Friday, November 10, 2006

Ruby Certification: What should it cover?

I've been asked to take part in setting up a Ruby Certification course for a large univesity (no names until they announce it, sorry). I'm participating, but I have two questions that are lingering in my mind. I'd like to ask for your feedback on one of them here. (I've also recently agreed to do some blogging over at InfoQ and I'll discuss the results one there.)

Certification is kind of a hairy deal. A lot of people love them, and others think they're evil incarnate (or something close). I've never been a big fan of them, butI see this as being a bit different than the typical 'take a test and earn a cert' plan. The university is planning a series of three (non-credit) classes that will focus on Ruby and Ruby on Rails, with a pass-fail grading system. Anyone passing the three classes (which will have a significant hands-on, practical portion) will be recieve the certificate.

So, here's my question — What topics need to be covered to make a certificate work like this work? (For extra credit, what kinds of hands-on exercises do you think would help cement a student's understanding of those topics?)

Update: I'll dicuss the feedback on both questions at InfoQ later on ... for now, all the discussion will happen here


gnupate said...

On the ruby-talk mailing list, Joel VanderWerf wrote:
> What about assigning each student to make contributions to
> ruby and to the community, so that they have something
> concrete and visible to point to? For example:
> - write std lib docs
> - write tests for std libs
> - write a brief article or blog entry, with newbies
> in mind as the readers
> - contact a project maintainer (on rubyforge for example)
> and ask for a suitable task (not SoC level, but not trivial,
> either)

We have been talking about requiring hands-on exercises in each of the three courses, and I've been advocating that some of them 'give back' to the community. These are some excellent concrete ideas for doing that.

gnupate said...

Also on the mailing list, Patrick Hurley wrote:

A few questions first:

1. Intended audience (experienced programmers, web designers, career
switching accountants)?

2. With or without Rails (is this web focused or general Ruby)?

3. You mentioned 3 courses, how long is each course?

Since the program isn't set in stone yet, I can't speak with absolute authority, but I'll do my best.

1) The course is aimed at beginning to intermediate programmers with no Ruby background.

2) The curriculum will include Rails (and hopefully at least another web framework), it looks like this may be the second of three courses)

3) Each course will be a college quarter long ... which should be about 10 weeks if I'm not mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Man Pat, I thought you were my friend. Well, I'll be posting a bigger response to this for sure, but if you're gonna do the certification anyway, I'll say the only two I respect are The Testing Institute's and SANS. Mostly because the people I've met from them were actually pretty capable. I think those two programs try pretty hard to weed out the people who collect certs and don't reflect the organization's quality goals.

I also think that the certification should be cheap but hard as hell to get. I want only 1% of those applying getting through it.

Oh wait, that'd make it hard to make money off the program.

Oh well, I guess we're screwed then. :-)