Coles Cybersecurity MOOC off to a fast start

KENNESAW, Ga. (April 15, 2015) –It has been three weeks since the Michael J. Coles College of…

Georgia (Apr 15, 2015)KENNESAW, Ga. (April 15, 2015) –It has been three weeks since the Michael J. Coles College of Business launched its first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) — “Cybersecurity and Its Ten Domains” — and the worldwide response to it has been impressive.

The course is offered through Kennesaw State University’s Distance Learning Center and the Department of Information Systems, the second such course at the university, and the first that is being offered using Coursera’s on-demand platform. The first MOOC, “K-12 Blended & Online Learning,” launched in 2014 and has had more than 10,000 participants after existing for seven months.

Through three weeks, the Coles MOOC already has over 10,000 participants or learners. Learners are defined as participants who have signed up, and after a week, are actually doing something like viewing a video, taking a quiz or are participating on the discussion board. The MOOC has had around 30,000 visitors so far, but Kennesaw State trains its focus on active learners who are engaged in the course itself.

“It’s like a giant billboard that the entire planet can see,” said Humayun Zafar, assistant professor for information security and assurance. “Forty percent of the learners are in the U.S. The rest are all over the world. We’ve got India at No. 2. We’ve got the African continent, which as a whole has a huge number learners.

“There’s a lot of exposure that’s provided. Through analytics and certain surveys they have to complete we can get a lot of demographics out of them. One of the questions is, ‘Have you ever heard of KSU?’ And almost 80 percent have not. To me, that’s success since we are promoting Kennesaw State in a different way.”

MOOCs have been around since 2011, and this model for delivering learning content online to anyone who wants to take a course has been steadily gaining popularity. Among its benefits are no application or tuition, and a single course can educate thousands of students at one time.

This MOOC is designed for students to gain knowledge and understanding of cybersecurity and its domains by engaging in community discussions, and have online interaction with both professors and industry experts. Each section is about 3 minutes long and features a different information security professional or Coles professor, with topics ranging from risk management to network security and architecture.

MOOC learners will have several options when deciding how they would like to take the course: a verified certificate, or three hours of undergraduate credit.

Cybersecurity is a popular topic as it touches the lives of people around the globe. The Coles MOOC owes some of its success to that but Zafar considers that only a part of how success is measured.  

“Defining success is not just how many signups you have,” Zafar said. “I think it’s more than one thing. How many finish and possibly join KSU is one thing. That’s always an issue as well for a university. You can even look at how many videos have been viewed. How many downloads have occurred. There is all kinds of data that is available to us.”

“Success can also mean that we are able to engage with local companies. We’ve partnered with local businesses we have here in town such as SAP, Coca-Cola, SunTrust, and Macy’s. Subject area experts from these organizations and others have guest lectured in three- to four-minute videos. And they do it pro bono. I consider that a success. At KSU, we do believe in engagement.”

In less than a month, the results reflect that engagement from learners. And research from Coursera, the MOOC’s hosting company, suggests the interest in this MOOC is likely to only get better.

“This is a very unorthodox way of marketing the university through an actual program,” Zafar said. “(Learners and visitors) see what we have to offer in a degree program — in our case Information Security and Assurance in Coles. Eighty percent of them now know about Coles College of Business. And this is just in three weeks. I can guarantee you in 10 to 12 weeks we’ll probably be looking at reaching 20,000 based on the current the trajectory.”

“So I’m really excited about what can actually happen in the future. There are no guarantees, but we’re very pleased.”

-- by Tim Turner



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit