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The Software Testing Club recently put out an eBook called “99 Things You Can Do to Become a Better Tester“. Some of them are really general and vague. Some of them are remarkably specific.

My goal for the next few weeks is to take the “99 Things” book and see if I can put my own personal spin on each of them, and make a personal workshop out of each of the suggestions.
Suggestion #22: Take the Association for Software Testing “Black Box Software Testing” course(s) – Stephan Kämper
Standard Disclaimer time… I have very much a self serving interest to have people take the Black Box Software Testing (BBST) classes. For starters, I am (at the time of this writing) the Chair for the Education Special Interest Group with the Association for Software Testing. Long story short, I’m the Administrative head of this initiative. Would I love to have everyone who reads this become members of AST and pay to take the classes? Absolutely! Is that going to happen? Highly unlikely! 
I really do think they are incredibly valuable, and I also think they are well worth the money charged for them. However, for some, money and time are genuine issues, and for many, they want to know exactly what they are getting involved in before they plunk down a chunk of change to take a class.
Having said all that, I’ll also make something else clear… every concept, every lecture, every study note, and every exercise and reading that is part of the BBST series of classes can be accessed for free, on your own time, at your own pace, as much or as little as you want. If that sounds interesting, then please see the workshop details below:
Workshop #22: Read through and practice all of the materials available at http://testingeducation.org/BBST/
I will make no bones about it. The BBST courses are tough. They ask a lot of participants. They cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Were I to make any one suggestion to anyone looking to participate in taking an actual BBST class as we offer it, I would likewise say “spend some time reviewing all of the material as the BBST site. Watch all of the lectures. Read all of the readings. Consider all of the projects and labs. Practice all of them.” Why? Because you will understand the level of thinking and involvement that goes into the courses.
What will you not get with the BBST site? You do not get instructors who will coach and guide you. You will not get the quizzes or final exam questions to consider. Most important, you will not get a group of participants that you can interact with and share your experiences with, and receive feedback from. In truth, that is what you are paying for when you sign on to take a BBST course through AST (or through anyone else). 
For those who just want to peruse the materials and see what this “context-driven testing” stuff is all about, and the idea of taking a formal class doesn’t appeal to you, that’s fine. Read through the materials and learn that way. If the idea of interaction and sharing is high on your priority list, then having read through these materials first will give you a huge boost when the time come to actually take the class. It’s very likely that the individual experiences from each of the participants will add considerably to what you’ve learned, but having the baseline understanding first will, undoubtedly, make the experience easier to follow and meet in the time allotted for each class.
Bottom Line:

I think the BBST classes have great value, and I am happy to have been a participant and an Instructor for all of them, and look forward to doing so for a long time. Other instructors feel the same way, and we are here an ready to teach if you want to join us. Even if you don’t want a live class, please take the time to check out the materials and read what has been compiled over the years. 
If all you do is go through the materials on your own, and thoughtfully consider each of the lectures, lessons, labs, and readings, and take the time to work through each of the sections, I promise you will walk away with some great skills and a sense of better understanding where the context-driven approach of testing comes from. If you do choose to join us for the actual classes, then interactions with the other participants and their experiences (and yeah, a little boost from some live instructors) will help you learn a great deal more.
 

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