Digital Forensics Course Development — Phase 0

At the beginning of this new year, January 2021, I was asked to help develop the Digital Forensics course for my local college’s newest program: Cyber Security Analysis Graduate Certificate. I found it very flattering and validating to have been asked to take on this opportunity, especially at a college I where I was once a student myself. I immediately started to think about all the neat projects, labs, tools and images the students will be able to tinker with; with that came a feeling of being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. I have since learnt a valuable lesson, and I want to bring you on this journey of Course Development for Digital Forensics.

The outcome? Maybe you’ll learn about creating valuable content, course work flow, or maybe just learn about different tools and resources. Who knows, but I hope you stay with me until the end. Someday, you may be a student of mine!

The Phases

The first thing we want to do is figure out the layout needed to develop this course. I have divided these up into 4 distinct phases so its easier to tackle:

Phase 1: Course Outline

The purpose of creating a course outline is to document the curriculum at the course level and to support the learning process. Here is where you can list the course learning requirements, evaluation methods (exams, assignments, etc.), learning activities (lectures, labs, etc.), and learning resources. These support student learning, manage student expectations, and provide information for students seeking to challenge the course (i.e.: get assessed on skills and recognition to get credited the course without taking it).

Phase 2: Course Section Information

This is a weekly syllabus that provides the student with weekly learning outcomes and more details on the assessments. For example: Week 1 = Learning the responsibilities as a DF specialist. Complete assignment #1, Readings.. etc.
It should be a guide for students on what to expect each week for learning outcomes and activities.

Phase 3: Content Development

In this phase, I will need to develop course content and materials to guide students’ success in the F2F, online, or hybrid classrooms as well as Instructor’s Notes. I need to make sure that my course is agnostic when it comes to location (remote lab) due to our current pandemic, but also student availability. I’ll be creating weekly lessons that align to the weekly learning outcomes that I’ve planned out in the weekly syllabus. It should also include any required or supplementary resources including learning activities, assessments, and textbooks.

Phase 4: Assessments

If it were up to me, we would have no tests! Just kidding, I really need to create these in order to determine how my students are learning and understanding the material I create. Each assessment I develop will beed to be sequenced so that they only test the students on the material and skills they have already learned, and had the opportunity to practice. It’s important for me to choose and create different types of assessments as Digital Forensics isn’t just a knowledge based course, it is highly driven by skills.

Course Review

Once I’ve completed my 4 phases (or deliverables), I will need to get final feedback for modifications, if required, from the college’s department. The goal is to develop a course that will allow students to gain an understanding of what it means to be a Digital Forensic Specialist, and have a clear idea of what is expected of them in those roles. They will have the opportunity to use both paid and open source tools, and work with several images to portray real world situations.

This is a short blog, but I wanted to give everyone an idea of how to develop a course before I start diving into the different phases. Keep an eye out for Phase 1 — I will be posting soon!