The National Cyber League (NCL) offers students the opportunity to enhance their cybersecurity skills by competing with teams across the country. The bi-annual virtual competition helps students prepare and test themselves against cybersecurity challenges that they will likely face in the workforce.
Funding from Wendy Porter, ICT-DM Regional Director in the North/Far North Region, has made it possible for 40 students from Butte College and College of the Redwoods to participate in the competition.
“NCL is a great way for our far northern colleges to implement cybersecurity education,” Porter said. “The competition comes with curriculum and faculty assistance, which makes it a great entry into new cybersecurity classes for our schools.”
Chris Romero, CIS Instructor at College of the Redwoods said that NCL motivates his students to learn cybersecurity concepts and skills. “Students that are typically not inclined to participate in the traditional curriculum of discussions, quizzes and assignments throw themselves completely into the competition,” Romero said. “Even those students who excel in a traditional curriculum setting appreciate the gamification of the concepts and learn to think more on their feet as opposed to being led to a solution.”
The demand for cybersecurity professionals has never been greater, and students who participate in programs like NCL are being rewarded with high-paying jobs once they complete their degrees. One student recently accepted a position as an Incident Response Technician with an $80,000 per year salary.
“That cannot be overstated that after two cybersecurity courses and certificates in Security+ and ethical hacking, and participation in NCL he landed that job,” Romero said.
“Students who participate in competition-based learning are more attractive to employers because they can show how they are able to work in a team and time-sensitive environment,” Porter said. “Critical workplace skills are developed during these types of competitions.”
NCL also benefits students who do not do well in a traditional classroom or testing environment. The competitions help them stay motivated to continue on their educational pathways, rather than dropping out along the way.
One student described how the NCL experience helped him excel:
“I’d say the best thing about it as that it allowed me to apply the cybersecurity knowledge I had in a problem-solving context, often picking up lots of new knowledge along the way, rather than regurgitating information or following a prepared lab procedure. I liked that it encourages independent learning by simply asking for the information and leaving it up to the player how they will get it.”
Another student said the competition simulated what working in a cybersecurity job would be like:
“I thought that the NCL gave me a good insight into what kind of situations that a person going into the field of network security should know about the job. It was really interesting because you learn about a lot of different ways of how computer/network security is handled.”
For more information on the NCL, visit nationalcyberleague.org/.