Instructor Profile – Roger Whitney – Web and Mobile Applications Development

Roger WhitneyRoger Whitney has been teaching computer science for almost 30 years. He is one to follow trends and create classes around those trends. Today, he teaches three classes in the Web and Mobile Applications Development program: iPhone Mobile Application Development, Android Mobile Application Development, and Emerging Web & Mobile Technologies.

Why did SDSU start this program?
For many years I taught a course called Emerging Technologies, where I picked out new trends and taught those trends; mobile was one of them so I started this current program with that course. Currently I’m focusing on teaching specific courses in both iPhone/iPad and Android Mobile App Development to meet current demand. We want the courses to be useful.

Can you tell me a little bit about your classes?
In both courses, there are assignments that require build up – you start with little things, and start to exercise those parts of the phone. The course ends with students completing a project. I allow people to work individually or in teams of two. And, they have to come up with their own idea of an application device.

What is the main goal of the classes?
I want students to be able to interview with a company and say “I can build iPhone and Android apps.”

What is unique about this program?
There is free material out there, yes; however, the difference is they do not get the feedback of being in a class, having the instructor critique your work, talking to other students, or working with other students. For on-campus students, they can ask fellow students if they are stuck on a problem, and for online students, it’s one of the few programs where a student can learn Android or IOS.

We do have a discussion board online, so students can post questions and other students and instructors respond to the questions. Remote students, like on-campus students, can also work on team projects together.

What should students expect in the class work wise?
This program is offered at the graduate level so I expect students will work and put a lot of time in. It’s a considerable time commitment, but if you want to become qualified in this area, you have to put the time in. I mean there’s no way around it.

Do you think Android 4, ice-cream sandwich addresses the graphical interface latency problems associated with the Android platform or do you feel that this is an inherent flaw that will continue to plague Android devices?
There’s a short answer and a long answer. The basic problem is that when Android was first being developed, they did it before the iPhone came out, so they were expecting the screen to be very small, and they optimized the display for first mobile devices. When iPhone came out they realized that they were in trouble because iPhone was going to be the form factor and their underlying graphics engine was not up to that size of screen, but they didn’t feel like they had the time to go back and re-engineer everything. What’s happening over time as the processing is getting faster, they continue to optimize their solutions so it is getting better, but they are still having this underlying architectural issue. The difference between the iPhone and Android is decreasing, but there will always be a handicap until they bite the bullet and start from scratch.

Why would someone want to enroll in the program?
The difference is that the master’s program gives you a much broader base to work from. There are some courses that they can take like the iPhone course. If a student puts that in a resume, it attracts companies; companies are going to want you. I get people who call me, and ask if they can talk to my class and ask if I have any good people? Companies assume that our students will have a certain baseline ability with our program. If you have the time, the master’s program is going to put you in a much better position for the future. It gives you a solid base to work from.

Let’s talk jobs. Some of your students have landed jobs with Facebook and Apple. What are the reasons they hired students from this program?
Right now, in the mobile world, companies are looking for qualified people. A former student who works in the Bay Area is interested in hiring five people. I am trying to get him to speak in my class in April, since he can’t find anyone in the Bay Area.

What does the future hold for app developers?
There are several trends. The get-rich quick scheme is over. Initially there were people who created apps and earned a $1,000 a day from that app. Now there are hundreds of thousands of apps, so those days are gone.

The corporate world is the new frontier. Companies need a presence on mobile and that’s going to be around for some time. Right now, people are looking at native applications for mobile devices versus hybrid apps for mobile devices. A hybrid app uses HTML, CSS and Javascript inside of a native app. Web people say the way to go is hybrid app because you get Android, iPhone, Blackberry and Windows mobile with little effort. Whereas native ones you start from scratch with each platform, so it’s much more cost effective to use hybrid apps. Currently it appears that native apps are more popular than hybrid apps for mobile.

How would you describe the program?
We have our best people working on it, and we pick the courses that provide students the most bang for their buck in terms of finding work. We get companies calling for students, so we try to focus on what can we do to get students employed. The topics we pick are the ones that are in demand.

Is there anything else?
For me, we are undergoing the largest electronic change in the history of the planet. There are now more cellphones in use than landlines, cars and televisions combined. There are 5.9 billion cellphones in active use. There are parts of the world that you go and people are living in the streets and they’ve got cellphones and this is unprecedented. There is no technology that is more pervasive than cell phones, and it’s taking over the world. Cameras are almost obsolete because cellphones have cameras in them. So this is profound change in society and if you have billions of cellphones running, you are going to need people to write software to run on cellphones.