Learning by doing: developing the next generation of software quality assurance professionals

Dave Towey, Sen Yang, Zhihao Ying, Zhi Quan Zhou, Tsong Yueh Chen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

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Purpose – The discipline of computer science (CS) has seen a surge in
popularity in education, with student demand the highest it has been for many
years. A reason for this enthusiasm may be linked to the recent growth of the
industry, boosted by the increasingly ubiquitous ABC of artificial intelligence,
big data, and cloud computing. However, in addition to the well-known
challenges already facing CS education professionals, a newly identified
dimension of difficulty relates to the nature of ABC systems, which may be
considered “untestable systems”: identifying the correctness of ABC system
outputs or behaviour may not be feasible, a situation known as the “oracle
problem.” How can we prepare CS graduates to address the software quality
assurance of such systems?
A software testing approach called “metamorphic testing” (MT) has a proven
track record of alleviating the oracle problem, and has shown great potential as a
candidate for testing methodology for ABC systems. The literature has reported
many instances of teaching and training users becoming proficient in MT, but
reports continue to identify challenges. Metamorphic exploration (ME) is a new
addition to the MT literature, and involves assisting the user to become more
familiar with the software under study.
This paper reports on experiences in using ME as a step towards becoming
proficient in MT.
Design/methodology/approach – The study is based on reflective practice, and
draws on the tradition of autoethnography. The literature reviews, combined
with the hands-on experience of the authors, inform the action research
underlying this report.
Findings – We have observed very positive results from using ME as a step
towards full MT. Our experience in teaching and learning about MT through
ME indicates that this scaffolding of the learning process, and learning through doing, may indeed be an effective pedagogical approach to prepare student
testers of ABC systems.
Originality/value/implications – This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first
report on using ME as a teaching or training tool. Given MT’s position as one of
very few approaches suitable for testing ABC systems (the next generation of
CS systems), its inclusion in CS curricula and training is essential, and is
already expanding. Any approaches that assist learners’ mastery of MT,
including ME, will have a positive impact on CS education. This report will
help educators to teach MT more easily
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2019 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education (ICOIE 2019)
EditorsKam Cheong Li, Eva Tsang
Place of PublicationHong Kong
PublisherThe Open University of Hong Kong
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9789888439621
ISBN (Print)9789888439621
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event2019 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education - Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Duration: 10 Jul 201912 Jul 2019


Conference2019 International Conference on Open and Innovative Education
Abbreviated titleICOIE 2019
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
CityHong Kong
Internet address


  • Computer science education
  • Metamorphic Exploration (ME)
  • Metamorphic Testing (MT)
  • ABC
  • software quality assurance (SQA)
  • Oracle problem


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