Mobile Application Development - FAQ

CS 4520 / CS5520
College of Computer and Information Science
Prof. Stephen Intille

Thinking of taking Mobile Application Development? Here are some frequently asked questions.

Where can I learn more about the course?

Take a look at the most recent syllabus, which you can find from here. Please note that the syllabus changes every semester, and the final syllabus for any given semester isn't set until just before the class starts.

What operating system is used in the course?

Android. Why?

Do I need an Android phone?

No. Although having your own Android phone can be helpful, Android has a good emulator, and slow but adequate loaner phones are available for testing on real devices. It probably will be helpful to have friends with Android phones, because they can help you test your apps.

Approximately how many hours a week does the course require?

I cannot answer this question, because it will depend upon your prior programming experience, as well as how well you take class concepts to heart, how effectively you work in a team (in the later part of the course), and more. Most students report that they find this a challenging and time-consuming course. If you are motivated to learn mobile programming and produce interesting, working applications, though, it should be worth it and fun.

Will it be too much work to take this course at the same time as PDP?

This is a question only you can answer. Mobile Application Development is an intense programming course. If you take MAD and PDP at the same time, you will be quite busy. Historically, some students who try this actually end up dropping MAD and taking it later, but other students have managed both courses simultaneously. The courses are quite different. In PDP you will generally be told what problem to solve and the methods you can use to do it. In MAD, you will need to come up with your own ideas and there will be multiple ways to solve most problems. The open-ended nature of MAD can be challenging for some students; other students quite enjoy it.

Here are some comments from one strong student who did well in both MAD and PDP (paraphrased): I feel PDP and MAD together are manageable. If you have a job, though, it can become quite hectic. PDP is not a coding-intensive course -- It just requires a lot of time because of the extensive requirements for commenting code. MAD on the other hand is a fun course that requires a lot of thinking and coding. This student had done some mobile work in the past (making the start of MAD a bit easier) but the student also had an intensive coding job for 20 hours a week during the semester (reducing available time for PDP/MAD).

Can I audit the course?

No. This is a project-based course and to truly become a strong mobile developer, you must actually work on creating apps. I also feel it is important, as an instructor, that I spend the limited time we have in class focussed on helping students who are registered for the course and who are working on all the assignments.

In the past students programmed a Boggle-like word game. What is the game this semester?

The individual app created in the course (before a team project) is usually a word game, but the specific design goals change from semester to semester and will be described in the first or second class. We have done games based on Boggle, Letris, Dabble, and Bananagrams.

Can I pick my project topic?

Yes, but within a set of predefined categories that are all loosely related to health or wellness. One of the challenges in the course is to design a new app around a set of constraints, and one of my goals is to do all I can to help you end up with an innovative app by the end of the term. This is best done by constraining the projects to a set of categories. This will be discussed further in the first or second class.

What are the project topic categories?

These change each semester and will be discussed in the first or second class meeting.

What is the difference between the grad and undergrad versions of the course?

Graduate students must use sensing in their individual apps and final project apps, and expectations for the quality and scope of final projects are higher. An optional text for the undergraduates is a required text for the graduate students.

I need to schedule my travel home at the end of the semester. When will I be completely done?

Officially, projects are due on the last day of classes for the semester (which is typically different for the undergraduate and graduate versions). See the syllabus for this date. However, in practice, teams almost always need the optional extra time for fixing projects up before a final grade is assigned. This date is usually about 1.5 weeks after the last class, and it is recommended that you schedule travel after that day. See the syllabus for the dates for final regrade date for the current semester.

Is the course oriented to any particular industry?

The course is designed to help you learn how to individually design and develop a creative mobile application unique from others on the market. It is not targeted to a particular industry. Final projects, however, must be in the space of health apps, for reasons described in class.

Do students work in teams?

For about half the course and assignments students work individually. For the final project, students work either individually or in 2-person teams. Students pick their own teammates.

Are there other resources for students interested in learning mobile development?

Anyone on campus interested in mobile development should definitely be on the NEU Mobile Mailing List. Sign up!