We're thrilled that you are reading this, because it means you're taking a step toward equipping your students to protect themselves and the people around them, while they work on the web. We put together this README to let you know what's in the curriculum, how it all fits together, and how to use it.
In our research we’ve learned that many programs lack the space and time to allow for in-depth security coursework, because it competes with many other important education priorities, such as those required in their accreditation process. We know most programs don’t have the capacity to accommodate a full digital security course, and when they do, it’s usually not mandatory. We therefore use short modules on various topics to help educators integrate lessons into ongoing coursework, to ensure these materials can be used in a realistic timeline.
The curriculum outlined here includes contemporary digital security issues in journalism pertaining to risk assessment, how communication systems work, government and law enforcement surveillance policy and practices, communication security, authentication practices and more. While these lessons include a variety of examples from work in newsrooms, these lessons also apply to safer navigation of the web and computing more broadly.
We have deliberately structured all modules so that they can reasonably be used in either online or in-person courses.
Our lessons are intended to encourage critical thinking about risk management. We make decisions about risk all the time — deciding whether it’s necessary to lock a door behind us, for example. It’s our hope that this will make students more confident in developing appropriate safety measures during their reporting.
Some topics are more advanced than others. While we offer recommendations on how to introduce these topics in sequence, much like other coursework, the modules may be restructured to account for the needs of your course.
There are a number of topics we have chosen not to include primarily because they go beyond the scope of the intersection between digital security and newsrooms. For example, we considered but ultimately chose not to cover…
We also have chosen not to include some materials.
While these topics are not currently covered, we are always open to suggestions on expanding these materials to make them more useful to journalism instructors of all backgrounds.
In our list of modules, take a close look at the modules that are most appropriate for your students and most closely tied to your existing lesson plans. Modules include suggestions for the lesson, but may be reconfigured for your needs. We currently have over a dozen modules addressing various aspects of digital security. Unless otherwise noted, this curriculum is Creative Commons-friendly (CC-BY 4.0). With attribution, use or modify it as needed! We also ask that you let us know how how you've integrated the curriculum into your work so that we can better understand its impact and improve the materials.
We recommend identifying the modules most useful for your course, we also have one stand-alone module, “Digital Security 101,” which briefly introduces many of the concepts in more intensive modules. This route provides less time to consider the concepts carefully, and less “hands on” time for activities. Note, if you do choose to reconfigure a module substantially, be mindful that it still fits with any subsequent lessons.
We have two pathways: A digital security course with several modules — allowing you to also pick modules you'd like to focus on — or the stand-alone introductory module.
For the first pathway, the digital security course, some topics build on more foundational concepts (particularly threat modeling). We therefore recommend paying close attention to the prerequisite modules and presenting them in order. For the second pathway, Digital Security 101 can be presented on its own.
All modules can be found at our U.S. Journalism School Digital Security Curriculum landing page.
The modules do not require any assigned readings, nor other types of media, but if you are looking for recommendations to add to your existing digital security coursework, we have some opinions!
Do you remember when teachers would roll in a tube television, pop in a VHS, and that was a day of class? There might be times you want to do that. To that end, we have a "watch list" to complement your digital security coursework.
Like any course, assessing students’ prior knowledge before choosing where to start is critical. But when discussing personal security, it’s important to recognize that some of these topics pertain to difficult situations students have experienced themselves. Some of these topics feel benign, while some feel challenging or even traumatic, such as experiences of harassment and doxxing. This means approaching these topics with mindfulness toward students’ interpretations, and in a safe environment.
Likewise, maybe these topics are very personal to you. We are here to support you along the way.
Educators in the field are ultimately the best judge of what works, and what doesn’t. We welcome your thoughts on what we can do to make these materials most useful to you, and how we can better support you.