Experiences and Methodologies Teaching Hands-On Cyberforensics Skills Online
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Computer and Information Science, Centre for Security Research
This paper describes some of the course design aspects of teaching computer forensics in an online environment. Although the focus of the paper is about online education at the undergraduate level, the basic premises are also applicable to graduate education and adult training. The paper will describe the need and rationale for the delivery of education and training in an online modality. In this context, online refers to asynchronous, virtual classrooms rather than self-paced or synchronous distance education. Virtual classrooms can provide an equivalent learning experience to a traditional classroom, complete with an instructor, fellow students, a course calendar, lectures, homework assignments, examinations, discussion threads, chat facilities, etc.; online classes can also achieve the same learning outcomes as their traditional counterparts. Online courses, particularly those that target adults, need to be designed with certain pedagogic models in mind; problem-based learning, collaborative learning, and constructivism are among those teaching and learning models that are most effective for adult learners and are well-supported by online course delivery. Discussions about online education and training are quick to bring out the fact that the online modality is not appropriate for every instructor, every student, or every topic. The obvious question, then, is online coursework appropriate for learning the hands-on skills necessary for computer forensics and digital investigations? Our experience over the last three years suggests that the answer is a resounding YES. The paper presents a high-level overview of an online computer forensics curriculum and the overall design of online courses. A large part of this discussion will focus specifically on the design and content of an introductory and an advanced computer forensics course, with particular attention to multimedia technologies that add value in the online offerings, such as narrated graphical presentations and screen capture methods for demonstrating software. Several hands-on assignments, such as the analysis of drive or cell phone images, and the software that is employed to support those assignments will also be described.