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March 02, 2012

iPad Programming

Course Extends Learning Opportunity To Thousands Through iTunesU

By Piper Staff

The students sitting in lectures at CMU for a new iPad programming course are just the very tip of the iceberg.

"Developing iPad Applications for Visualization and Insight" has proved popular with students from across the university and the world.  About 90 students showed up for the first day of class though the course had enrolled its limit of 30. And more than 20,000 subscribers are watching class lectures for free at Carnegie Mellon on iTunes U.

"The response has been tremendous and we're really excited to be seeing these numbers," said Niki Kittur, an assistant professor at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute who is co-teaching the course. "I think one big draw of our course is that it gives people not only the practical skills in building iPad applications, but also the conceptual tools to envision new ways of interacting with information."

In addition to Kittur, a team of top industry iOS developers, led by Paul Hankes Drielsma, are using the project-based course to teach students about the design and implementation of iPad applications that help users visualize and make sense of large data sets.

Kittur said with the new iTunes U structure the team is able to put pretty much the entire class online - not only HD video of lectures, but also the assignments and readings - so that people can get very close to the real class experience, but follow along at their own pace on the Web.

Students are learning a basic background in visualization and in understanding the cognitive processes involved in transforming visual representations into mental representations, insight and discovery, and instruction on implementing these techniques in real applications for the iPad.

"We're not only teaching students how to program," Kittur explained, "but what they should be programming. We want to think of new, user-centered ways for people to consume information and then implement those on an iPad."

Kittur added, "The idea is that we can help students not just understand how to program but also what to program: how to develop iPad apps that take information and turn it into knowledge and insight."

The software engineering topics taught focus on the latest technologies available in the newly released iOS 5.

For those interested in following along, object-oriented programming experience is recommended.

"Right now we have interested students from all over the school - from computer science to HCI to design to electrical engineering; I think this is a really popular area now," Kittur said.

Watch the course on iTunes U or on any iOS device with the free iTunes U app.