The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Enhancing Cryptography Education Using Collaborative Visual Programming

Sherif Abdelhamid, Assistant Professor, Virginia Military Institute (United States)

Sarah Patterson, Virginia Military Institute (United States)

Blain Patterson, Virginia Military Institute (United States)


Cryptography is the science of securing sensitive information and communications and ensuring that only the intended recipients can access and process the encrypted data. Internet shopping, online payments, and social networking websites have become increasingly popular with the advancement of the internet. However, hackers are getting more skilled than before to exploit existing vulnerabilities and attack these websites. Due to this, it has become increasingly important to introduce the science of cryptography to future generations, at a younger age, in simpler and more innovative ways [1]. Students need to acquire multidisciplinary skills in mathematics, information theory, and software programming to achieve this goal. In addition, students have to receive formal training in software testing and big data analysis. These requirements might create a barrier for non-computer science students and domain scientists to develop novel encryption algorithms or enhance existing ones [2]. Existing studies in cryptography education focus on how to break down complex mathematical concepts into simpler forms, but few studies have examined the programming challenges during algorithm implementation [3]. As a response, in this work, we implemented a web-based programming learning tool called vizLab. The tool will help students bridge the gap between cryptography's mathematical foundations and computing by using a visual approach to programming. Students will learn to construct data cryptography algorithms with minimal programming experience, using graphical icons representing the language’s essential elements. The icons can be selected, copied, and moved around in a workspace to create a complete program. vizLab can execute the students’ block-based algorithms online; also, it can translate them into a high-level programming language (Python). Students will be able to see the translation of the blocks into Python in real-time and create programming elements, including (e.g., action sequence, decision, iteration, and functions). Additionally, vizLab can store the completed blocks within an online cloud database. Students can share the constructed blocks with peers working on the same projects. Additionally, students can build new programs on top of existing ones created by others. Finally, students can integrate vizLab with learning management systems (LMS), to share their work with their instructors for assessment.

Keywords: Cryptography education, block-based programming, collaborative e-learning


  1. McGettrick, A. (2013). Toward effective cybersecurity education. IEEE Security & Privacy, 11(6), 66-68.
  2. Garera, S., & Vasconcelos, J. (2009). Challenges in teaching a graduate course in applied cryptography. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 41(2), 103-107.
  3. Singleton, L., Zhao, R., Song, M., & Siy, H. (2020). CryptoTutor: Teaching Secure Coding Practices through Misuse Pattern Detection. 21st Annual Conference on Information Technology Education, 403-408.


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