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 (Assignments)

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!

Assignments & Scheduling Types

The new scheduling system (Assignments) 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, Simultaneous Workspaces, and will continue to be available for use.

In addition to the previous scheduling type, we are introducing a new scheduling type, Player-Scheduled Workspaces. Player-Scheduled Workspaces 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 an Assignment that uses Player-Scheduled Workspaces they are asked to define the Assignment Phase, 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. Additionally, since Assignments using Player-Scheduled Workspaces are designed as a means of assigning a NICE Challenge to a Player, they will have an additional period of time after the Assignment Phase closes, called the Make-Up Phase, which will close 16 weeks after the start of the Assignment Phase. During the Assignment Phase and the Make-Up Phase, 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.

Player-Scheduled Workspace Example Graphic

Image Note: Workspace Block was renamed to Assignment Phase at release.

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 Seat 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 Player-Scheduled Workspaces 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 Player-Scheduled Workspaces.

To empower the new scheduling system and Player-Scheduled Workspaces we are replacing Reservation Limits with Seat Credits. Each Seat Credit equates to Workspace access for a single day for a single user. Seat 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 Seat 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 & Default Balance Changes

When the new Workspace scheduling system is released, we will be changing the scheduling currency from Reservation Credits to Seat 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 new default Seat Credit balance.

-- 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 -
NICE Challenge Webportal -
NICE Challenge Helpdesk -