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Digital Forensics in new Postgrad Computing Program

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Tuesday, 25 March 2014 15:23 Written by DFM Team

The Open University has unveiled its new Masters qualification in Computing which includes new modules on corporate digital forensics to help organisations identify information leaks, tackle intellectual property espionage and address insider security threats.

Utilising the university's world class distance learning expertise, the module provides computing postgraduates and IT professionals with the opportunity to add this highly sought after skills set to their portfolio. At the same time employers can develop in-house expertise to identify the source of insider threats, and to have them investigated within the law and the rules of their organisation. The Digital Forensics module will be accompanied by new modules in Software Development and Project Management with further modules in Software Engineering and Data Management to be unveiled in November 2014 to add to the existing module in Information Security first delivered in November 2013.

Dr Kevin Waugh, Programme Director for Postgraduate Technologies & Computing at The Open University said: "The forensics and software engineering modules are part of a targeted qualification that is responding to market demand. The focusof these programmes is to develop the relevant and widely recognised skills that employers have come to expect from graduates of the Open University, as one of the top five universities for Computing programmes in the UK. The OU’s method of combining work and study allows students not only to fit study around their lifestyles but to also apply what they are learning immediately into the workplace.

Digital Forensics is a necessity within organisations of all sizes.

"HR and IT teams are increasingly called upon to investigate the source of internal Intellectual Property leaks or the theft of information such as sales books by ex-employees who take them to rival companies," explains Blaine Price, a senior lecturer in Computing who helped develop the forensics modules. "The problem is most companies lack the technical skills to do this and are often oblivious to the legal requirements to pursue these cases."

"Digital forensics qualifications over the past decade have focused on preparing students for a career in niche areas such as law enforcement where open vacancies are limited. Unfortunately many of these courses are unsuited to a growing demand for these skills in business."

As part of their ambition to keep their Computing programmes focused on the latest business challenges, the new postgraduate modules in Software Engineering and Development will look at the latest approaches, including Agile methodologies where solutions evolve incrementally through collaboration between self-organising, cross-functional teams.

Increasing numbers of organisations, both private and public sector would say that they develop software in an agile way but without a single universal way to do it, what this means in practice varies. As a result the new Software Development modules not only look at a variety of possible methods, including Agile, but will also help students to identify, understand and respond to the specific conditions in their organisation.

Helen Sharp, Professor of Software Engineering at The Open University and PI of the Agile Research Network, who have surveyed the developer community on the integration of these new methodologies says: "Through the Agile Research Network we know that a major challenge to successful agile development is a need to better understand how these new approaches to development fit within existing business operations and are communicated throughout the company and its customer base. This new Software Engineering module is very much geared to providing a holistic, business-wide view of software development that marries up these rapid, responsive new approaches with existing business operations and missions."

David Mulvey, a Principal Consultant at CGI who was the External Industrial Adviser to the programme says “The OU have taken considerable care to ensure that this qualification is well targetted to the needs of industry. There is a strong emphasis on encouraging the student to apply what they learn to their current role wherever possible, leading to effective transfer of knowledge and skills into the workplace situation. By taking this qualification students can expect to be able to contribute to their work group at a higher level and significantly increase their value as a member of an IT organisation.”

The deadline for enrolment on the May modules in Digital forensics, Software development and Project management is 17th April 2014. The Final enrolment date for November's modules in Software engineering, Data management + Information security is the 30th September 2014.

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