This is a post that should’ve been written long time ago, but here we are. Better late than never, I guess.
I participated on January, 2014 on my second BBST Foundations course and this was arranged by Altom. I had already been on the same course by AST on Autumn, 2012. Courses had similarities, but also differences. I will mention those in this post.
Do note though that it’s been almost two years since my AST BBST Foundations course and also about half year from the one by Altom. I don’t know how much AST course has evolved since then, so I can comment only the one I attended.
BBST Foundations Courses?
When I mentioned on Twitter that I was participating to BBST Foundations course, first responses assumed I meant the one by AST. I actually don’t know how many are aware that there are also commercial ones being arranged.
So, what are the BBST Foundations courses?
I could share that information here, but I rather recommend that you check their websites (where the information will be more up to date):
In a higher level both courses had these four topics:
- the mission of testing
- the oracle problem
- the measurement problem
- the impossibility of complete testing
I think it’s good to also mention that my understanding has been that Altom doesn’t have privilege for arranging the commercial BBST Foundations course. I’ve understood that one can negotiate this with Cem Kaner and Rebecca Fiedler.
Why Did I Participate Again For The Course?
After I had been on the AST BBST Foundations course, I wrote a blog post about it. It was extremely hard for me then. I provided examples of that on the post:
In the end I was sleeping on the average 4-6 hours per night and it started to eat me inside. Actually now that I had first Monday since the course ended, I overslept 4,5 hours this morning and I thought if my body just decided to take the sleep debt I had kept building.
One might wonder why I decided to participate again for a course that was extremely hard? There were couple reasons:
- Cem Kaner as lead instructor
- Possibility to have interactive grading with Cem Kaner
- Updated course material (BBST Workbook)
- Challenging project was beginning at the same time as the course, so the course was a good way to refresh my thoughts on the subject
Besides those reasons I had also decided that I will not sacrifice my sleeping time this time. I wanted to sleep at least 7 hours a night and I think I managed to hold on to that fairly well.
What Were The Differences Between The Two Courses I Attended?
While the slides of the both (AST & Altom) courses seem the same, there was the BBST Workbook on Altom’s course that helped students to get more value from the course. Considering that it’s being sold in Amazon, I’d imagine you can benefit from it in future, whether the course is arranged by AST or Altom.
Other difference was that Cem Kaner was actively participating to the course by Altom and also provided interactive grading for first ten registered students. Others received also interactive grading, but with other instructors (Ru Cindrea, Maaret Pyhäjärvi & Alex Rotaru). In the course by AST students were reviewing each others exams & instructors weren’t that involved with students discussions as Cem were at Altom course.
The main feeling after Altom’s course was that Cem was the key difference when comparing the courses. He provided a ton of valuable feedback during the course for students who were answering to challenging questions. I still have many of those answers on my Evernote.
While it’s been almost two years from AST course, I felt that it was lacking a mentor or coach who would give feedback to majority of the students. I recall that they tried to help students but it was far from the level of feedback Cem provided on the Altom’s course.
I did felt though that there were more collaboration & assignments on AST’s course and also group assignments that involved communicating with others via e.g. Skype.
Which Should You Choose?
Considering the things I’ve said, I think you need to think which one suits you best. I’ll share few thoughts though.
If you’re on a strict budget, AST’s ($125 + $30 to $95 depending if your student or not) is significantly cheaper than Altom’s (~$811 + VAT).
I have to admit though that Cem’s presence on Altom’s course had a huge impact on its value for the students. While we are all humans, the vast amount of experience and knowledge behind every answer by Cem, provided valuable feedback to each student. When you added there the interactive grading session I had with him (almost 2 hours on Skype), I felt I had more guidance on the course, compared to one I had 2 years ago via AST. This proved to be valuable as I understood the purpose of one question in exam. I wouldn’t have understood it without the interactive grading session.
Also, as far as I’ve understood, Kaner, Fiedler & Associates, LLC, has access to latest materials. This means that these commercial courses will have in the future more up to date material.
In the end both of the courses are great, because they challenge a lot your thinking and let you see how diverse approaches people have for same problems. If you’re planning to participate to either of those, I recommend both of them. While keeping in mind what I said earlier.