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New Course Teaches Undergraduates to Create iPhone and iPad Apps in Swift

A new course being offered at the School of Arts & Sciences-Newark (SASN) this fall will introduce undergraduates to using Apple’s Swift programming language to create apps for the iPhone and iPad.

Apple calls Swift "a powerful and intuitive programming language for macOS, iOS, watchOS, tvOS and beyond,” and says that writing Swift code is interactive and fun, and the syntax is concise yet expressive. Many of Apple’s App Store apps are written at least in part using Swift, including apps by Ebay, Etsy, LinkedIn, and Lyft.

Dr. Joseph Elliot, Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, designed Introduction to Swift iOS Application Development to teach students how to create apps for Apple devices using Apple’s Xcode IDE and Swift. Elliot uses a project-based learning approach to help students develop skills that are in demand for the growing job market created by the app economy.

Elliot described the course as being "center[ed] around five progressively challenging and guided projects, each preceded by lessons that introduce the concepts and skills necessary for building apps. Each guided project includes programming features, project plan, and step-by-step instructions for creating a fully functional app. Through these guided projects and the exercises throughout the course, students will practice multiple fundamental skills that might be expected in a real-world mobile application development environment."

The apps students will build range from a flashlight app to the popular “personality quiz” and leading up to a more complex "restaurant” app where students will learn animations, concurrency, and working with the web.

Beyond the specific focus of each project, the experience will enable each student to achieve a holistic skill set relevant to real-world applications beyond the classroom.

The course uses the freely available curriculum provided by Apple, and also requires each student to have an Apple MacBook Pro and an iPad. These Apple devices are available on loan through the Office of Information Technology (OIT) at Rutgers University – Newark. All students in the class are eligible to borrow an Apple MacBook Pro and an iPad. Once a student is registered for the course, they can visit Blackboard for more details about the computer loan program and to schedule their in-person pick-up for the devices.

Career readiness is one of the guiding pillars of the Data Science Minor and companies value students who have the ability to code in multiple in-demand programming languages.

Funding for the Apple devices has been made possible by the RU-N Codes grant awarded by Apple’s Community Education Initiatives (CEI).  Dr. Lucille Booker, who leads strategic initiatives with the Chancellor’s Office and advances anchor institution collaborations for Rutgers-Newark, is the principal investigator of this grant. Booker emphasized that “together with Apple, we are providing every registered student of the class access to Apple devices and equipping them with the same technology and skills that professional developers are using in the app economy. This collaboration underscores our university’s commitment to having a more affirmative and constructive role in knowledge building and talent cultivation for a just society.”

Introduction to Swift iOS Application Development counts as an elective for the new Data Science Minor. Students who complete the Data Science Minor have the opportunity to be trained in Python, R, and Swift. “Career readiness is one of the guiding pillars of the minor and companies value students who have the ability to code in multiple in-demand programming languages,” said Booker.