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Cybersecurity Hits Hollywood: What Have We Learned?

sony-hack-history-lessonBy J. Thompson
Online Learning Tips Contributor

Black Hand’s assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife triggered World War I. Pearl Harbor thrust the U.S. from isolationism into World War II. The Gulf of Tonkin catalyzed U.S. military intervention in Vietnam. Is it possible that the Rogen-Franco hackneyed Hollywood comedy The Interview (in the vein of 1985’s Chase-Akroyd, Spies Like Us) will become the flashpoint for The Great Cyberwar in the chronicles of history?

The Sony hack is already bad, but according to CNN, worse is coming. And while bruised egos and geopolitical consequences are being sorted out, the truth is the West has prepared for cataclysmic cyber-attacks by enemy states for years now. In fact, it was around the time of Stuxnet while touring DC’s International Spy Museum that I recall the strong emphasis placed on potential cybersecurity warfare in the museum’s 21st century exhibit:

If cyber spies break America’s security codes—could power lines turn into battle lines? …On your final stop—Weapons of Mass Disruption— hear from some of today’s top experts on the new intelligence battlefield of cyberspace. Explore what would happen if a cyber attack hit the electrical grid.”

International Spy Museum

Power grids, transportation systems, Wall Street—those were the priority “hard targets” topping our nation’s must-protect list—but Hollywood? Not only was the movie industry a relatively “soft target,” few probably considered “Tinseltown” a target at all considering it was a malware program with splapdash code that broke the levee of embarrassing executive emails, unreleased film content and overwritten data. Federal and private-industry cybersecurity experts have been on high alert for years, but now that the FBI officially linked North Korea to the Sony hack, some Americans who were either unaware or thought cyberwar was an abstract or clandestine concept, may now realize this was only a preview for more disruptive attacks that will hit closer to home. While cyberwar may sound tame in the context of comparing it to actual warfare, most press descriptions and federal agencies leverage warfare terminology to describe the potency of this global threat (Read The Associated Press, “Inside North Korea’s cyberarmy”).

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Posted in Education Options

Political Science to Space Studies: How Philosophy Inspired My Ready Moment

APU-ready-moment-facultyBy Kurt Messick
Faculty Member, Humanities Program at American Public University

After I finished seminary back in 2005, I was looking for the “next big thing” in my life. I was teaching part-time at a local community college and also serving as a part-time chaplain, but neither of these looked like a permanent fixture in my life. While I was browsing the internet for various options, I happened along a school named American Public University. At the time I’d never heard of it, but they were offering a political philosophy class online, and it sounded intriguing.

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Posted in Education Options, Online Learning

Emoji and Communication: The English Language 100 Years from Now

emoji-future-communicationBy Dr. Rosalie S. Owens
Faculty, English at American Public University

From cave paintings to pictograms and on to the alphabet, humans have been communicating with one another for ages. Or have they?

Was there clear communication of what the cave paintings and pictograms and ideograms meant, or did one person find a meaning in them and the next person something different? Without clear understanding, are we communicating? What impact does all of this have on our literature?

The tools used to communicate have changed over time. For example, I ran into my seventh grade English teacher the other night and, as we spoke, I was able to tell her how much she influenced my becoming an English instructor. She taught me all about the use of commas and how to construct a proper sentence. We discussed how conventions of proper writing are becoming more and more absent from student writing. I mentioned that they are also missing from some published books and internet communications. She shook her head as we continued our discussion about where writing is headed and how it will influence the literature of the future.

Towards the end of the conversation she asked for my contact information. I handed her one of my cards that has my email and web address. She looked at it and then asked for my mailing address. Though most people are using Facebook, Instagram, texting, email, etc. to communicate, there are those who are left out of the conversations because they do not use these technologies.

Technologies aside, there are some who would have a difficult time reading a text from my friend Michael. It is common practice when texting and tweeting to not capitalize the first word of a sentence. For that matter sentences are often not used and neither are vowels or periods. He is a pro at sending messages with words (I use that term lightly) such as gn, tsk, or pblc. It takes me some time to figure out what he is saying.

Is this clear communication? Is this what we are going to see in pieces of literature in the future or should there be different conventions used for our instant messages as opposed to formal literary writing?

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Posted in Education Options, Scholar's Desk

Encountering the Need for Science Education

natural-sciences-online-degreeBy Dr. Daniel Welsch
Science Program Director at American Public University

Are we alone in the universe?
Why are we having trouble controlling Ebola?
What is the biological advantage to consciousness?
Why does a bike stay upright when you ride it?
How many people can the Earth support?
How does the Earth’s interior work?

All of these questions and many more remain unanswered by science. The process of science is changing, but it is still driven by curiosity. Scientific experimentation is moving toward automation and digital data collection, with the human role focusing on experimental design, collaboration, analysis, and interpretation. Science education has been slow to adapt to the new way of doing science.

Science is a classic educational field at universities across the world. Due to its great value in multiple disciplines, it’s important to have accessible programs, both online and on ground.

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Posted in Education Options, Email Newsletter, Scholar's Desk

Myths of the English Major

myth-english-majorBy Carol Froisy
Program Director, English and Communication at American Public University

Myth 1: English majors cannot “do” math.

Every good English major knows the difference between “two,” “too,” and “to.” It’s true that we might try to round-up our calculations to soothe our penchant for neatness. Zero is a wonderfully round and even number, but we use it only when necessary; so, many times, it is merely a place holder. (See, we even speak “math” all the time.)

We can too add deductions! But seriously, it just seems so silly not to use the calculator that is right on the computer screen. After all, using a calculator ensures that we remain as perfect as we think we are.

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Posted in Education Options, Email Newsletter, Scholar's Desk

Math Building Blocks for the Engineering Major

electrical-engineering-math-neededBy Dr. Taan ElAli
Faculty Member, Electrical Engineering at American Public University

You may think that if you are not good at math, there is no way you can succeed in the field of engineering. It is true that an electrical engineering (EE) degree requires many math courses, but how much math do you really need to succeed as an engineer?

College algebra is really the foundation for engineering math courses. For the bachelor’s in EE, the highest level math course can be the differential equation course that comes on top of the calculus sequence. Courses generally reinforce and build on math skills learned in earlier courses.

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Posted in Education Options, Online Learning, Scholar's Desk

Five Writing Tips for Students and Professionals

writing-college-guidanceBy Dr. Elizabeth D’Andrea
Faculty Member at American Public University

Professional writing is key to getting a job, keeping it and advancing your career. The classroom assignments and forums that are typically part of college courses are a great way to hone your skill.

There are five key elements to great college writing that will lead you to success in the classroom and beyond.

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Posted in Education Options, Online Learning, Scholar's Desk, Tip of the Day

Clearing Up Misperceptions on Electromagnetic Pulse Implications

Interview with Dr. Clay Wilson
Program Director, Cybersecurity at American Public University

Films have a tendency to stretch the imagination beyond what is scientifically and physically possible. They are reliant on the suspension of disbelief to build upon the storyline and engross the viewer. One such exaggerated instance is electromagnetic pulse. For the average viewer the misperceptions around electromagnetic pulse implications do not directly impact them, but to those studying cybersecurity it’s extremely important to get educated on its real implications. Here to talk more about his research in the area, and on electromagnetic pulse implications, is Dr. Clay Wilson. In this podcast he goes into great detail about the expectations from the use of EMP.

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Posted in Education Options, Email Newsletter, Online Learning, Scholar's Desk