Last month the Association for Software Testing (AST) announced a new partnership with Altom, the owner of BBST®, that enables the AST to refresh our curriculum lineup with the new BBST® Community Track and help fund the future growth of the materials. This partnership and refresh are a huge milestone for the AST.
For some perspective: Cem Kaner developed the BBST courses over a long period of time, starting with Hung Nguyen in the 90s. In the 2000s after Cem Kaner was recruited to Florida Institute of Technology he and Becky Fielder received grants from the National Science Foundation to adapt them into online courses. Some time later Cem began collaborating with the AST to teach and develop the courses further. Those courses became known as AST-BBST to differentiate the way they developed and were taught (by passionate volunteers). Eventually Cem formed his own company, developed BBST® further and sold it to Altom after he retired.
BBST® classes are well known for their depth of core testing knowledge and focus on improving through peer review work. That’s great for students but frankly it’s a maintenance challenge. Long before I started with the AST the problem has been, how do we properly maintain and evolve the materials and classes?
In 2018, right after the results of our election to the board, Simon Peter Schrijver and I began brainstorming on how we could address some of the long standing issues with AST-BBST. Over the years of teaching we’d heard and experienced a number of complaints including hard to play videos, outdated materials and a difficult to use hosting provider. We felt it was reasonable to address a small subset of problems early on to gain traction. This was our goal:
- Clean up and rebrand the slides
- Change system under test for AST-BBST Bug Advocacy
- Upgrade our teaching platform
Fast forward to 2020 and we’d made significant progress. Simon and I wrote an article with the intent of publishing an update on the progress we were making. Then the Altom partnership happened and things paused.
Nearly two years later we are close to making good on those three promises.
The slides for AST-BBST Bug Advocacy and Foundations have been modernized and we’ve gotten rid of all of the old, stale content. We’ve adjusted some lessons and updated a number of the visuals to bring them into the modern age. Meanwhile the same is nearly done for Test Design. We see this as the first steps in hopefully making the static content more readable and consumable. We love the work Cem did, but his slides look like they were put together by a professor (they were!) and aren’t as easy to understand as they could be.
We also updated AST-BBST Bug Advocacy to use LibreOffice as the application under test. With a rich open source community participants get to contribute to the LibreOffice project by helping to review and improve unconfirmed bug reports.
Finally we’ve started work to upgrade our Moodle platform and bring it into a more modern age. We are close to pushing some minor visual updates that allow for better mobile and tablet access. This, however, is a much bigger project that will require more iterations of changes as we figure out how to leverage some of the tools built into the platform such as calendars for easier tracking of due dates.
In keeping with the open source nature of the AST-BBST materials we’ve launched a new site to host and contribute back the changes we are making in our classes. This way anyone who would like to use the new materials created by the AST can. We also think this site might also eventually address a potential self-study version for those who might not want to take an instructor-led version.
Simon Peter Schrijver
This article outlines the many improvements the AST-BBST materials have over the original creative commons BBST® materials (which are available at the original Florida Tech site, free for anyone to use). We knew it was a good idea to also keep those updates in creative commons license and give them back to the community, so we:
The AST/Altom partnership allows BBST® to address 2 distinct customer segments in a more fun and effective way than any certification schemes:
- Altom offers full commercial programs classes taught by professional instructors. Students get individualized feedback you’d expect from a commercial course. Corporations looking to offer training to their employees should look here.
- The AST offers instructor-supported classes run by our volunteers at an affordable price for most developed countries. Class wide feedback is the norm but you’ll rely more on your peers for review and grading than instructors.
This is all great but what about those materials the AST spent time updating? Well it turns out there’s a 3rd customer segment neither Altom nor the AST serves: Self taught individuals in developing countries. I’m thinking of places like India and the Philippines where even a few hundred USD is far too costly for your average tester.
By making our changes creative commons licensed and public (good forward thinking), this gives the testing community MORE access to great content to learn from and hopefully incorporate into their own teaching.
Better Tester Training Materials
The AST’s mission is to advance the understanding of the profession and we continue to do this through better tester education. As I said above, this partnership and refresh are a huge milestone but not solely for the AST.
We’ve put a lot of effort into making these materials nice and we encourage you to use them however you see fit. If you are interested in growing yourself or others as software testers, I challenge you to take a look and find a way to leverage the work we’ve done to make your lives better.