Are time and financial worries keeping students away?

Second in a series.

In my previous post, I wrote about enhancing the student and instructor experience in the AST’s BBST courses by focusing on updating the Fieldstones. Today, I’m talking about another area I would like to concentrate on if elected to the Board of Directors: finding ways to make the BBST courses accessible to more people.

When I say “make the BBST courses accessible to more people,” I’m not implying that the courses are in any way exclusive (other than requiring students to be members of the AST) or elitist. What I do mean is there are many reasons people are unable to take the BBST courses, and I think it would benefit the AST, and better help it to achieve its objectives, if we were to look into what those reasons are and find ways to resolve them.

One of the more common obstacles I see involves the time commitment required to succeed in the courses. One of our guiding principles is that we view software testing as a cognitively complex activity that requires critical thinking, effective communication, and rapid self-directed learning. To me, that means the BBST student needs to go beyond merely remembering or understanding the material the course presents. Using the language of Bloom’s Taxonomy, I believe the goal is for the student to not only apply what they learn in the course, but use it to create something new, critically examine information and make judgments, and take information apart and explore relationships. That, admittedly, takes time, and the general guideline for the AST’s BBST courses is to allow roughly 10 to 12 hours per week for study.

But I think many people who have taken a BBST course can agree the study guideline is really the minimum suggested time allotment, and students can, and often do, spend much more time on the course to get the most out of it. This can be a problem because everyone has limited time (BBST students are no exception!) and other commitments, such as work and family or community and charitable involvement, are all vying for that limited time. 

Another common obstacle is financial. Although the courses are reasonably priced, especially when compared to similar training options, there are those for which it can be a bit costly. Do we want to adjust the price of the course, award scholarships, or give a student discount as we do with membership fees? There are many ways that this can be addressed, each with its own intricacies and issues. 

So, what do we do?

I believe we need to initially spend time to identify some of the more common obstacles to BBST participation, and then work collectively to find ways to lower or remove those obstacles. 

Because, the BBST courses are an essential and integral part of what the AST brings to the community, and changes of this nature can have wide-ranging and unanticipated consequences, I think this effort needs to involve more than just the Board of Directors and the Education Committee, and should include involvement by the general AST membership as well.