22 November 2014

Report from a software testing education

(written in the middle of the night so you'll have to excuse any strange language or grammar)


I'm currently teaching a 1½ years software testing education. The education is situated in Örebro, Sweden, and there's a similar one in Malmö, where Martin Nilsson is the teacher. In this blog post, I just want to briefly describe the education since many have shown an interest in what Martin and I are doing. This post will not go into any depth about exercises or lectures so in case that's your only interest you'll have to wait. The plan is to cover individual subjects in separate blog posts.

The Education

The education has a clear context driven touch to it, which is no surprise considering the teachers and that the curriculum was created by Henrik Andersson. Since it's the first year its run the material is created in parallel with the education. This has turned out to be a lot of work for me and Martin but it's incredibly rewarding.

Teaching style

This is a vocational university education meaning the students are expected to acquire a high level of practical proficiency or, as I prefer to describe it: Become awesome testers. Our approach to achieve this has been to mix lectures, discussions, exercises and a lot practical testing. Exercises both include exercises closely related to testing (like the critical thinking exercise I've written about before) as well as exercises designed to teach some aspect in a more general way. I'll tell you more about the exercises in later posts.

A lot of emphasis has also been put on creating an atmosphere where students feel safe to stand up, ask questions, question material and even, at times, get cross-examined. Considering it's a class of 30 students that's quite a challenge but we're getting there and I must say students are doing their part of the job splendidly.

The Students

While on the topic; the students range from fresh high schoolers to people taking breaks from well paid jobs. So far the students have completely blown our minds! I had 1/3 of the class attending a local test meetup last week in their spare time, their school results are amazing, during the first course me and Martin had to up the tempo (compared to our plan) roughly with a factor of 4 to keep up with the students and there's no sign of anyone slowing down.

So far, just in Örebro, they've sent in test reports to two companies, reported bugs to two more and I'm planning a project with Securitas Direct where they will briefly be part of a live project (focus is on learning project contexts and improve their ability to test but showing off for a potential future employer is never bad as an added bonus). And in Malmö all students attended two days of Öredev (thanks to Maria Kedemo), but I'll leave it to Maria and Martin to talk more about that.

The Subjects

So far two courses are finished: Introduction to testing and Thinking like a tester. I will cover the content, outcome and lessons learned from those in separate posts. A third is underway: Project contexts and finally there's a Programming course before the year ends. Next semester there's Test methods, Test design and techniques, Test strategy, Bug reporting and the final semester consists of Test reporting, Tools and finally there's eight weeks of internship to round up the education.

The Content

How do you set up 20 hours of teacher-led education in 10-20 hours (sometimes in topics you have very limited experience in)? Well, first off, you don't; but together, me and Martin are slowly closing in on 40 hours a week. A few things I've learned:
  1. I created content ridiculously quick a few times and that quickly raised my general tempo (a bit like how you practice speed reading), so boring, but practice makes perfect.
  2. Since I don't have time to practice what I'm about to say I try to think about key points I want to make and never put more than one on each slide to help me stay focused,
  3. Use the community! Ask friends for help, get some coaching, copy or get inspired by other testers' exercises etc.
  4. Google image is your friend when you dislike text in slides!
  5. When designing my own exercises, I typically start with the one thing I want the students to learn (there are almost always added bonuses but I don't plan for those), From there I try to get to some context where this is very common and finally try to figure out a way to simulate this where I remove distractions or I try to find a way this can be isolated/highlighted while testing. I'll go into this in greater detail in later posts.
  6. I force myself to focus on what's important. I often get caught up in, for example, trying to find that one perfect image or real life example but I've learned if I can't find it in 1 minute I will unlikely find it in 30 so I need to (if not critical) reconsider what I'm looking for.
  7. I always strive for simple! It's tempting to show off by teaching the students unnecessary complicated things or making exercises overly delicate. They will forget a lot of what I say so time is, in my experience, better spent trying to teach them what's important, in an as clear and focused way as possible and repeating the key things over and over is typically good as long as you change approach (lectures, exercises, practical testing etc.).
  8. I often find that exercises can, after run once, be slightly tweaked to either cement what I've been trying to show/teach the students, let them use their new knowledge/test that they've learned from their mistakes or to teach another aspect. And tweaking an existing exercise is typically much less work that to find/figure out a new one!
Sources are anything from articles and books to blogs and experience (from testing, workshops etc.). Finding good, reliable sources is also an area where I've gradually improved. Stories seem to be easier to relate to so I try to use my own experiences as much as possible. To make sharing between me a Martin easier we typically create simple, elegant slides (one or a few images and avoiding text) with a lot of notes. This works well for us when presenting the other person's material as well as for students when they have to read up (speaking about the notes right now). I should say the fact I have a deaf student in my class also is a factor here. She asked me early on to write notes for the slides since she had problems looking at the slides, the interpreter and take notes at the same time. So she should have a lot of credit as well for the detailed notes.

There's no limit to what I could say about creating content but let's stop there.

Company contact

Being an education requested from companies in the area, it's pretty natural to have a close cooperation with them. So far I'm still building my testing network in Örebro (I live, and typically work, 12 kilometers away, in Linköping) but I'm getting there. The goal long term is to get students connected with various companies long before the internship starts. We'll see how that goal turns out.


If you keep reading about the education and think it sounds interesting keep the internship in mind as many students are open, or even actively seek, to work somewhere else than in Örebro. Mostly in Sweden (Gothenburg, Stockholm, Västerås, Karlskoga/Karlstad and Helsingborg) but also abroad such as Australia, Austria, USA (especially San Francisco and Columbus) and Russia, just contact me if you wanna know more or feel like you could use one of these students at your company. The internship doesn't start until October next year but never hurts to get the connection done well in advance.

Wrap up

So that's the boring part, next up is "Introduction to testing"; what, how and why we taught the students the things we did and what we (Martin and I) learned from giving this course.

By the way: The education use #YHTest on Twitter in case you want to see what the students have created (used sparsely so far).


  1. Hi Erik!
    If students are interested to do internship in Croatia, we are open for cooperation.
    Here is company link:
    My name is Karlo Smid, I am the company CEO. We are small company of two, and software testing is our business.
    I regularly blog at zagorskisoftwaretester.blogspot.com.

    Regards, Karlo.

  2. Erik - keep up the good work!

    There is nothing finer in the world than being a teacher and the students are lucky to have you.

    Best of luck!

  3. So great and rewarding to find a job you enjoy and are passionate about. I will definitely keep YHTest in mind if any future opportunities such as internships etc. Keep up the good work!

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