Cybersecurity Learning in a Pandemic

Retrospective Look at the Future of Learning

No one could have predicted the impact Covid-19 was going to have on our lives. Prior to March 2020, the majority of training, workshops, courses and certification exams across all industries were largely done in-person. When the pandemic caused many industries to shut down, in-person events looked like they may become a thing of the past. This was not the case for Palo Alto Networks. The Education team was able to adapt, innovate and future proof the cybersecurity learning experience amidst a global crisis by offering online credentials, micro and blended learning opportunities.

Cybersecurity education is critical to ensure organizations and individuals are secure and protected from today’s sophisticated threats. Coupled with the shortage of skilled cybersecurity experts, the opportunities are vast for vendors who can evolve and enable cybersecurity education easily and effectively. The Palo Alto Networks Education team knew we couldn’t just wait until the pandemic ended because we had to do something to help. We reinvented cybersecurity training and education overnight to adapt.

Our strategies for transforming the cybersecurity learning journey focused on multiple areas of expertise.

Operations and LogisticsTransforming virtual learning experiences amidst global crisis.

One of the biggest training challenges brought on by the pandemic was audience management in a virtual space. Things that were typically done in person, now need to be done online. With many people looking to uplevel their skills, as well as many companies pivoting to a work-from-home landscape, the demand for protection and subsequent training went through the roof.

The increase in people registering for exams led to the need for tighter control on who got access to the limited training slots. We implemented a new pre-scan system to verify applicants met the prerequisites before being registered for the courses.

The migration to the learning platform, BEACON, was used to promote more self-registration, which freed up hours of time. We also transitioned all of our physical training media to eBooks. This had a big impact and shifted how we view training materials from both a cost-cutting perspective and an environmental one, as well.

Training Delivery/Instructor-Led Training (ILT)

As in-person training delivery was the standard, we knew we needed to empower our existing instructor-base for remote delivery. Our instructors were experts in the art of classroom training, but were thrust into navigating a global pandemic to adapt and deliver training virtually from their home environments. We provided detailed frameworks and guidelines on virtual training techniques. This framework included virtual tutorials, step-by-step guides and live, hands-on sessions with expert virtual instructors to ensure our experts were well prepared to enable our users.

Enabling our existing instructors with this robust toolkit was extremely well received, and most instructors reported renewed inspiration with increased motivation to return to the virtual classroom.

As of April 2021, we have experienced an increase in ILT training while still receiving excellent marks for customer satisfaction. These results provide clear evidence we have been successful in addressing customer concerns that virtual training might provide an inferior learning experience compared to traditional, in-person classroom training.

The hard work and innovation of our Training Delivery team did not go unrecognized as we received 2nd place in the 2021 CEdMA Europe Impact Award for training innovation.

Learn more details about our virtual digital learning courses and instructor-led training.

Training Development

While the Education team already had a vast and cutting edge Digital Learning platform during 2020, an emphasis on digital learning became paramount. We began to focus on micro-learning, which allows our customers to absorb content in much smaller, manageable chunks, rather than one, long e-learning course. The feedback we received on micro-learning was overwhelmingly positive. Learners were able to study at their own pace, and our customers were able to tailor their learning path for their company’s specific needs.

As more places begin to open, blended learning will become the future. Blended learning combines the best of both worlds by allowing students to receive in-person live instruction, yet still allowing for some flexibility and customization while on their learning journey.

We’re not stopping there, either. As we look to the horizon and continue focusing on leading technology in education and enablement, watch out for new learning modalities, such as adaptive learning to launch in the near future.

Credentialing

Going to a testing center isn’t always convenient or accessible. When we launched online proctoring in 2019, we did so ahead of many other technology leaders.

With the rise of the Covid pandemic, in-person exams were no longer an option, but we were already prepared and ahead of the game. Of all the exams that were taken during 2020, around 53% were online proctored. During 2021, that number jumped to almost 75%. Since most people were at home and sheltering-in-place, online proctoring allowed our customers to take their exams in a secure, convenient location while maintaining the integrity of the exam.

The training and education landscape has forever changed due to the Covid pandemic. Virtual and remote-based learning that many considered “nice to have” are now not only the new normal, but the future. The Palo Alto Networks Education team is leading the way.

I want to say thank you to everyone on the Education team for all your hard work and dedication during this time. This was definitely a team effort and you should all be proud of all the work you’ve done. I can’t wait to see what we come up with next.

Register for your own Certification Exam.