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The Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative

Cathy Downes iFest Presentation

Education for Leaders in the Digital Age: Evolving Requirements and Technology-enabled Practice

Cathy Downes

With a growing and widening array of assaults on cyber networks, information and data, there has been an understandable priority being placed on training initiatives to increase the number and competency of network defenders. However of equal if not greater importance is the professional development of government and military leaders with knowledge of the global cyberspace features and dynamics, of the strategic dimensions of the “fifth domain.” Tactical and technical expertise needs to be empowered, enabled and protected by informed strategic level thinking and leadership. Cyber leadership education is required by strategy and policy wonks as by IT geeks. Providing such professional development opportunities depends on effectively leverage the very medium of cyberspace itself. The face-to- face (F2F) classroom provides only one method and venue for effective educational experiences. And arguably, the online medium provides an increasingly flexible, innovative and cost-effective vehicle for such professional development. But there are undoubted challenges – addressing high entry barrier cyber security obstacles that deny access to the very people needing access; the development of leading edge games, simulations and other active learning events that leverage the unique mobile and global advantages of the online medium; the development and recognition of forward-learning educators skilled in both learning and educational technology strategies, the development of educational networks that connect and coordinate student administrative needs and educational standards and performance measures, and the development of students as designers and maintainers of their own personal learning path/plan.


Dr. Cathy Downes is Professor of Strategic Studies at the National Defense University’s College of Information and Cyberspace (NDU CIC). She holds Ph.D. in Political Studies from the University of Lancaster, United Kingdom. She is also a graduate of the Australian Department of Defense Industrial Mobilization Course and holds a U.S. Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Certificate. Prior to joining NDU CIC in 2003, Dr. Downes served as a senior civilian executive in the New Zealand Defense Force, leading enterprise transformation initiatives and as a defense policy writer and adviser to the New Zealand Secretary of Defense. In her current position, she is responsible for courses on national security strategy and cyber Power and inter-agency collaboration. Her research interests include: national security strategy, concepts of international cyberspace relations, strategic thinking and strategy formulation, constructing an inter-agency collaborative maturity model, futures assessments of technology, and digitally-enabled learning environments.


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