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Karel De Smet
Karel De Smet

Posted on • Originally published at kareldesmet.be

Course review: "Introduction to software testing" (Coursera)

A couple of months ago, I took a course on Coursera named "Introduction to software testing", which is a part of the "Software testing and automation" specialization. And I'd like to add my 2 cents.

Before we dive in, I'll TL;DR it for you:

The good:

  • Theoretical concepts are properly explained.
  • Provides a solid foundation for future learning about software testing.
  • Knowledgeable instructors from a respected university.

The bad:

  • Interaction with students and teachers is next to nothing.
  • Course content feels outdated or out of place at times.

Although I'm not the biggest fan, you can't blame this course for not doing what it says on the tin: provide an introduction to software testing. It touches on a fair amount of theoretical concepts which testers should understand. And even developers will find there's a lot in it for them.

The theory behind testing

Module 1 starts off by answering the questions "What is a test?", "Why should we test?" and "How can we test well?". The course then discusses the differences between validation and verification, and progresses towards the V-Model.

Although a strict application of the V-Model is perhaps rather unusual, being conscious of it is still beneficial towards a better understanding of software testing.

In the second module, topics such as dependability, structural testing, mutation testing and error-prone aspects (null pointers, boundaries ...) are also brought up.

Up to here, I was very enthusiastic. There's a lot of valuable information in these two modules. Even more for testers who don't have a background in software engineering, such as myself.

Test plan(ning)

However, the third module is where I started to feel lost. Some advice from the videos is definitely actionable (e.g. "also document what can not be tested"), but the content here feels outdated and too comprehensive. More specifically, the part about defect reporting seems like something I could've made in half an hour of browsing through JIRA tickets.

To make matters worse, the exercise we were given was an absolute mess. You are asked to draft a test plan for a fictional application by applying what you've learned, then submit it for review by your fellow students. I'm sorry to say that the requirements of the application under test make it feel like we're back at MS-DOS. Hello, 2020?!

After submission, you're also asked to review test plans from other students, using a list of multiple choice questions (e.g. "does the test plan include information about X?"). Unfortunately, based on the examples I've seen, a lot of students don't take the exercise (both writing and reviewing) serious and just want to make it through. I also seriously doubt whether the grading system truly evaluated the quality of a submission.

Writing unit tests

The fourth and final module covers writing unit tests (JUnit, Mockito) and code coverage (JaCoCo). You're asked to write unit tests and these should cover a specific percentage of the code and reveal the bugs in the code you were given. These assignments are graded via automated scripts, which is a fairly good process and I really enjoyed working on this.

Despite my enjoyment, it didn't feel like the right time and place for practical exercises about unit tests. Neither is it detailed enough to really grasp unit testing. Shouldn't this be incorporated into another course of this specialization?

Conclusion

I would very much recommend the first and second module of this course. But the third and fourth module just didn't feel right.

That holds me back from taking the next course in the specialization, which currently also has a lower review score. When you add the lack of interaction with other students and teachers, it's not encouraging me to continue. But it was well worth the effort!

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