Socratic Arts’ Cyber Academy Wins 2019 Brandon Hall Excellence in Technology Gold Award for "Best Advance in Unique Learning Technology"

The radical course trains novices for cybersecurity jobs using an immersive, story-centered curriculum

Brandon Hall 2019 Gold Award Excellence in Technology Gold Award for Best Advance in Unique Learning Technology

DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – Socratic Art’s Cyber Academy has been awarded a 2019 Excellence in Technology Gold Award for "Best Advance in Unique Learning Technology" for its Cyber Academy program that equips novices with job-ready skills in Cybersecurity and Cyber Operations. Awarded by research firm Brandon Hall, the Excellence in Technology awards recognize the best organizations that have successfully deployed programs, strategies, modalities, processes, systems, and tools that have achieved measurable results.

"Two issues led to the development of this program," says Roger Schank, Ph.D., Founder of Socratic Arts and cognitive psychologist. "First, we are responding to the critical shortage of people who can do this work. And second is that online courses just imitate classrooms, which doesn’t work. You don’t learn by having someone blabber at you. You learn by doing, taking on authentic tasks and acquiring knowledge and skills just in time as they are relevant to what you are trying to accomplish."

Teaching through immersive, story-centered courses, set in the context of real-world problems, has long been Socratic Arts’ philosophy of education and training, and it works perfectly in this domain. The Cyber Academy’s 30-week program immerses students in realistic situations, such as a cyber attack that has paralyzed a local hospital’s electronic medical record system. Instead of listening to lectures, doing well-defined homework problems, and taking tests, students immediately begin solving realistic, complex problems with the help of comprehensive online support material and live expert mentors, who are always available online to provide help, advice, and feedback on student work. Collaboration software is leveraged to provide students with near-real-time help and advice from carefully vetted program mentors.

Because cyber attacks encompass unique and complex problems, designing the courses required equally unique and complex solutions. Socratic Arts created a self-contained, authentically complex, private cloud environment in which to run simulated cybersecurity scenarios so students can detect and analyze REAL cyber attacks safely without leaving the learning environment. For example, if learners need to analyze malicious network traffic, the malicious traffic is contained completely within the cloud environment, so students can analyze the attack without the risk of real, current malware infecting their own machines.

Course builders designed simulated enterprise networks with subtle, but typical, security flaws and attacked those networks, capturing logs and network traffic for student analysis; in other scenarios the students themselves are asked to perform the attacks, using real current malware. The key is that the program simulates sophisticated cyber crime and nation-state-level hacking in a safe but realistic environment.

Every task ends with analysis and reflection. Students compare their strategies and analyses to those of experts and glean important lessons learned that they will be able to apply in their professional careers.

Because of the program’s story-centered nature, it also weaves in an emphasis on general professional skills, which are neglected by other programs. In addition to learning and practicing technical skills, students gain experience and practice in analytical thinking, communication, researching complex technical problems and coming up with solutions, and, most important of all, self-directed learning – all of which further increase their value in the workplace.


Cyber attacks are on the rise and recent estimates put the number of open cyber security jobs at 3.5 million by 2021. Socratic Arts worked with cybersecurity experts and the US Department of Defense to create the Cyber Academy with a goal of taking novices with basic computer skills and the right personality traits, and providing them with job-ready skills in defensive cyber security and cyber operations in six months.

"There is a tremendous shortage of people in the military, government, and civilian world who can do this work, and the DOD didn't believe any of the existing training courses were adequate," says Ray Bareiss, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Socratic Arts. "They wanted an online, scalable solution to train a large number of people to defend against the world’s most sophisticated, technologically advanced, and in some cases, nation-state hackers."

One of the reasons for the shortage in qualified cyber security professionals is because the job isn’t for everyone. “It takes the right kind of person, someone who is intensely curious, won’t give up on a hard problem, and is predisposed to independent learning. You have to have insane attention to detail as you pour over stuff for hours or days,” says Bareiss. Because the Cyber Academy radically rejects the traditional education model, people who were not the best students in school often excel in this setting. Some of the program’s strongest students are a high school dropout who was working as a massage therapist, a forklift driver, and a nanny. All three are highly driven natural problem solvers who didn’t thrive in traditional education.

The Cyber Academy is currently offered through three American universities and select community colleges, and other domestic and international partnerships are pending.

Learn more about The Cyber Academy

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr Schank, Dr. Bareiss, Cyber Academy students, and university/college partners are available for interviews and additional information. Contact Us with questions.

ABOUT SOCRATIC ARTS: Socratic Arts has been a pioneer in learning since 1989. Led by artificial intelligence expert and visionary Dr. Roger Schank, Socratic Arts’ team of experienced instructional design and facilitation experts develop and deliver performance-improvement solutions to Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and post-secondary schools.

ABOUT THE CYBER ACADEMY: In 2016, the US Department of Defense contracted with Socratic Arts to develop a new training program that would turn novices with the right personality but no formal computer science or IT background into capable cyber security professionals in a short period of time. Socratic Arts worked with top government-recommended and industry experts to develop a 30-week, mentored, online program that teaches key defensive and offensive cyber skills using its proven-effective Story-Centered Curriculum approach in which students learn by doing as they complete a progression of authentic tasks. Learn more about The Cyber Academy.

ABOUT BRANDON HALL GROUP: Brandon Hall Group is a preeminent research and analyst firm, with more than 10,000 clients globally and more than 20 years of delivering research-based solutions that empower excellence in organizations.

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