The Future of Reservations and Workspace Scheduling

The Future of Reservations and Workspace Scheduling



Beta Feature Release: Curator On-Demand Workspaces


In late July 2021, Curators gained access to a new beta platform feature: Curator On-Demand Workspaces. This new platform feature allows Curators to request an On-Demand Workspace through the Reservations page within the Curator tab.


On-Demand Workspace UI Screenshot

This new feature allows Curators a more flexible means to attempt and review NICE Challenges for use in their classes, clubs, and competitions. With On-Demand Workspaces, Curators can start attempting NICE Challenges within just a couple of minutes of requesting their Workspace!


We would like to see Curators try out this feature and provide feedback on it. While this feature is in beta, we may change how it works based on Curator feedback.


Some Quick Technical Details:


  • Curators can only request one On-Demand Workspace per day

  • On-Demand Workspaces last until the end of the day (11:59 PM PT)

  • On-Demand Workspaces are only available when system resources allow


Upcoming Feature Preview: New Workspace Scheduling System


A few years into providing the NICE Challenges at scale, much to our surprise, we discovered that Curators were using the NICE Challenges in many ways beyond their intended use as assessments. As the use cases for the NICE Challenges expanded, we increasingly found that the initial Workspace scheduling system, Reservations, and the currency that balanced it, Reservation Credits, became things that Curators had to work around, rather than things that worked for them. The Reservations scheduling system was primarily designed for the assessment use case, and it was clear that it was holding back the potential of many of the new use cases for the NICE Challenges. It is with great honor that we can announce the upcoming release of a new scheduling system, one that is designed for all the ways that Curators use the NICE Challenges today!


Scheduling Types & Workspace Blocks*


The new scheduling system will introduce the concept of Scheduling Types. When redesigning scheduling, we concluded that if we were going to make a system that worked for all the new use cases, we needed to make more than one type of scheduling. Those who felt the previous scheduling system, Reservations, worked well for them, will be happy to know that it is now a scheduling type, Workspace Reservation*, and will continue to be available for use.


In addition to the previous scheduling type, we are introducing a new scheduling type, Workspace Blocks*. Workspace Blocks* are designed around the academic concepts of homework and assignments. They will offer a much more flexible means of providing Players access to Workspaces. When a Curator schedules a Workspace Block* they are asked to provide a Scheduling Window*, which is defined as a window of time (Min. 7 Days, Max 28 Days) where the associated Players may schedule their own one or two day Workspace Reservation*. Additionally, since Workspace Blocks* are designed as a means of assigning a NICE Challenge to a Player, they will have an additional period of time after the Scheduling Window* closes, called the Extended Window*, which will close after a couple of months. During the Scheduling Window* and Extended Window*, the Curator will be able to provide associated Players with an Extra Workspace* in order to complete a NICE Challenge they were unable to complete during their own scheduled workspace.


Workspace Block Example Graphic

While we believe these two scheduling types will work for all the ways we see the NICE Challenges being used today, we are not ruling out the addition of more scheduling types in the future.


Out with Reservation Limits & In with Workspace Credits*


The goal of Reservation Limits has always been to ensure regular access while balancing equity for all our users. Due to the flexibility and added complexity inherent in the new scheduling system, specifically the Workspace Block* scheduling type, we will no longer be able to achieve this goal with reservation limits. With the new scheduling system and all the use cases we are trying to support with it, limiting reservations will often feel too restrictive and would likely deter Curator’s from using Workspace Blocks*.


To empower the new scheduling system and Workspace Blocks* we are replacing Reservation Limits with Workspace Credits*. Each Workspace Credit* equates to Workspace access for a single day for a single user. Workspace Credits* will be used for all scheduling types on the NICE Challenge Platform once the new scheduling system has been released. While we have not yet settled on the default amount of Workspace Credits* a Curator is entitled to, we are targeting an amount that will ensure a Curator could use the NICE Challenges in two classes during the same academic term.


Platform Change Notice: Scheduling Credit Return & Allotment Changes


When the new Workspace scheduling system is released, we will be changing the scheduling currency from Reservation Credits to Workspace Credits*. The new scheduling system will provide a more flexible means for Curators to use the NICE Challenges at their institutions, while the new currency allows that system to work by more accurately and granularly reflecting shared resource capitalization.


To balance and preserve the equity of access in the new scheduling system, we are changing the default behavior of returning credits when a reservation begins to returning credits when a reservation ends. Additionally, when the new scheduling system is released, all Curators will be granted the default Workspace Credit* allotment.


*Preview Note: The names of preview systems, objects, and types are not final and may change upon release.


-- Published August 2021




If you wish to use the NICE Challenges and don't yet have a Curator account on our Webportal (currently limited to faculty/staff at U.S. educational institutions), use the link below to access our website and fill out the sign-up form to get started. We are always looking for feedback on our work!


As always, thank you for your interest! All of us in the NICE Challenge Development Team look forward to working with you to make the best platform, environments, and challenges to enable the cybersecurity workforce of the future.


NICE Challenge Project Links...

NICE Challenge Project Website - https://www.nice-challenge.com
NICE Challenge Webportal - https://portal.nice-challenge.com
NICE Challenge Helpdesk - https://nicechallenge.freshdesk.com