Well that must be the least catchiest title I’ve used thus far, at least its specific to the BBST course.
This week I celebrated completing and passing the Black Box Software Testing (BBST) course, hurrah, this is a four week intensive course on the fundamentals of software testing. Don’t get fooled by the title there’s some White Box Testing there as well and some particularly hard maths, (for me at least) involving program loops and paths through a program.
When I started the BBST course I was full of enthusiasm and energy with eagerness to start, after the initial welcomes and preliminary tasks, I immediately started to immerse myself in to the program. The first problem I encountered was understanding the dates when assignments and quizzes needed to be completed by. I had a printout which clearly stated these dates, but for some foolish reason I got the deadline for the second quiz wrong and missed it. I’d even had a conversation on twitter with Julie Hurst who had said it was due on Saturday, but did I listen, no? I then instantly felt like a fool how could I have got something so obviously wrong; call yourself a tester? Pah!
Another issue which was apparent at the start was the format for the course material using Moodle, all course material was there for you to peruse at your leisure, so you have a chance to get ahead of the game. This is advantageous, however it does at first cause an information overload and I did feel somewhat overwhelmed at the start until I get more acclimatised with it.
On this particular topic Geoff Loken has also commented in his review of the course; ANARCHY IN THE AST, with a much catchier title than my posting.
Furthermore I found the forums very difficult to navigate with regards to keeping up to date with new posts. New post where supposed to be highlighted, however during the first week I discovered that this feature was intermittent and couldn’t be relied upon as many posts where not highlighted at all. I’d subscribed to all forums but still the problem persisted, so I then had to rely on the flurry of emails to track of others comments.
Next problem, don’t worry I’ll get to the good points soon, was the group work. As I’ve already mentioned all assignments had deadlines, you had two submission dates a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays, not Sundays. First we have students contributing to the course based all around the world, with this being an online course, so midnight for me could be 8 hours before or after in the UK. Secondly, and this for me was the most frustrating part, was that people like to work at their own pace, this meant that obviously some waited until the very last minute before contributing.
In the past I’ve usually been one of those people, but I was determined that wouldn’t happen this time around. With one particular assignment, with five people in the group, only two people seemed to be contributing with two days to go. I got quite irritable and frustrated with this, to the point where I nearly threw in the towel, not with the course but with that assignment. Not wanting to be overly negative, the others did finally contribute, but a little too late to stop me making a frustrated comment in the forums. For which I still have double feelings about. On one hand I think it was unacceptable when working in a group to not contribute until the last minute. I also realise other people have other commitments and do leave their work to the last minute. Still I think it’s inconsiderate, so I just submitted what I’d done and moved on to the next assignment in a huff.
Now let’s have some positivity here shall we?
Although there was a vast amount of material to get through during the BBST course I consumed it with zest and every spare moment I had during the course was spent reading, taking notes, doing assignments, quizzes and responding to forum threads. I couldn’t get enough; I probably spent on average 30 hours a week however I didn’t see this as a problem as I was so enthusiastic. I actually retained this enthusiasm throughout the whole four weeks. Some people on the course did mention the amount of work that was required and asked how others where coping with it. There was a suggestion that it should be extended to 6 to 8 weeks, I don’t agree with that as I think 4 weeks was perfect to be able to keep the momentum going. For me if it was longer I think I may have reverted to leaving submission of assignments to the last minute and maybe not reading all the materials that were recommended let alone the required materials.
The general format of the BBST course is quite freeform and encourages the students to interact with each other and discuss topics amongst themselves with intermittent interactions from the instructors who are mainly there to guide you down the right road rather than just tell you the answers. Having said that about the answers, there are key things that you need to know to be able to discuss with other, but I wouldn’t say there is one definitive answer to most of the questions or assignments. There are many varied interpretations so there are not really any perfect answers. These discussions proved fruitful as they mostly always gave you very different insights on different ways of approaching a problem and added to your knowledge base.
The BBST course also has quizzes, which fortunately are not compulsory or go towards your overall course work and thus are not used to determine if you have passed or failed. Which is good for me, not only did I miss the deadline of one, but my overall score for the four quizzes I did was just under 50%, I’d have failed an ISTQB course with that mark, thankfully the BBST course is not based on 40 multiple choice questions. This course is about challenging what you currently think you know about testing and adding significantly to that knowledge base to hopefully make you a more improved tester, that thinks, really thinks about what they are doing.
I can’t recommend the BBST course highly enough, if you’re interested in improving your testing skills and backing that up with testing knowledge this course is a must for any tester who wants to become a great tester. On its own it won’t make you a great tester, much like no one study program will, but it’s a perfect foundation to build from.