As Florida’s first state university built in the 20th century, the University of South Florida (USF), located in the heart of Tampa, has been a consistent leader in the education industry since its founding in 1956. In 2023, the U.S. News and World Report’s 2023 Best Colleges rankings indicated USF is the fastest rising university in America. In fact, no other university in the entire nation has climbed the Best Colleges rankings more than USF over the past 10 years.
Ranked 42 out of more than 5,000 public universities in the country and as the fourth largest university in Florida by enrollment, USF is home to 50,000 students and boasts more than 200 different majors, minors, and areas of study.
Included in these areas of study are Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity, Bachelor of Science in Information Technology, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering programs, all of which have a focus on high impact global research and innovation. Because of this, USF became the first public university in Florida to be invited to join the Association of American Universities in nearly 40 years.
With such a strong focus on exploration and advancements in education, technology, and healthcare, USF has enabled their students to achieve success both inside and outside the classroom. Continuing this success has been the goal of Marbin Pazos Revilla, Assistant Professor of Instruction and Systems Administrator and faculty member in the department of Computer Science and Engineering, who also happens to serve as Director of Infrastructure in the department, and interim coach of the USF CyberHerd competitive team.
Upon joining USF in 2019, Marbin navigated through teaching several department courses and over time the teaching assignments became more cybersecurity centered. While teaching these courses, he quickly realized there were challenges to overcome in order to effectively educate students on the comprehensive nature of cybersecurity.
“We needed a common and effective platform that every student, regardless of their background or abilities, could navigate and build the skills they need to succeed in the cybersecurity workforce,” Marbin said.
On top of requiring a platform capable of meeting the accessibility needs of his students, Marbin also ran into the challenge of ensuring students had the resources and equipment needed to use the platform.
“Universities may require laptops, but students’ abilities to meet these standards change. Some people have different financial situations and backgrounds,” he said. “Rather than depending on their situation, we’d prefer to use a platform that’s standard and accessible to everyone.”
As he began exploring his options, he had another critical point to keep in mind; finding a platform that was aligned with the quickly-evolving world of cybersecurity.
“We wanted to find a rich experiential learning environment, with content reflecting the reality students will face in their future cybersecurity career roles,” said Marbin. “We needed a competitive setup, we wanted some instructional content, we wanted realistic challenges, and we wanted a common platform that students weren't required to have a specific laptop to use.”
The solution Marbin needed wasn’t just for his students, it needed to also serve the USF Whitehatters security club, the Artemis Net club, and the USF CyberHerd competitive cyber team as well. And while searching for a platform that would allow the team to prepare for their events, it became clear there was only one company capable of checking all their boxes.
When teaching with Hack The Box, Marbin first likes to run through the HTB Academy content associated with their selection of Dedicated Lab challenges in an effort to combine his own experience and insight with what’s already included in the HTB material.
“From my perspective, as an instructor, it's marvelous. Without it, I would have had to come up with an on premise approach for students to learn their skills,” he said.
In addition to saving critical time and money on lab setup, Marbin says using HTB has given students involved in the USF CyberHerd competitive cyber team and the USF Whitehatters club a place to foster personal growth and connections with like minded individuals.
“I think the club itself provides a community and support for many students that upon joining the cybersecurity discipline perhaps could still question whether they belong”, he noted. “The club provides the family, friendship, and connections for them to feel comfortable and get reassurance that this is the right field for them.”
Whether he’s teaching his students during the day or meeting with the competitive cyber team for multiple hours twice a week, Marbin says the instructional aspects of the HTB platform combined with the flexibility to practice whenever and wherever has allowed his students to be more successful than ever before.
“This is the ideal scenario for us. We see that it [HTB] impacts the learning ability of the students,” he said. “You see the atmosphere in the classroom change once you put the challenge in front of them, and you can feel the energy and watch the collaboration and interactions take place naturally”
Although most of the nearly 200 students using the platform are IT and Cybersecurity majors at USF, Marbin has seen a significant spike in the number of students signing up for his courses, as well as the number of HTB-hours the competitive CyberHerd team has added to their training since integrating HTB into his teaching in August of 2022. “When we listen to the students, and incentivize them to bring creative ideas that they can put to practice during assignments and academic work in the courses we offer, the demand for these courses will most likely rise,” Marbin said.
For University of South Florida
Reduced time spent preparing material from days to hours
Improved student knowledge and skills in less than six months
Increased student enrollment in cybersecurity classes
Elevated interest and engagement with course material
Aligned lectures and projects with current industry trends
Provided an effective training environment for the USF CyberHerd competitive team
At Hack The Box, we love our global hacking community and we strive to support other communities all over the world as we continue working toward our mission to make cybersecurity training accessible to everyone - and we’d love to do the same for you. Get in touch today to see how we can help.
Cybersecurity upskilling that combines theory with real-world practice
Professional development with guided cybersecurity training, integrated certification and fully customizable development paths
Allow students to learn beyond classroom premises with cloud-based labs available 24/7
Create your own isolated VPN environment complete with leaderboards, user progress monitoring and an easy-to-use admin panel
HTB helps hundreds of educational institutions such as the University of South Florida to attract, train, develop, and engage cybersecurity students all from a single platform.
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University of South Florida
reannm, Feb 23, 2024