I remember reading about the Black Box Software Testing(BBST) courses a few years ago, but similar to Weekend Testing I never got around to actually signing up. However, the more I started following the testing community the more the BBST courses popped up. I wasn’t sure what to make of them, so I went looking for reviews and found Chris Kenst’s blog which has several related posts. I reached out to Chris on twitter to try and find out if the hype on these courses was true. I didn’t need much convincing but it was great to hear from someone first hand that they are worthwhile. So I paid my AST dues and signed up (ironically I almost got in a course where Chris was an instructor).


We start off, as so many classes do with the online meet and greet. Everybody posts an intro, and as you might expect in an online course you are obligated to respond to X number of posts as an assignment. From previous experiences in online courses I’m generally not a fan of mimicking physical class participation with forum participation, it often feels contrived. So as I was writing my first post I’m thinking here we go again….

Then I started reading other peoples posts. Immediately I realize that I underestimated this. It’s interesting to read people’s experiences in testing, and other people are responding with meaningful questions or comments. I had to go back and add more to my post in hopes I could put a better foot forward, I didn’t want to miss out.

### The Pace is fast
Then the real work starts. The course is only 4 weeks long, and while I had read that you should expect to put in 12 hours or more a week I didn’t believe it. Each week is split in 2 sections. What it feels like is 2 weeks of work in half the time. You can’t halfway do this, you’ll flat out be left behind. It’s intense, but in a good way. I think it forces you to engage and take the work seriously.

Before the class started I tweeted asking for any suggestions to prep for the course. I got some helpful advice from Elizabeth Zagroba who suggested I get started on the required and recommended reading. I read all the required reading before class began and I am so glad for that feedback. Its been a big help, both in being in the right mindset and easing some of the workload.

First Assignments

In addition to required readings, lecture, forum participation, and quiz this week the bulk of the work was a group assignment to create a test report. The assignment didn’t involve testing an actual program, we were broken up into teams representing different contexts and asked to create report that addresses your mission and strategy. I was a bit concerned about how group work would occur considering we have testers from all over world. We were provided a dedicated group forum and wiki to house the report, and a set of general guidelines for the report. It’s not like there was a template for the work, it was open ended and designed to force the group to think critically and make decisions about how to move forward. I think the challenge is that most of us are so used to prescriptive projects, either at work or in a class setting.

Once our group got started, I feel like we got into a good rhythm and the different perspectives made our report better and challenged my thoughts on the context.

The Community is real

An interesting twist on typical assignments is we are all expected to look at the other groups work and consider how the contexts differ and comment on our insights. I actually need to do some more review and commenting but I did get started and the conversations have been very interesting and engaging. As you might expect there are varying levels of participation, I’m pretty sure not all members of our group posted to our forum. People have a wide variety of competing interests, but so far this course really requires serious attention. I feel like I was definitely involved but I wish I could have put even more time into it.

This course is different

I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is, but I am hooked on this class. The forums will email you when posts come in and I found myself checking those emails more closely than my work emails. I love reading and posting in the forums. We are broken up into teams to work on an assignment, something I would normally cringe at in typical online classes but this is just different. Its really interesting to talk about how other people would approach problems. The assignment is completely relatable to real work situations and being intentionally broad it challenges you to think and communicate with your team which helps solidify your ideas.

I’m also taking an online computer science class right now and its been a struggle to juggle work, family time and the two classes. That said the computer science class doesn’t even compare to this, in fact I’ve been irritated at the time it has taken away from the BBST class.

So if you’re considering trying BBST foundations, so far its well worth it.

That’s enough for now, I have reading and commenting to do. See you next week for week 2 in review…