App-y Holidays

NIU Comp. Science issues first mobile device programming certificate

John Barnes

John Barnes

The NIU Department of Computer Science has issued its first certificate of study in mobile device programming, one of the most exciting new areas in the field of computing.

NIU faculty partnered with Lextech Global Services to offer the series of courses teaching students how to write apps for the iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and other mobile devices.

John Barnes, a technical associate with NIU Information Technology Services, took the app development courses to add another tool to his toolbox as an IT professional. He completed the series of courses at the graduate level this semester and became the first recipient of the certificate. It is offered at both graduate and undergraduate levels.

“It’s a new field that’s interesting and fun to program in,” said Barnes, explaining why he decided to pursue the certificate. “It gave me a good foundation (for writing apps). They cover the basics and then some.”

(Left to right) Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Christopher McCord, Lextech CEO Alex Bratton and Computer Science Chair Nicholas Karonis.

(Left to right) Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Christopher McCord, Lextech CEO Alex Bratton and Computer Science Chair Nicholas Karonis all played key roles in the NIU-Lextech collaboration.

Barnes said he is hoping to develop his own app for personal finances—and he recommends the certificate program for others.

“These classes are definitely worth taking,” he said. “It provides students with a good solid foundation for getting started.”

Nicholas Karonis, chair of the computer science department, said the inaugural certificate is a significant milestone, representing the first fruits of a successful and innovative collaboration between NIU computer science faculty and workplace practitioners, who provided an industry perspective.

“Now that the pipeline has been established, we hope this will be the first of many certificates issued in mobile device programming,” Karonis said. “It all started with a simple conversation we had with Lextech representatives, who just happened to be on campus one day to give a talk.”

Lextech Global Services is a west-suburban Lisle-based company that helps clients with mobile strategy, visual app definition and development of apps across iPhone, iPad and other mobile platforms.

Lextech President and CEO Alex Bratton visited the NIU campus in 2010 to talk to students. He met with Karonis and discovered a common vision for bridging the gap between the needs of corporate America and higher education. By the day’s end, they had outlined a course sequence for the mobile apps certificate program. NIU computer science faculty then worked with Lextech developers to learn the latest details in smartphone programming.

Lextech employees donated their time and talents to help launch the initiative and are occasional guest lecturers during classes.

“I’m excited we’ve been able to take part in developing the curriculum for this program because I want graduates to be successful when they enter the workforce,” Bratton said. “We are very passionate about education at Lextech, and our team has had a great time working with the professors and students.”

A special smart classroom also was developed for the coursework, with each workspace equipped with both Apple and Microsoft computers.

“Our computer science faculty worked hard to establish the certificate program, and we received critical support from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Provost’s Office and Information Technology Services,” Karonis said. “They immediately saw the value of the program and provided space and financial and technical support to make it possible.”

In the future, the computer science department hopes to offer the certificate program off campus.

“Because the courses can provide a quick way for working computer professionals to retool and make themselves more marketable, we’re investigating ways to offer the certificate program at NIU regional outreach centers, in Chicago or even online,” Karonis said.

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