Research Funding and Advisory Board for the Black Box Software Testing (BBST) Course

Summary: With some new NSF funding, we are researching and revising BBST to make it more available and more useful to more people around the world. The course materials will continue to be available for free. If you are interesting in joining an advisory board that helps us set direction for the course and the research surrounding the course, please contact me, describing your background in software-testing-related education, in education-related research, and your reason(s) for wanting to join the Board.

Starting as a joint project with Hung Quoc Nguyen in 1993, I’ve done a lot of development of a broad set of course materials for black box software testing. The National Science Foundation approved a project (EIA-0113539 ITR/SY+PE “Improving the Education of Software Testers) that evolved my commercial-audience course materials for an academic audience and researched learning issues associated with testing. The resulting course materials are at, with lots of papers at and The course materials are available for everyone’s use, for free, under a Creative Commons license.

During that research, I teamed up with Rebecca Fiedler, an experienced teacher (now an Assistant Professor of Education at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute, Indiana, and also now my wife.) The course that Rebecca and I evolved turned traditional course design inside out in order to encourage students’ involvement, skill development and critical thinking. Rather than using class time for lectures and students’ private time for activities (labs, assignments, debates, etc.), we videotaped the lectures and required students to watch them before coming to class. We used class time for coached activities centered more on the students than the professor.

This looked like a pretty good teaching approach, our students liked it, and the National Science Foundation funded a project to extend this approach to developing course materials on software engineering ethics in 2006. (If you would like to collaborate with us on this project, or if you are a law student interested in a paid research internship, contact Cem Kaner.)

Recently, the National Science Foundation approved Dr. Fiedler’s and my project to improve the BBST course itself, “Adaptation & Implementation of an Activity-Based Online or Hybrid Course in Software Testing.” With funding running from October 1, 2007 through 2010, our primary goals are:

  • develop and sustain a cadre of academic, in-house, and commercial instructors via:
    • creating and offering an instructor orientation course online;
    • establishing an ongoing online instructors’ forum; and
    • hosting a number of face-to-face instructor meetings
  • offer and evaluate the course at collaborating research sites (including both universities and businesses)
  • analyze several collections of in-class activities to abstract a set of themes / patterns that can help instructors quickly create new activities as needed; and
  • extend instructional support material including grading guides and a pool of exam questions for teaching the course.

All of our materials—such as videos, slides, exams, grading guides, and instructor manuals—are Creative Commons licensed. Most are available freely to the public. A few items designed to help instructors grade student work will be available at no charge, but only to instructors.

Several individuals and organizations have agreed to collaborate in this work, including:

  • AppLabs Technologies. Representative: Geetha Narayanan, CSQA, PMP; Shyam Sunder Depuru.
  • Aztechsoft. Representative: Ajay Bhagwat.
  • The Association for Software Testing. Representative: Michael Kelly, President.
  • AST is breaking the course into several focused, online, mini-courses that run 1 month each. The courses are offered, for free, to AST members. AST is starting its second teaching of the Foundations course this week. We’ll teach Bug Advocacy in a month. As we develop these courses, we are training instructors who, after sufficient training, will teach the course(s) they are trained to teach for AST (free courses) as well as at their school or company (for free or fee, as they choose).

  • Dalhousie University. Representative: Professor Morven Gentleman.
  • Huston-Tillotson University, Computer Science Department. Representative: Allen M. Johnson, Jr., Ph.D.
  • Microsoft. Representative: Marianne Guntow.
  • PerfTest Plus. Representative: Scott Barber.
  • Quardev Laboratories. Representative: Jonathan Bach.
  • University of Illinois at Springfield, Computer Sciences Program. Representative: Dr. Keith W. Miller.
  • University of Latvia. Representative, Professor Juris Borzovs.

If you would like to collaborate on this project as well:

  1. Please read our research proposal.
  2. Please consider your ability to make a financial commitment. We are not asking for donations (well, of course, we would love to get donations, but they are not required) but you or your company would have to absorb the cost of travel to Board of Advisor meetings and you would probably come to the Workshop on Teaching Software Testing and/or the Conference of the Association for Software Testing. Additionally, teaching the course at your organization and collecting the relevant data would be at your expense. (My consultation to you on this teaching would be free, but if you needed me to fly to your site, that would be at your expense and might involve a fee.) We have a little bit of NSF money to subsidize travel to Board of Advisor meetings ($15,000 total for the three years) so we can subsidize travel to a small degree. But it is very limited, and especially little is available for corporations.
  3. Please consider your involvement. What do you want to do?
    • Join the advisory board, help guide the project?
    • Collaborate on the project as a fellow instructor (and get instructor training) ?
    • Come to the Workshop on Teaching Software Testing?
    • Help develop a Body of Knowledge to support the course materials?
    • Participate as a lecturer or on-camera discussant on the video courses?
    • Other stuff, such as …???
  4. Send me a note, that covers 1-3, introduces you and describes your background and interest.

The first meeting of the Advisory Board is January 17, 2008, in Melbourne, Florida. We will host the Workshop on Teaching Software Testing (WTST 2008) from January 18-20. I’ll post a Call for Participation for WTST 2008 on this blog tomorrow.

One Response to “Research Funding and Advisory Board for the Black Box Software Testing (BBST) Course”

  1. Dr Meeta Prakash says:

    Hi Cem

    I will be interested to join.