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!