The Open University has won a grant through the Nesta and Department for Education CareerTech Challenge which rewards innovative tech solutions with grant funding.
Nesta, an innovation foundation, in partnership with the Department for Education, is supporting 11 organisations to develop digital solutions to improve adult learner motivation and career adaptability through online courses.
Funded projects will provide upskilling and retraining for those at risk of losing their roles in times of new automation or indeed due to the present pandemic and furlough situation.
The grant of £239,000 will allow the OU to adapt its free OpenLearn Badged Course – An Introduction to Cyber Security (used by 98,000+ learners so far) – into GI-CAST (Gamified Intelligent Cyber Aptitude and Skills Training Course).
The GI-CAST will be embedded with artificial intelligence and behaviour analytics to assess each learner’s current security behaviour and personalise the course to suit them.
Hardest hit to be supported in coming years
This solution, and other recipients of the CareerTech Challenge funding, are designed to support people who will be hit the hardest by an insecure job market over the coming years – especially those without a degree/formal education or working in sectors vulnerable to displacement due to automation such as retail, manufacturing, construction and transport.
The free badged course provided by the OU will help to support workers with skills needed to cope in the rapidly-changing economy – both in the short and long-term
Dr Chitra Balakrishna, a senior lecturer in cyber security in the school of computing and communications is project lead. Her research over the past few years has focused on game-based learning and AI-based adaptation particularly for young learners and neuro-divergent learners.
She explained how the new course would work:
“Through 24 hours of learning, GI-CAST learners will gain fundamental knowledge of cybersecurity and an understanding of online safety, framed in the context of the wider world.
“The course will be strategically split into eight sub-units, each addressing foundational concepts of cybersecurity. Learners will encounter game-based scenarios to assess their cognitive capabilities and learning styles, breaking barriers to study.
“AI will add intelligence to the training by assessing the user’s current learner behaviour, cyber security knowledge and aptitude. Based on this assessment the learners will be directed to an adapted learning pathway, which will be personalised based on learner’s profile and how he/she perceives security and risk.”
On completion, learners will be directed to other related courses to continue their formal or informal learning journey, whilst project partner Stay Nimble would offer career guidance and other learning opportunities.
“Ultimately, we aim to create an engaging and inspiring learning experience, motivating learners to complete the course and achieve their digital badge. Badges can be shared on LinkedIn or CVs, as evidence of learning and competencies,” says Dr Balakrishna.
Announcing the award Nesta said:
“The Open University is an expert in distance and online learning. Combining this with its industry and academic experience in cyber security education, this project will demystify cybersecurity, giving learners confidence to engage with the digital world and gain further skills to enhance their career options in the changing economy.
“Funding will support the adaptation of the current OpenLearn course to a Gamified Intelligent Cyber Aptitude and Skills Training Course (GI-CAST). Alongside gamification, GI-CAST will use artificial intelligence and behaviour analytics to personalise learning to increase learner motivation.”
The free badged course provided by the OU will help to support workers with skills needed to cope in the rapidly-changing economy – both in the short and long-term.
The course is expected to pilot in September, but the complete course is expected to be available for wider audience by the end of November.