UBC courses to focus on testing, quality assurance

The University of British Columbia is partnering with Vancouver’s QA Labs to give the local software industry a boost of testing and quality assurance expertise.

The school

will offer a specialization track in testing and quality assurance as part of the software engineering certificate program through 160 hours of courses developed with QA Labs, a local software quality assurance company.

Wayne Peters, program leader for software engineering at UBC, said the new specialization, beginning in January, includes courses on configuration management, strategic test analysis and advanced test automation.

“The quality assurance people tend to be the ‘policeman’ on a project, making sure things are adequately tested and everything is up to quality,” said Peters. “If they want to play that kind of a role on a project they would need the quality assurance track.”

Peters said the specialization was developed in response to industry demand, and a “terrific volume” of people looking for more focused quality assurance and testing training.

“There’s a need in the industry to update the quality assurance and testing standards, and they saw that this track would be one way to produce people that are able to fulfill these new roles,” said Peters.

Trevor Atkins, vice-president of operations at QA Labs, said the company has been working with UBC since 2000 on its curriculum, and began talking to the school in January about doing something bigger.

“I think this is going to be of benefit to a lot of people that may not otherwise take the software engineering certificate, because it does seem to focus more on the project management and development side,” said Atkins.

While Kwantlen University College and the British Columbia Institute of Technology do offer some courses, Atkins said they tend to be longer-haul and not the part-time/course at a time option offered by UBC.

The curriculum QA Labs is developing with UBC will be designed to be highly practical, Atkins added, and relevant to someone already working in the software industry.

“There will be a higher focus on in-class exercises and homework assignments that students can take back to their companies,” said Atkins.

For QA Labs, Atkins said in addition to the recognition of their expertise, developing the course material with UBC will help them capture some of their own best practices, raise the skill level of the local testing community and possibly provide future employees down the road.

However, within the local software industry there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on the need for more people trained in quality assurance. David Koo, vice-president of software development for Vancouver’s Ekkon Technologies, said having some knowledge of quality assurance is certainly important for a software developer, but at Ekkon quality assurance and development are really two separate areas.

“I’d say the experience in software development lifecycle is more so what we look for then experience in quality assurance, though quality assurance is definitely part of that,” said Koo.

Still, Koo said he sees value in having courses that focus on quality assurance, something he said has been lacking. A graduate of Simon Fraser University, Koo said quality assurance wasn’t a focus there.

“Quite often it’s just one of those things you pick up and learn through experience,” said Koo. “A lot of them started out in applications support or another area and migrated to quality assurance. It’s definitely not seen as a core discipline.”

At Vancouver’s Intrinsyc Software International Inc., human resources manager David Desormeaux is currently in the midst of a recruitment campaign. It won’t include quality assurance, though. The company has just one person who focuses solely on quality assurance, with that function largely being a responsibility of the development staff themselves.

Desormeaux said he’s been recruiting for a number of years with different software companies and he’s never had trouble filling a quality assurance position.

“It’s an easy position to transition to out of university, or if you maybe have technical expertise in a certain area,” said Desormeaux. “I have resumes coming in all the time from quality assurance people that I can’t use because we’re not currently looking for them.”

As for it being a useful skill for a software developer to have, Desormeaux said he places more importance on development and applications experience then on quality assurance.

“If I had a resume from a person with five years of quality assurance and one year of development, and a resume from someone with two years of development, I’d tend to be more interested in the second,” said Desormeaux.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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