23 May 2018 | by Laura Sehl


CyberSmart 2018 Speaker, Olivier Crouzet, Offers Controversial Cybersecurity Learning Approach

Olivier Crouzet is the Head of Pedagogy at 42 Born2Code in Paris, France. This school offers a new type of cyber education that is completely hands-on, has no lectures, and no professors. Crouzet shared his unique educational perspective at CyberSmart 2018. CyberNB spoke with Crouzet to discuss what he hopes delegates learned from him at CyberSmart.

CyberNB: What is your role at 42 and what are some of the challenges you face in this role?

Crouzet: My role at 42 is to design the curriculum for our students. We are a very specific school with no lectures or teachers so we must define very precisely how students will progress during the curriculum. We are also defining the content of the project, the kinds of challenges the students will face during the curriculum so that they can learn and develop their information technology skills. We must be sure that students will always have a new project that builds on the previous one, ensuring raising difficulty along the curriculum. Students will learn problem-solving skills, creativity and collaboration skills.

One of the biggest challenges is to not act like a Dean with a classic academic way of teaching: I must get rid of classic habits to keep coherency of our learning context. My students are completely autonomous in the curriculum. Our main mission is not to have students complete the curriculum but to have students develop enough skills to be able to get a job in the labour market in a sustainable way, meaning they won’t have to return back to school in five or ten years, given that IT is evolving very fast. It is a very specific model. I am always asking myself, “is what I am doing in line with the purpose of the school or habits from classic academia?” The biggest challenge of my job is staying in line with the target of the school and away from classical education habits.

CyberNB: Why is it important for cyber education to be accessible?

Crouzet: We made different choices when we created 42, one of them was no degree requirement to apply because we knew from previous experiences that people with a talent for IT  were more likely to drop out of formal education, not all of them but some of them. Many people outside of academia have a real talent for IT and it is a pity that these people are not in their right position for their talents. That’s why we decided to have a school with no degree requirement. We decided not to look at previous degrees and curricula because it was not an indicator of talent. We are more open as a social point of view, we appreciate having students of different backgrounds.

CyberNB: Why is hands-on, project-based learning the best approach to cyber education?

Crouzet: From my own point of view, hands-on learning and a practical approach work best because they are the most natural. It is easy to draw a parallel between the way babies are learning to walk and talk and formal education. Children do not learn how to walk by having a lecture about how gravity works, they try it first. I think the human being is designed to learn this way.

CyberNB: How does the school evaluate success without the use of professors and diplomas?

Crouzet: When a project is completed other students will evaluate whether the project is a success or a failure. If it is a failure they will need to start the project again. From the staff point of view, our main quality indicator is the feedback we have from companies. There are multiple internship opportunities in the curriculum so we hear feedback from companies often about the quality of students’ work.

CyberNB: What role does trial and error play in project-based learning?

Crouzet: It is part of the natural process. Back to my example of babies learning to walk, it takes time. Of course, there is failure along the way to the end goal, but I think it is part of the way our brain processes information. With my students, we tell them it is okay to fail.

We want them to learn to filter the information they are given and be willing to try other options and be problem-solvers. This trial and error approach is better for innovation and productivity and it will help students be able to take on new technology that will appear in their career.  We have to train them not only for the immediate needs of companies but also the needs of the future. Students must be able to adapt themselves, and this approach of learning helps them to take something they do not know how to do, and just try. This is the best way to learn. Students must learn to adapt to what is coming next, and in some case even be the ones to design what comes next.

CyberNB: We appreciate your willingness to travel to attend the CyberSmart Summit in New Brunswick! The 2018 summit theme was international collaboration in cybersecurity workforce development. Why do you believe international collaboration is important in developing the cybersecurity field?

Crouzet: In this globalized world it is not possible to act alone, for companies and countries, everyone must embrace collaboration. Personally, I have been involved previously in my own curriculum and my previous job to the different open source communities, and I have seen that there are very interesting initiatives. Open source opportunities are normally from different sources all over the world. It sounds very logical to collaborate internationally in the cybersecurity field. I think it is better for faster progression. The internet was created internationally and so it makes sense to continue to be collaborative.

CyberNB: What are some of the key messages you hope delegates will take away from what you shared about your work?

Crouzet: I hope that they will keep an open mind that things can be done differently. What we are doing in education is an example of what different information can bring to the world and it is a new way of teaching. It won’t fit every kind of subject, but keeping an open mind and sharing with others are key messages for delegates to take away. Collaboration and open-mindedness are important.

CyberNB is a Special Operating Agency of Opportunities NB.

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