Desperate for Disruption

A cyber security training community founder shares his lessons in online learning.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

credit-cybrary-ryan-coreyHaving spent much of their careers in the I.T. and cyber security training sector, Ralph Sita and Ryan Corey came to realize how poorly positioned the industry was to affect real change on cyber security. As they saw it, millions of jobs remained unfilled in the field, and yet proper education and training for those jobs was limited to people who had the means to pay $2,500-$5,000 for a one week class, per topic. “Eventually, the industry began to change, cyber security learning started to become accessible and viable through online courses,” says Ryan (pictured). Given that online learning has lower costs than classroom training, Ralph and Ryan decided to offer the training for free, because “this was the only way to give everyone in the world an opportunity to learn,” Ryan says. They reached out to many of their instructor friends, and in late 2014, they began creating online classes, which they would offer for free, forever. Cybrary launched on January 13, 2015. “Our goal is to provide the opportunity to learn cyber security, to anyone, anywhere, who wants that opportunity,” says Ryan.

I believe that micro-credentials are the career building mechanism of the future.

“We believe everyone deserves an opportunity, and that opportunities should not be limited to people who ‘win the birth lottery’. Fortunately, the internet enables us to do this.” Here, Ryan provides the basics about the purpose and mission of what is now the world’s largest resource network for cyber security professionals, and his thoughts on the state of education, training, and online learning today.

What is Cybrary and why did you start it?

Ryan: Cybrary is the world’s first and only no-cost cyber security massive open online course (MOOC) provider. I cofounded the company with the mission to provide anyone, anywhere with free resources to learn and grow in cyber security. Cyber security training should not be exclusive to only those who can afford to pay $5,000 per class. Cybrary’s training is designed to help people start a career in the field, or advance in their current cyber security position.

How does Cybrary differ from other providers?

Ryan: There are a few things that differentiate Cybrary. First, it’s free and accessible to anyone, anywhere. Secondly, it is the world’s first and only free training program devoted entirely to cyber security, and it’s the world’s largest cyber security community in which users, companies, and Cybrary all contribute content to the learning experience. Thirdly, we offer a micro-skills certification program that directly combats the global shortage of talent in the cyber security profession.

How does Cybrary generate revenue if everything is free?

credit-cybraryRyan: Currently, cyber security companies can purchase a “Channel” on Cybrary. A Channel gives the company a presence on the community and allows them to syndicate sponsored content to the users.

What is your micro-skills program? 

Ryan: Created by Cybrary’s Education Committee, each micro-credentialing exam is a deep dive into critical skills in cybersecurity. The exams are 40 questions long, take 40 minutes to complete, and are designed to prove proficiency on a specific topic related to some of the most common jobs in the field. The exams are conducted online at Cybrary at a cost of just $10 each with one free retake per exam. Cybrary’s micro-credentialing is generally targeted to non-traditional students that are already in the workforce and are looking to further their careers and/or switch career paths. This non-traditional student population is an emerging market and such options are a boon to working or unemployed adults seeking skill development.

How is your company helping to improve the knowledge and training of cybersecurity professionals and/or teams? 

Ryan: Cybrary offers a “Teams” platform which is designed to keep the skills of cybersecurity professionals sharp. The platform provides users with access to Cybrary’s lesson catalogue through a customizable dashboard, where you can manage members, export member training data to your LMS, track skill development and training progression, customize training requirements for enrollees, enforce course completion, and expand access across your organization. Additionally, the platform helps end-users meet compliance standards by providing access to Cybrary’s End User Security Awareness, PCI/DSS, and HIPAA training and other materials.

What are some of the companies partnering with you and what’s the value add to them? 

Ryan: Some of the companies partnering with Cybrary include Talos, Tripwire, AlienVault, Tenable and other major players in the cyber security industry have partnered with us, to serve up their educational and thought leadership content to what is now the largest cyber security community on the Web with more than 650,000 registered users, and one of the internet’s top 15,000 largest websites. We’ve now delivered 90+ million minutes of training content on 2,000 plus topics. Our platform registers one new user every minute, training 10,000 people per day.

Why is offering free cybersecurity training to anyone so important?

Ryan: The demand for skilled cyber security professionals is growing four times faster than the overall IT job market, and 12 times faster than the total labor market. Currently there are more than a million open job postings for cyber security positions around the world. By removing training costs and building the world’s largest community of cyber security talent, Cybrary will increase the supply side of the jobs market, bring employers and talent together, and ultimately help eradicate the cyber security talent shortage.

What are your thoughts on the state of education these days?

Ryan: Education is absolutely changing. The antiquated model of moving students down a standardized learning path, at an over-priced institution, which may or may not prepare them for a job, and in many cases leaves them in debt, needs to be disrupted. I believe micro-credentials will be what people need to seek in the future to prove skills and job readiness. My own college experiences and time in the cyber security industry lead to believe that this disruption has more than a good chance of working and becoming globally accepted.

What is technology’s role in education? 

Ryan: In Cybrary’s case, we are currently using technology to deliver an equal learning playing field to anyone, anywhere. From developing nations to economic powers, anyone who wants a shot at a career in cybersecurity can have that chance because of how we are able to deliver learning and credentialing. In the future, for us, we will be using technology as a mechanism to ensure practical understanding.

What are a few key edtech trends to watch in the coming year or two? 

Ryan: I believe that micro-credentials are the career building mechanism of the future. I also, however, am a firm believer that soon, in the next 7-12 years, educational in almost every vertical, will be free for everyone.

What else do you have to say to people passionate about education technology? 

Ryan: It’s a great growth industry to be an entrepreneur in right now. The problems that are desperately asking to be disrupted are plentiful.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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