Way back that the beginning of the year I decided that this would be the year that I would make use of one of the benefits of AST Membership – taking the BBST Foundations course. It was getting close to the end of the year and so I felt like if I was going to keep the promise I made to myself I better sign up for the October offering of the course.

I’ve been in software testing for a few years now but I haven’t been an individual contributor tester for more than a decade. I haven’t taken a class of any kind since back in the 90′s and I have never taken an online course before. I also know that there’s some amount of tension between the movers and shakers in AST and Microsoft’s approach to software testing. So there were a lot of thoughts going through my head as I signed up for the course. I have to admit to feeling a little trepidation. But I signed up anyway. As it turned out, it was a great experience.

The format of the course is two lessons per week. Lessons basically consist of assigned and recommended reading, lectures on Video, sometimes there are exercises; alone or with other members of the class, and a quiz on the material for that week’s lesson. It ends up being a lot of work and by the end of the course I was averaging 2-3 hours of work on the class per night. It’s not easy!

There’s also a fair amount of self and peer assessment in the course. This was something that I wasn’t used to in my previous classwork. It turns out that this made things a lot more challenging and a lot more valuable. At least for me, this aspect of the course made me think very deeply about my work and the work of others in the class. The quizzes caused me a certain amount of frustration. The expected answers were not apparent to me and, while in some cases after the fact I could see the points they were trying to make, in some cases I really couldn’t agree with some of what they presented. One of the stengths of the AST community is that they are open to having their ideas challenged. I really like that aspect of the community.

The biggest part of the course is the final exam and, although it’s a closed book exam, students get a study guide that includes all the questions that will be on the final exam (plus many that won’t). The answers aren’t there, of course, but we were encouraged to post our answers to the questions online and collaborate with other students to prepare for the exam. In the last days before the exam, I spent a lot of time refining my answers to all the questions and learning from the answers other students had posted. The urgency of having to prepare for the exam and the collaboration with others helped me really learn a lot. I felt reasonably confident but suitably nervous as I started my answers on the final. The grading after the final was also a part of our performance in the class. That part felt like the debrief in some of the experiential classes I have taken in the past – a lot of learning happened there.

In the end, I passed the course. And I’m looking forward to taking the next course in the series, Bug Advocacy, next year.