National Science Foundation Awards Gurkan for Novel Approach to Design for Network Security Courses


The National Science Foundation (NSF) Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace Program has awarded $292,446 to advance the creation of innovative teaching techniques and instructional materials. Deniz Gurkan, associate professor of computer engineering technology and computer science is the principal investigator for the project, “Network Design for Security using Protocol Trust Boundary Observations.” Gurkan will collaborate with co-principal investigators who are instructional design and learning sciences experts. Catherine Horn, professor of educational leadership and policy studies, and Jennifer Chauvot, associate professor of curriculum and instruction will evaluate the impact of the novel instructional approaches.

The world has changed over the past few decades when cybersecurity was not a part of conventional information technology curricula. Protecting systems from the cybersecurity vulnerabilities networks is becoming increasingly challenging. "In network security courses students receive a solid foundation for determination of network attack surfaces and design issues around removal of network threat vectors,” said Gurkan. “The proposed approach in network security education will view each network as a system, and use the hands-on, observation-based lab modules to learn about protocol behavior and associated trust boundaries. Increasing the opportunities for equitable access to the material is a priority,” she said.

At the University of Houston College of Technology, introductory and advanced computer networking courses are offered at the senior undergraduate level and network security courses are offered at the graduate level. In addition to using multiple engagement methods to accommodate diverse learning styles in the classroom, the instructional materials reflect a merger of the network security and design processes, including protocol behavior knowledge modules with trust boundary analyses, auto-gradable exercises, and lab modules with network topologies. The format allows future instructors who use the open class material to create new network models, and a hands-on lab system based on the Jupyter Notebook, an open-source web-based interactive computing platform, which allows all labs to run on a browser window. Critical thinking exercises show students how to be proactive about determination of protocol trust boundaries leading to prevention of the vulnerabilities in networks.