(ISC)2 Professional Development Institute: Timely and continuing education opportunities

In this Help Net Security podcast, Mirtha Collin, Director of Education for (ISC)², talks about the Professional Development Institute (PDI), a valuable resource for continuing education opportunities to help keep your skills sharp and curiosity piqued.

Each course is designed with input from leading industry experts and based on proven learning techniques. And best of all, these courses are free to members and count for CPEs.

Professional Development Institute

Here’s a transcript of the podcast for your convenience.

Hi, my name is Mirtha Collin and I’m the Director of Education for (ISC)². I’m happy to have the opportunity to join this Help Net Security podcast today to talk to you a little bit about the Professional Development Institute, a major initiative for continuing cybersecurity education that we’re really excited about.

Just to quickly set the table for those listening who may not be aware, (ISC)² is an international nonprofit membership association focused on inspiring a safe and secure cyber world. Best known for the Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification – or CISSP for short – (ISC)² offers a portfolio of credentials that are part of a holistic, programmatic approach to security. Our membership, over 150,000 strong, is made up of certified cyber, information, software and infrastructure security professionals who are making a difference and helping to advance the industry.

The Education Department at (ISC)² develops and delivers training materials and courses that help the cybersecurity community achieve certification and also provides learning opportunities to keep their skills sharp and maintain their certifications. We celebrated our 30th anniversary last year as advocates for the cybersecurity profession, and what I’d like to talk to you about today – PDI – has been a huge step forward for our association.

The Professional Development Institute (which we’ve shortened to “PDI” for obvious reasons) was launched by (ISC)² in February 2019 in an effort to deliver increased member value and keep our members and associates, as well as other industry participants, up to speed on the latest emerging trends in cybersecurity.

A state-of-the-art video production studio was also built in our headquarters to produce engaging high-production content for courses authored by leading cybersecurity professionals.

Let’s back up a minute though. It’s important to understand the lay of the land in cybersecurity education, and why we thought making a major investment in continuing education was something worth doing.

When it comes to certification, (ISC)² exams – as well as the exams of various accrediting bodies in the industry – probe our members on a wide array of knowledge domains to prove that they have the practical skills it takes to manage security systems. The exams focus on real-world examples that only experienced professionals will be familiar with. So, it’s a great system for separating the really knowledgeable pros from those who still need more time in the trenches.

However, cybersecurity is one of the more dynamic fields in the world, and the landscape and technological changes come frequently. What may have been applicable two years ago may no longer be of critical importance, and new challenges and solutions spring up on an annual and sometimes monthly basis.

While (ISC)² routinely updates its exams to make sure the most relevant topics are being covered, certification updates take time to build and process, and don’t happen each and every year. And then there are the “soft skills” aspects of the job that aren’t conducive to testing but are useful to develop, such as how to present to your executive leadership or how to build a high-performing team.

This can create certain gaps in curriculum when rapidly emerging trends develop in a short window of time. And those who became certified several years ago need to keep their skills sharp too, even if they don’t have an exam coming up anytime soon.

This is where PDI comes in and why we think it’s such a revolutionary step in education. This program has resulted in the development of a robust catalogue of continuing professional education courses and the ability to continuously refresh that catalogue based upon clearly articulated member need. So, in other words, as new topics and trends bubble to the surface, we have the ability to quickly design courses to address them and give cybersecurity professionals the ammo they need to be able to understand the basic concepts, at a minimum.

Subject matter experts guide the development of the course material and are supported by a team of highly qualified adult education experts and creative professionals.

We also recognized that cybersecurity professionals have very busy jobs, and don’t normally have a lot of free time to attend classes, which is why we knew that we had to build an on-demand library of courses that they could access whenever they want, at the push of a button from wherever they are in the world.

Given the nature of the different trends in cybersecurity, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach to education either. Some topics understandably require more of a time investment than others to fully grasp. This is why the PDI portfolio includes three formats of courses: Immersive courses are designed to provide an in-depth course on a single topic; Labs are hands-on courses designed to allow students to practice specific technical skills; and Express Learning courses are typically 1-2 hours in length – some are even doable during a lunch break – and they’re designed especially to quickly address emerging industry topics or trends or introduce the learner to a topic.

I think what we’re most proud of so far, in addition to the quality, is the broad range of topic areas we’ve addressed through PDI, which include working with the Internet of Things, industrial control systems, containers, privacy regulations, cyber insurance, mobile security, AI, and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, as well as building skills such as penetration testing, malware analysis, interpersonal skills, cloud basics, communication with the C-suite, responding to a breach, and many more.

We tailor these courses for those learners with a basic to intermediate knowledge of security concepts, so they can be informative and challenging to almost any learner. And the topics are also designed to be universal so that they apply to what anyone around the world is facing.

In addition to helping learners stay updated on the latest trends, PDI also offers an opportunity for members and associates of (ISC)² to obtain continuing professional education – or CPE – credits to keep their certifications in good standing at no additional cost. More than 100 CPEs can be earned by completing all the courses in the PDI portfolio.

Because of this, all courses include a final assessment. Other learning activities vary by course type and may include instructional videos, video interviews, interactive presentations, knowledge checks, independent readings, webinar excerpts and real-world scenarios.

This was a major undertaking that the entire association got behind, and the program now contains 35 courses, with a total educational value of more than $10,000 per person available.

It’s been so popular that more than 20,000 unique members had enrolled in a PDI course by the end of December last year, which means we delivered more than $7.9 million in equivalent course value within the first 10 months of the program being available.

I should mention that as far as we know, this is the only program of its kind in the industry, where members can get all of this value at no additional cost. Additionally, we are making our courses available to non-members at deeply discounted prices as a way to encourage continuous learning during the COVID-19 crisis. For more information about this, please go to isc2.org/development.

The feedback we’ve received from our members so far has been outstanding and they’re really engaging with the materials and recommending courses to their friends and colleagues, as well as submitting ideas for future courses to pdi@isc2.org.

Thanks for listening today and thanks to RSA Conference and Help Net Security for giving us an opportunity to spread the message about PDI. You’re all welcome to come check out the content.

If you’d like to explore the PDI portfolio, you can either access My Courses if you’re a member or associate of (ISC)² or simply visit isc2.org/development if you’re not yet a member.

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