Corona is a great tool for teaching students the latest in mobile app development, domestically and abroad. Ian Masters approached us in mid-2011 with the idea of using Corona SDK in his courses at University of Bedfordshire, UK. The university was awarded our very first Academic Site License and they’re still using Corona, with great results!
Ian shares information about the university and his thoughts on using Corona as a teaching tool for app development.
Tell us about University of Bedfordshire, as well as your role and background.
The University of Bedfordshire is a modern, vibrant university just 30 miles north of London with students from over 100 countries. It has a growing, global reputation and is committed to welcoming all students, regardless of background or financial circumstance.
The university has won numerous awards in recent years. For example, in 2011 it was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise – one of the most prestigious corporate honors a business can win.
I joined the staff at the start of 2011 as a lecturer in Creative Technologies, bringing over a decade of professional game development experience to the role. I have worked to integrate a modern app development stream into already strong game and computing courses. It has been an interesting and rewarding experience and one that I would recommend to any developer, especially indies.
I personally have been making games since 1998, originally working on console titles for a couple of large UK developers before starting an indie mobile studio in 2003. We had success with our own game, ‘Super Yum Yum,’ as well as developing for companies like Sega, Namco and Sony. ‘Super Yum Yum’ is still going strong on PC and iOS. Early last year, I founded Plant Pot, a home to grow my own projects and to collaborate with other talented developers and artists I’ve met over the years. We mainly focus on games but have worked on some innovative apps too – creativity comes in all shapes and sizes and we have some exciting apps in the pipeline!
This professional experience has made me a more effective lecturer and also helped me identify the right tools to help our students learn.
Why did you choose Corona to teach your students about mobile app development?
The open access policy of the university means that the programming experience of the students varies widely, from mature students keen to write their first program to 18-year-olds who’ve been making Flash games for years.
Corona’s ability to load and display an image onscreen with one simple line of code makes it immensely accessible and exciting for beginners. Its usability, power and speed allow the more experienced students to start being creative almost immediately.
Also, Corona enables rapid learning and development of apps through real programming, not via a fancy tool-specific GUI. Its use of the fast, efficient, and popular programming language Lua feeds into both the university’s academic and employability remits superbly.
Finally, Corona’s fair licensing model means that students can freely download and install the SDK at home on either a PC or Mac – that means no excuses for not finishing coursework!
How is Corona being used at your university?
Corona is being used on both undergraduate and postgraduate units, primarily for games-based courses but also in the general computing courses. Class sizes range from about 8 to 30, with some combined lectures.
We usually try to break in programming and development skills early, so students can start being creative. This is then built on and supported with more practical sessions on business models, planning, marketing, and funding. Building a great game or app is just the beginning of having a hit, so it’s important for students to have some idea of what else they need to do.
Tell us about the results you’ve achieved through using Corona.
So far, the results are very encouraging.
In particular, a number of students who were initially intimidated by the idea of programming apps have really excelled and gone far beyond even their own expectations.
At the other end of the spectrum, a couple of third-year students asked to swap over from native Android development to using Corona for their final year projects. They realized that in doing so they could spend more time working on gameplay and content – and I’m sure the added incentive of being able to release an iOS version helped too.
The department has also been investing in mobile hardware to support this. We now have a number of the latest Android tablets available for the students to use with a commitment to add a selection of the latest devices every year.
How would you advise other instructors who are interested in teaching students mobile development?
Teaching mobile development not only enhances employability, but can also be used to nurture entrepreneurship. It has never been so easy for students – in teams or even solo – to create and release software of their own making. This can be a great motivator.
App development in its current form is still relatively new, so don’t be afraid learn with your students at times. From a practical perspective, there’s lots of great material out there for learning mobile development. If you do use Corona then LearningCorona.com is a great resource to get anyone started.
Do you have any other comments to share?
Many programmers of my generation first learned to program by copying lines of code from magazines into their home computers. Although this was an error-prone and often tedious task, it was simple to do and the results on execution were immediate.
Since then, the layers of abstraction between writing code and seeing results have become ever more complex and impenetrable. But now, new tools like Corona are enabling a new generation of developers to try their hand at “copying some code,” and seeing immediate results while learning and experimenting.