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Strangling the life out of Software Testing

 

I recently did a course at the local university on Software Engineering. At the beginning of the course I looked over the outline of the subject and there seemed to be some really good content. It covered traditional & agile project methodologies, some general communication and modelling chapters and finished off with testing. I was particularly excited to see the section on testing as this was something I learnt on my own and see great value in.

The course has now just ended and I am very disappointed. I now know one of the reasons why so few people i.e. in my region do Test Driven Development, or perform even basic testing methodologies. The topic was to academic! Yes, you might be able to list 4 different types of black box test approaches vs. white box test approaches and describe the characteristics of Smoke Tests, but never during course did we see an example of an actual test or how it might be implemented! In fact, if I did not have personal experience of applying testing in actual projects, I wouldn’t even know what a unit test looked like.

Now, what worries me is the following…

It took us 6 months to cover the course material, other students more than likely came out of that course with little appreciation of the subject – in fact they now have a very complex view of what a test is – so complex that I think most of them will never attempt it again on their own.

Secondly, imagine studying to be a dentist without ever actually seeing a tooth? Yes, you might be able to describe a tooth, and know what it is made out of – but nobody would want a dentist who has never seen a tooth to operate on them. Yet somehow we expect people studying software engineering to do the same? This is not right.

Now, before I finish my rant let me say that I know this is not the same everywhere in the world, and that there needs to be a balance on practical implementation and academic understanding – I am just disappointed that this does not seem to be happening at the institution that I am currently studying at ;-(

Please, if you happen to be a lecturer or teacher reading this post – a combination of theory and practical's goes a long way. We need to up the quality of software being produced and that starts at learner level!

Print | posted on Wednesday, November 21, 2012 1:24 PM | Filed Under [ Misc ]

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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

To me, just another example of the massive gap between academia and industry.
Out of interest, what was the quality of the material on agile like, based on your experience?
11/21/2012 2:23 PM | Joshua Lewis
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

Yes, totally agree with you Joshua. The material on agile was correct, but uninspiring... when you read some industry material on agile I want to go and write code, when you read a textbook on agile I want to go to sleep!
11/21/2012 4:04 PM | Mark Pearl
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

Have taught undergraduate and graduate courses in computer science. My experience is that 75% of students will not accept the rigor required to learn the subject for industrial application. Colleges rate adjuncts on student surveys and absolutely will not support the faculty. Instead, they insist that the faculty water down the courses so that it looks like more people are passing, and so that student surveys give higher ratings. Full-time faculty are not rated on how well they teach but on other agendas that do not have much to do with education.

There is much greed in industry, that is certainly true. But, one factor that is driving jobs overseas and firing the call for more H1B Visas is the lack of ability, desire, and energy of our own population. Our "educational" institutions are feeding this trend, as is our own government. When you hear such statements as "Every child deserves a degree", that is just fostering institutions that essentially run printing presses. I do believe that every child deserves the opportunity to earn a degree but that degree has to be earned from an institution with a reputation for rigor.
11/22/2012 3:12 PM | Jack Simmons
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

Hi Jack

Thanks for the great comment!
11/22/2012 4:02 PM | Mark Pearl
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

Try the Software Testing online Udacity course:
http://www.udacity.com/overview/Course/cs258/CourseRev/1

You will learn something!
11/22/2012 4:53 PM | Jean-Victor Côté
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

I took some college programming courses about 10 years ago and had a really passionate professor on the subject. I was talking to him one day and he said that he wanted to teach C++ but the institution's owner had some money tied up in Java so that's what the professor was forced to use. With that said, it isn't always the professor's fault that teaching isn't getting done properly (of course sometimes it is), it's that their hands are tied... and they can't really do anything about it. :(
11/22/2012 6:38 PM | Nathan Warden
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

You took a course that didn't cover testing very well: Bummer

People don't expect anything from software engineers except working code. If they don't learn to test, no one will want their software.

If the curriculum doesn't work out - just shop for another class or teacher.

I don't know any of the terms you used for testing except maybe unit testing - but regardless of how you categorize your tests or the nomenclature you use: Test often and automate tests where you can graphically or otherwise as appropriate.

Good Luck
11/23/2012 7:58 AM | Jason P Sage
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

This sounds like coursework for an IT management degree, but certainly not for a software development or computer science program. They might just maybe be excused if the didn't intend this course for programmers, but only for business management majors.

That said, there is a lot of variation in quality of IT courses. If you went to a for-profit, continuing education-type university, this is the low quality I would expect. If they did this at a state university or private college, they should be ashamed of themselves.
11/24/2012 12:45 AM | SeattleC++
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

I have been in software development for over 20 years and keep up with new technologies. IT depends on hype for marketing and ,,Yes the latest hype is Agile and TDD...and the Cloud. I have always used what I call FSDD - functional spec driven development ie you write a description/blueprint of what the system should do then you produce the code (the whole point) that actually does what the spec says and unit test against your spec as you go along. So the spec drives the actual end result which is shippable code/application/product, just like building a house. TDD is for people who don't know what they are doing. As for Agile, I was using Agile long before it got hyped up. Long time ago people used to write project plans and tried to predict activities 6 or months ahead. Not possible! Better to build an application up in short manageable steps , say 2/3 weeks with a definite result. This is essentially Agile and that other piece of jargon "continuous integration".
11/24/2012 9:00 PM | HMC
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

"TDD is for people who don't know what they are doing."

I agree. That's why I try to use it as often as possible.
11/25/2012 3:28 PM | Kevin Trethewey
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

This is a classic example of "Come to us, we have cookies!" but afterwards you realize that the only thing you got is some stale bread.

But at least you got a nice foundation to build upon. I know that without practice, the theory is useless, but think that you could apply the theory you learn in class, in the project you work at home :)
3/15/2013 9:38 AM | Adrian@tester
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# re: Strangling the life out of Software Testing

This is a classic example of "Come to us, we have cookies!" but afterwards you realize that the only thing you got is some stale bread.

But at least you got a nice foundation to build upon. I know that without practice, the theory is useless, but think that you could apply the theory you learn in class, in the project you work at home :)
3/26/2013 11:45 AM | AdrianC
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