Webster offers new mobile computing degree


After almost a year of developing the curriculum and years of discussion, this fall the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology will offer an undergraduate degree program in mobile computing. Webster University will be the first school in the St. Louis area to offer this kind of program.
“Some schools offer this as a single course, like a programming course for graduate students. This is the first time this has been offered as a major,” Xiaoyuan (Sue) Suo, assistant professor in the math and computer science department, said.
The mobile computing degree focuses on the design and implementation of applications, or apps, for Apple and Android mobile devices. In addition to the five new courses in mobile computing, the program offers two courses in Java. These courses haven’t been offered since 2006.
The program was created in response to an increasing demand in the field of mobile application development.
Technology research company, Gartner, released a report in July. The report said worldwide application development is expected to become a $9 billion industry this year; a 1.8 percent increase over 2011. By 2015, Gartner expects the number of mobile applications developed to outnumber personal computer applications by a ratio of 4-1.
Associate Professor Martha Smith, who developed the mobile computing curriculum, said the degree used many of the same courses offered in the computer science department. A degree in mobile computing requires 48 core credit hours. A degree in computer science requires only 36.
“The way the program is structured, if a student is currently enrolled in one of our other undergraduate majors—computer science, information systems or information management—they can easily switch to this and not lose credit hours,” Smith said.
Jason Lawson, a senior mobile computing and computer science major, said he chose the program because of its practicality.
“It’s great because you have computer science on one end… and then you have mobile computing… which is really exploding right now,” said Lawson. “It’s a much more robust program.”
Lawson also said he’s excited he won’t have to teach himself the skills required to create mobile applications like his predecessors.
Smith said the department is already looking at ways to expand the mobile computing program.  A certificate may be offered in the future for non-majors, or graduates who wish to keep their programming skills up-to-date. Local companies have also expressed interest in starting an internship program once more students are further along in the program.
St. Louis-based Coolfire Solutions, which specializes in creating military and intelligence apps, is one of the companies working with the school on the internship program. President Tim Cox said the program would benefit both the student and employer.
“We’ll bring in somebody for the full internship, and if they show improvement and growth over their time here, we’re going to walk them through their remaining courses,” Cox said. “The internships are very much a stepping stone to a full time job as a mobile developer.”
The first and only required course offered this semester, introduction to mobile technology, currently has 14 students enrolled. Suo will be teaching all five mobile computing courses. She is happy with the program thus far.
“In the first week the Java class opened, it was full… I think the numbers are good,” said Suo.
Starting next semester, Webster will offer both Mobile Computing 1 and Mobile Computing 2.  Smith said students enrolled in these courses will have the option to borrow Android and Apple mobile devices to work with. Smith also said Dean Benjamin Akande is currently working to get the program funds for necessary hardware.
“Our goal is to actually get a mobile lab on campus somewhere, that’s used specifically for this program,” Smith said.

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