Ep 75: What is the plural of syllabus?

A few weeks ago I took part in Weekend Testing Europe, and I enjoyed it so much we did a whole episode on it! There is a blog post on the site that covers the scenario and discussions: http://weekendtesting.com/?p=4496

I was in Group C (the C stood for Cool): http://weekendtesting.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/WTEU73-Group-C.pdf

Our mission was to imagine we’d been granted permission to present a testing module within a university Computer Science course for a single semester (12 weeks of 1-hour classes), plus homework/assignments.

This didn’t give us a lot of time. I found there were a few immediate difficulties in coming up with a syllabus.

Where do you start?

Do we start with the philosophical stuff? Such as “What is testing?” or What is a tester?”. Or do we jump straight into the nitty gritty (Techniques, heuristics, etc)?

Honestly if someone had said to me that ‘Quality is value to some person’ then I wouldn’t know what that meant. Now obviously it makes sense to me, but I’m not sure it would’ve back then. YMMV and all that. To balance that you don’t want to go too deep and detailed too early, an overview and introduction is needed.

What don’t you include?

By choosing what you include you obviously don’t include some things, but there are also things you make a deliberate choice not to include. Do we give a flavour of the types of testing you can specialise in (security testing, performance testing, etc)?

There’s not enough time to cover all of it in any type of detail but a high level look at how varied testing is might be enough to give people an idea of what to look into more.

What do you include?

Everyone has a different testing role, and path into testing, which makes boiling testing down into a series of lectures difficult, but I think there are some core skills we can set down:

  • Communication
  • Thinking
  • The various flavours of testing
  • The role of automation
  • The role of manual/exploratory testing
  • Shift left and right

Things I didn’t include but considered:

  • Learning
    • They’ll be getting some of these skills by being at uni.
  • Code skills
    • This is part of a comp sci degree. Yes there will be differences in how to code tests but I feel the degree will give a good background.
  • Note taking.
    • While can be done as part of an assignment I feel, again, some of these skills come from uni.
  • Homework:
    • Practical
      • How to provide a good practical experience
        • Test real apps?
        • Test other programming student’s project work?
      • What experience to offer?
        • App?
        • Website?
        • API?
        • Mobile
    • Bug reports?
    • Testing notes
    • Non-practical
  • Resources out of the wazoo
    • Clear
    • Concise
    • Useful
    • Relevant

Challenges with this idea

There are several challenges with trying to create a module like this in reality:

  • How do we keep the module up-to-date? The industry moves extremely fast.
  • How do we balance keeping the content general but interesting? How do we improve awareness of specalised areas without having to go into detail?
  • How do we help improve awareness of testing? Modules such as this would only help those that attend univeristy and many testers don’t attend univeristy.
  • Do we even need a degree or module? We wouldn’t want to see such a module becoming a pre-requisite for testing and turning people away. Maybe even a strength in testing is that we have lots of people become testers from lots of different backgrounds.


  1. @halperinko - Kobi Halperin


    You start with QA (real Quality considerations not just testing),
    assuming this is part of CS studies than you do not need to add SW skills, nor the background of what’s a computer is made of….
    BTW – This is already happening in lot’s of universities – At least here in Israel ITCB volunteers managed to push these into more than 50% of the tracks – you can check the content of BGU where Dani Almog 1st started and made it very successful track many students seek to join.
    Hopefully it will reduce the question you indicated – of people coming with so many different backgrounds (although eventually that may also harm diversity of thinking).

    • letstalktests


      I’d be interested in what you mean by real quality considerations if you’d be willing to share?

      I like the idea that testers come from different backgrounds, I think it’s what makes the community so great, but I do wish it was easier to let people know what testing is earlier.

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