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Arkansas to Teach Cybersecurity in High Schools

Arkansas high school students will be offered cybersecurity courses for the first time next year. 

The courses, which are due to commence in the fall of 2020, will be designed to prepare students to study cybersecurity at college or to pursue an industry-level certification after they graduate high school.

The state's curriculum will be based on models created by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and already in use at the university's Cyber Gym facility, a cloud-hosted education and simulation model for cybersecurity learning. 

Courses will be offered both on high school campuses and remotely via the state's virtual school, Virtual Arkansas. In partnership with public schools throughout the state, Virtual Arkansas provides course access and opportunities to students who may not be able to access the same opportunities through local resources.

Three cybersecurity courses for high schoolers are currently in development and are expected to be completed by May 30, 2020. Teacher training will be carried out over the summer so students can start their cybersecurity education in the fall.

More advanced courses are to follow, designed using models created by the University of Central Arkansas' (UCA) cyber-range. The cyber-range - the first in the state - is currently being built with $500,000 of state funding. 

"This is going to be a great thing for the students of Arkansas," said John Ashworth, Virtual Arkansas director.

Anthony Owen, state director of computer science, said at the very least, the cybersecurity courses will help to create a more cyber-literate state population which is better placed to protect itself from cyber-threats. 

A grant of $94,500 to fund the initiative was provided by the Arkansas Department of Education. The project was further supported by two sub grants totaling $50,000 awarded by the Arch Ford Education Service cooperative to UALR for the development and assessment of the Cyber Gym. 

UALR is considering offering further educational support to high school students by hosting a cybersecurity summer camp. 

UALR's STEM education specialist and head of STEM outreach Sandra Leiterman said interest in the university's current STEM summer camp program was so high that waiting lists are in use.  

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