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CIS program at NSU offering class to create mobile apps
Nov 06, 2012 | 249 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Northwestern State University’s Computer Information System program is offering a class that teaches students to create mobile apps, a mushrooming specialty in software development.  Administrators believe that students with expertise in creating mobile applications for smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices will find opportunities in the job market as the popularity of mobile apps continues to rise.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm among the students,” said class instructor Sarah Wright.  “It’s new and exciting and there are a lot of jobs out there related to mobile apps used in business, play, games and productivity.  It’s a new job market for students.”

Wright is teaching the class as a topics course offering an overview of three different operating systems – Apple, Android and Windows.  Students are researching the standards and characteristics of each system, market shares and where the systems are most popular and will end the semester by presenting their own mobile apps to the class.

“They are just getting started,” Wright said, adding that her CIS students demonstrate no shortage of creative ideas for mobile applications, mostly related to what interests them, be it sports, the economy or games.  “They get to use their imaginations.”

 Mobile apps were originally offered for general productivity and information retrieval such as email, calendar, contacts and stock market and weather information. However, public demand and the availability of developer tools drove rapid expansion into other categories including mobile games and location-based services, banking, media, education and retail. A May 2012 comScore study reported that during the previous quarter, more mobile subscribers used apps than browsed the web on their devices.

 Some apps are free, while others have a price. Usually, they are downloaded from the platform to a target device, such as an iPhone, BlackBerry, Android phone or Windows Phone, but sometimes they can be downloaded to less mobile computers, such as laptops or desktops For apps with a price, generally 20 to 30 percent goes to the distribution provider and the rest goes to the producer of the app.

Wright prepared herself to teach the class by doing her own research, tutorials, webinars and browsing discussion boards and forums to answer questions and solve problems.

“I like learning new things and how to connect things,” said Wright, who holds an undergraduate degree inmathematics and a master’s in computer information systems.  “I like the challenge of keeping up with updates and the fact this technology changes daily.  I have to keep challenging myself and learning and I don’t feel like I’m ever in a rut.”

Jamey Nelson of Pitkin won first in mobile applications in a competition at the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) Region 3 student conference last month. Nelson is a senior pursuing two degrees in CIS and business administration.  His app helps track fuel efficiency for his vehicle.

“It will store the previous mileage and calculate the miles per gallon based on the current mileage and the amount of gas it took to fill up the vehicle.  It will also be able to show the previous calculations,” he explained.

He began working on the app last spring, viewing it as practice for Wright’s class and any competitions in which he might participate.

“Basically, it was a multipage application that used the device’s camera, location, and internal storage,” Nelson said.  “I used this for practice because I thought that any future competitions would require similar elements. The desired application at the regional AITP conference, as expected, was required to utilize some of the same elements as the one I had been working on.  It too was a multipage app, but it required the use of a web service in conjunctionwith the device’s location.”

Nelson said working on the project gave him much valuable insight about the Windows platform.

“The fact that I like and use the platform increases my curiosity.  The work I have done has not only taught me about mobile applications, but it has increased my general programming knowledge as well,” Nelson said. “I am confident in my mobile app development skills, and I hope to increase those skills before the national competition in April.”

Wright would like to expand the class into several different courses that would allow students to explore all the different operating systems in-depth, as well as offer an introductory course for students with no programming experience interested in creating simple apps, a skill that could make them valuable in the job market.

“Corporations will hire employees who are specialists in operation systems to create in-house apps not sold to the public,” she said.  “It’s an exciting recruiting tool for us.  High school students see that we’re on the cusp and they want to come here and participate,” she said.  “Our students are problem solvers.  They like to figure things out.  This gives them a good foundation.”

For information on Northwestern State’s Computer Information Systems program, visit business.nsula.edu/computer-information-systems-home.

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