Product Review: ISSA is high-level cybersecurity courseware
Posted on
February 27, 2015

The Information System Security and Assurance (ISSA) series by Jones & Bartlett Learning provides college-level learning to prospective IT pros who want to get a deep background in cybersecurity. This deep-dive cybersecurity courseware is intended for universities preparing the next generation of cybersecurity specialists, so it’s high-level material that’s nonetheless presented in an engaging and accessible format.

ISSA provides high-level security courseware.

This review gives an overview of three courses in the ISSA series — Hacker Techniques Tools and Incident Handling, System Forensics Investigation and Response, and Security Windows Platforms and Applications — and of the learning platform that houses these courses. We’ll dive into the specifics of these features below.

For the three courses that are a part of the ISSA series, there are three eBooks, one that corresponds to each course. Each textbook has 15 chapters, but some courses do not utilize all chapters, so the un-utilized were removed from the course. However, if you open any chapter in the course and go to the table of contents, you can access the removed chapters.

Book Chapters
Hacker Techniques Tools and Incident Handling 14
System Forensics Investigation and Response 13
Security Windows Platforms and Applications 15

  • A table of contents that allows a student to click to a specific chapter or page of the eBook.
  • Ability to zoom in and out, including preset zooms (Double Page View, Single Page View, Fit to Height, and Fit to Width).
  • A highlighter with the option to choose blue, pink or yellow as your highlighter. Once you highlight text, it is added to a tab labeled My Highlights where you can look at a collection of all the text you have highlighted.
  • The ability to add bookmarks to the eBook is available as well. A student can bookmark specific sections for review or to remember where they left off last. Again, once bookmarked, it is added to the My Bookmarks tab.
  • A student can also add notes to specific areas of the text—leaving questions or additional notes for later. Notes are collected in the My Notes tab so they can be reviewed all at once.
  • A Pop-Out Glossary that students can reference easily at any point in their studying.

Lecture Presentations

The lecture presentations are certain to be informative and helpful for and student who prefers to learn by being guided through a lesson. Each lesson is divided up into three parts: Discover, Apply and Create.

Discover — In this section, students learn the Concepts, Process, Roles, Context and Rationale of the topic at hand. In each of these subsections, students navigate through the lesson by clicking on items to learn more information. Additionally, most of these sub-sections have a related Activity, which is typically either a multiple-choice question, or a drag-and-drop question that reinforces student learning.

Apply — The Apply section consists of a Hands-On Lab, an excellent and immersive study option for people who like to learn by doing. The Lecture Presentation dashboard gives students instructions to download the lab worksheet, complete it and submit to an instructor for grading.

Create — This section contains three different sub-sections: Challenge, Contributing Factors, and Course of Action. While in the Create section a student is presented with a real-life workplace situation where they talk to a supervisor and are presented a challenge, or essentially, a project for research.

Students are then directed to the contributing factors which highlight the critical considerations and give students internet resources that provide them the research needed to complete the challenge. Finally, students are given a course of action or task list to follow to ensure they are completing all the parts of the challenge.

Lady drawing security diagram on transparent screen


Assignments are a mixture of worksheets and 1-2 page research papers that helps students first learn, then demonstrate, their knowledge of important concepts. To submit the assignment, the student must first upload his or her work before submitting it to the teacher for grading.

Virtual Labs

The courseware includes virtual labs made by Toolwire. These virtual labs load slowly. Once launched, however, they provide a student the opportunity to perform important tasks in a real-world environment. It’s just like being on the job with a nervous manager begging you to fix the latest security breach. The lab interface is a virtual Windows OS, with the necessary software installed to complete the tasks and objectives in the virtual lab.

Inside of the virtual lab, students are given learning objectives and a list of deliverables expected. Students are then walked through a process and given step-by-step instructions on how to complete tasks to gain experience and understand how to perform tasks.

After doing this, the student is presented with a challenge question, where there are no step-by-step instructions. This lets the learner engage in independent, unguided work, similar to what would be expected of them in confronting an actual incident in a busy workplace. Students write this in a report format and submit it to the instructor through the file share in the software.

Assessment Worksheets
The assessment worksheets are generated from the Hands On Labs that students are supposed to download and complete in the Apply section of the courseware. These worksheets are PDFs that have fillable form fields and ask questions regarding information in the reading assignments and lecture presentations. These are also submitted via online submission for instructor grading.

Projects are assignments that build on each other through the lessons, culminating in the final part of the project as part of the course review or final examination. Depending on the course, these projects are divided up into 3-6 separate parts and paired with the corresponding lesson and subject material.

Final Exam

A final exam is provided with the courseware. In each of the courses reviewed, the final exam consists of 50 multiple choice questions. A student can flag questions they are unsure on and navigate to any quiz question at any point of the quiz. It doesn’t look like the quiz is timed.

Upon finishing the exam, students are given a list of all the questions and shown whether they selected a correct answer or not and if they are flagged questions. They then can submit the exam for grading. They are given their score (out of 100) on the next page and directed back to the course.

The textbook-only cost for each course in the ISSA series is $99.95.

The cost to purchase the textbook, lab and courseware together is $179.95

Jones & Bartlet Learning products are available online.

About the Author

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