It's obvious that when we are actively involved in the learning process, we remember things better. If a trainee can practice identifying phishing schemes and creating good passwords, improvement can be dramatic.
Sadly, hands-on learning still takes a backseat to old-school instructional models, including the dreaded lecture.
6. Give immediate feedback
If you've ever played sports, it's easy to understand this one. "Calling it at the point of the foul" creates teachable moments and greatly increases their impact. If a user falls for a company-generated attack and gets training on the spot, it's highly unlikely they'll fall for that trick again.
7. Tell a story
When people are introduced to characters and narrative development, they often form subtle emotional ties to the material that helps keep them engaged. Rather than listing facts and data, use storytelling techniques. (Editor's note: see, for example, How to rob a bank.)
8. Make them think
People need an opportunity to evaluate and process their performance before they can improve. Security awareness training should challenge people to examine the information presented, question its validity, and draw their own conclusions.
9. Let them set the pace
It may sound cliche, but everyone really does learn at their own pace. A one-size-fits-all security training program is doomed to fail because it does not allow users to progress at the best speed for them.
10. Offer conceptual and procedural knowledge
Conceptual knowledge provides the big picture and lets a person apply techniques to solve a problem. Procedural knowledge focuses on the specific actions required to solve the problem.
Combining the two types of knowledge greatly enhances users' understanding. For example, a user may need a procedural lesson to understand that an IP address included in a URL is an indication that they are seeing a phishing URL. However, they also need the conceptual understanding of all the parts of a URL to understand the difference between an IP address and a domain name, otherwise they may mistake something like www4.google.com for a phishing URL.
Joe Ferrara is president and CEO of Wombat Security Technologies.