Kennesaw State professors develop virtual reality games to teach children cybersecurity basics

KENNESAW, Ga. | Oct 1, 2021

Joy Li and Yan Huang
Joy Li and Yan Huang

In order to teach school-age children the basics of cybersecurity, two Kennesaw State University professors are collaborating on a method to deliver lessons where K-12 students spend most of their time: playing video games.

Launched by Joy Li, assistant professor of computer game design and development, and Yan Huang, assistant professor of software engineering, the project is pegged as an alternative to traditional learning activities by teaching students the principles of cybersecurity in a immersive virtual reality (VR) environment. The program works by introducing students to 360-degree instructional videos and then testing their knowledge in a game setting using a VR headset.

“Our aim is to take concepts that are otherwise very complex for students and put them in a format that is much simpler for them to understand,” said Huang, who teaches in Kennesaw State’s College of Computing and Software Engineering. “This delivery method also allows us to continue refining our lesson plans to ensure they are accessible to students regardless of background and are effective in teaching them about cybersecurity.”

Virtual Reality

Inside the VR headset users are transported to “Cybersecurity Park,” where they will have access to six education modules covering topics that range from ransomware to hacking ethics to phishing attempts. Each module has a unique theme and game associated with its lesson. In the phishing module, which mimics the recreational act of fishing with a rod and reel, students are scored on their ability to recognize phishing messages, such as those asking them to divulge personal information. In the ransomware module, students must defend a medieval castle from threats that are disguised as armored knights.

“Cybersecurity is not yet an official part of school curriculums, yet we are living in an increasingly digital world,” Li said. “This presented us a wonderful opportunity to make an impact on education by using games, which has become one of the most efficient ways to grab their attention. On a secondary level, we hope that this kind of exposure will encourage kids to pursue careers in cybersecurity.”

Beyond the educational objectives, Li said the project presented a unique opportunity for two professors to lend their expertise on an interdisciplinary effort. While she has extensive experience in developing educational games having previously collaborated on an educational project with a Georgia-based medical college, Huang’s research interests lie mostly in cybersecurity innovations.

Currently, four of the six modules are ready to play while KSU undergraduate and graduate students completing the remaining modules. Once complete, the project will be published online free of charge, allowing K-12 teachers and students to access the training modules worldwide.

– Travis Highfield

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit