized learning environment for your developers. If you’re interested in trying it out, get in touch with us.

Give your developers the security apprenticeship they deserve.

Justin Boyer is a certified content marketer who helps tech and security companies create engaging content to attract more leads and increase revenue.