Committee Chair

Yang, Li

Committee Member

Ellis, Jennifer; Xie Mengjun; Qin, Hong


Dept. of Computational Science


College of Engineering and Computer Science


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


Cybersecurity is integral to modern life but it is often overlooked and taken for granted, creating an ever-increasing problem for governments, businesses, and consumers alike and costing billions of dollars in investments losses, disaster recovery expenses, and regulatory fines. Compounding this problem is the alarming shortage of cybersecurity professionals worldwide that has continued to worsen. In 2015, industry experts estimated a shortfall of 1.5 million cybersecurity professionals by 2019. The revised estimate in 2019 was 3 million and growing. For these reasons, educating and training cybersecurity professionals has become a top priority for governments and companies around the world. This research study investigates the performance of established student-centered active learning models. It combines Project-Based Learning (PBL) and Guided Inquiry Collaborative Learning (GICL) learning models to teach cybersecurity. Following Bloom’s Taxonomy pedagogical practices, a PBL-GICL framework and activities were developed for teaching a Cybersecurity Biometrics class. Scaffolding activities included items like lab assignments, guided inquiry questions, and a semester long project where students, through experimentation, designed and developed an optical fingerprint reader using a Raspberry Pi, a camera, a prism, and a 3D printed case. Embedded assessments consisting of a survey, peer reviews, exam questions, and research data from a published study that uses Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) to teach cybersecurity modules, are used to evaluate the following research questions: 1. How does PBL-GICL approach compare to POGIL as a learning model for teaching cybersecurity? 2. How effective is the PBL-GICL approach for teaching cybersecurity concepts? 3. What are the challenges and opportunities in implementing PBL-GICL to teach cybersecurity? Quantitative analysis of the survey data suggests that PBL-GICL performance is comparable to POGIL and exceeds it in categories like teamwork experience, motivation, and engagement. The data also suggests that the PBL-GICL approach is an effective student-centered learning model for teaching cybersecurity concepts. Lastly, several challenges concerning online teaching and opportunities for process improvements to implement PBL-GICL are discussed. These findings are important to mitigate the shortfall of qualified cybersecurity professionals by identifying effective student-centered active learning models that motivate and engage students.


To Dr. Li Yang, my committee chair, thank you for your continued guidance and mentoring over the years. Your support has been invaluable in achieving my academic and career goals. Completing my dissertation would not have been possible without you and my defense committee members Dr. Jennifer Ellis, Dr. Hong Qin, and Dr. Mengjun Xie. Your generous contribution of time, knowledge, and expertise is greatly appreciated. I would also like to thank the National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation, Award Abstract # 1623624, Collaborative Research: Enhancing Cyber Security Education Using POGIL. DoD/NSA capacity building awards). The research on cybersecurity education would not have been possible without this award, which inspired me to select this research topic. I want to thank Dr. Rich Furman from the University of Washington Tacoma. You have been an advocate who has continued to encourage me to complete my PhD. Your expertise, incredible insight, and great coaching tips on writing helped me complete my dissertation in a timely manner. I am also grateful to Dr. Thomas Lyons, Clarence E. Harris Chair of Excellence in Entrepreneurship, and Mrs. Libby Santin, Director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Your collaboration in this research and contribution of lab resources made it possible to collect data and for students to experiment, fail, and succeed. Lastly, I want to thank Dr. Joseph Kizza, Department Head of the Computer Science and Engineering, Dr. Ethan Carver, Associate Dean of the Graduate School, and staff members. I could not have undertaken and completed this journey without the support I have received from you every step of the way. Thank you very much!


Ph. D.; A dissertation submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.




Computer security; Process-oriented guided inquiry learning; Project method in teaching


cybersecurity; biometrics; Project-Based Learning (PBL); Guided Inquiry Collaborative Learning (GICL); Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL); student-centered active learning

Document Type

Doctoral dissertations




xvii, 149 leaves