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The Pedagogy Behind an Effective Security Awareness Training Program

dialog learning

What is the best way to learn a new skill? Or to teach someone something?  

The answer usually depends on the learner or teacher in question. We differ widely in preferred learning styles; auditory strategies appeal to some while visual learning works better for others. Despite this, there are common principles that apply to all learning.

Pedagogical techniques including active/dialogic learning and storification can cut across differences in individual learning styles. Research showed that university students in active learning courses scored higher and were less likely to fail than those listening to traditional lecture-style courses (Freeman et al., 2014). This suggests that when we passively consume information, it can lead to a shallower understanding and shorter retention span than when we actively engage with a subject.

Active learning is participatory and interactive. Interactive trainings present learners with opportunities to apply knowledge, receive feedback, and adjust their approach to improve their performance. Dialogic learning is a form of active learning that emphasizes the role of conversation and dialogue. In dialogic learning, the learner learns together with the trainer and can influence their own learning journey through conversation. 

Storification is a newer pedagogical technique based on stories, which aim to enrich learning with meaning. Stories can make new information more understandable, relatable and relevant, which consequently increases retention (Aura et al., 2021). 

How CyberCoach Leverages Interactive Dialogic Learning and Storification

Dialogic learning encourages critical thinking by pushing learners to question and challenge their own understanding of a subject. A key component of this is the idea that knowledge and skill are built through dialogue with oneself and others.  

We designed CyberCoach to leverage active, dialogic learning and storification throughout our scenario training games, which are interactive conversations based on real-world threat scenarios. Users build their own stories through back-and-forth conversations about what they would do in simulated threat scenarios, and they learn from immediate feedback and realistic consequences of their chosen actions. This is an effective method for building everyday cyber skills, one that can serve as an alternative or complement to traditional email phishing simulations.

Why use a chatbot like CyberCoach for dialogic learning? CyberCoach can give users private and individualized feedback in real time, in a safe, anonymous space. Users can even select the tone, in order to individualize their own learning experience. By contrast, implementing dialogic learning in a traditional classroom setting can be difficult and time-consuming, requiring resources such as teacher training and support. It can be hard to ensure that all learners have an equal opportunity to participate in conversations, as some are naturally more vocal than others. Additionally, some prefer to learn independently or struggle with social interaction and collaboration.  

Dialogic Learning is Powerful for Creating Security Culture

We believe storification and dialogic learning are not only effective methods for building digital skills but also for building cyber secure culture. One of the biggest barriers to learning security skills is the feeling of powerlessness. Employees at organizations are often told that they are the weakest link. The constant stream of scary cyber breach headlines has left many feeling that their actions do not make a difference. Some users also feel unmotivated after falling victim to cyberattacks or failing workplace phishing simulation tests. 

Interactive scenario-based training can build cyber confidence as users can (re-)gain trust in their skills and are free to explore in a psychologically safe environment. Users receive the right level of challenge through active dialogue and learn that their actions have a real positive impact. Making mistakes can either discourage or motivate learning. Mistakes made in CyberCoach tend to encourage learning because they provide concrete realistic feedback without anyone in the real world knowing about the mistake. CyberCoach's storified dialogues deliver all the benefits of simulated practice without the usual drawbacks of simulation testing

Does your security training program leverage dialogic learning?