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iphone app courses in the UK?

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Editors Note: Article updated (29 Jul 2010): I have found some courses — see the end of this article for all courses I found.

If like me, you’re attempting to get into the world of iphone (or Android) development, it can be quite hard to learn the platform, the language, the syntax (!) and that’s even before you get involved with the more complicated stuff; then I hope you find this article useful.

One of the things I’ve noticed is a lot of Universities in the USA offering dedicated, focused modules on iphone (and/or Android) development; one only has to mention Stanford Universities collection of video tutorials on iTunes (link), or the MIT collection of lectures (link) to know the American Universities are getting serious about the latest technologies on offer.

I wanted to know whether any of the major Universities in the UK were planning to offer a similar or comparable course on either iphone and/or Android and went about contacting about 10-20 different Universities to find out more.

I specifically targeted Master degree courses; the reason being, I’m a Graduate, I’ve been a PHP developer for many years and I really wanted to move fast on iphone development (and/or Android); I felt a Masters’ degree in say, Games Programming, would give me the grounding in programming XBox, PS3, etc whilst at the same time allow me to specialize in the iphone SDK.

What I wanted was a course similar to the ones offered by Stanford / MIT; that is, course lecturers, lectures from iphone gaming start-ups, etc; something that would give myself the edge, the motivation, to out there and make an app.

I know what you’re thinking “Why not just learn it at home, on your own time, on the Internet; for free?”, and yes; I am doing that — I’ve got over a 50 odd bookmarks on websites, iTunes videos, online tutorials — I’ve signed up to online video tutorial sites, tried reading everything I can on the subject; when it comes to the Internet — its a great resource, and YES! You can learn it all from the web.

But this isn’t the point I’m trying to make.

The point is having a Universities that offer their students the chance to excel; and having the right tools, technologies and methodologies to deliver award-winning content to those who want to excel in a classroom environment; and plus a high-sought after degree that is recognized by employers, investors, etc.

I contacted several Universities via Google, Findamasters.com, emagister.co.uk, and other resources. From the University of Derby, Bradford, Leeds, Teeside, Newcastle, Hull, Cambridge, Bath, Liverpool. I must have contacted about more than half a dozen.

To all of them, I asked whether or not they offered iphone (and/or Android) development either as a module course.

The answer I found was not only depressing, but very frustrating as well.

Of those that offer iphone development (and/or Android) development, I was only able to find one that does; whilst the others offered the olive branch of an “iphone development” as part of a wider dissertation / project.

This isn’t really what I was after as isn’t really in the same league as the courses offered by the American Universities with actual lectures, course material and talks from leading iphone start-ups.

The one course I did find was at Birmingham City University (www.bcu.ac.uk)

Computer Science – MSc
www.bcu.ac.uk/courses/computer-science-msc

Quote:

“Mobile Software Development
This module is concerned with the theoretical as well as the practical elements of Mobile Computing. This includes many forms of architecture, ranging from standard client/server to more innovative peer to peer configurations. Topics covered include the client technologies: J2ME, Google Android, iPhone and Symbian.”

Here is an overview of the content (please excuse the Verboseness of the content that follows):

[quote]

Indicative content
1. Introduction
Introduction to Mobility
Theoretical underpinning
Fundamental technologies
Standards/Protocols
2. Architecture
Application architectures
Application analysis and design
3. Platform Support and Middleware
J2ME, Google Android, iPhone, Symbian
4. Mobile Client Development
Client User Interfaces and Usability
Persistent storage
Client Applications – Web Access, SMS, Multimedia, Games
5. Contextualization
Personalization and Context awareness
6. Security
Protocols
Key Management
Authentication
Intrusion Detection
7. Application of Technology
Matching technology to business requirements
Appraisal of technologies

Study mode / delivery method(s):
The module will be delivered through a combination of lectures, which will be used to identify and explain key issues, and seminars that will adopt a problem based approach to learning using journal articles in conjunction with case studies to enable learning through research, practice and experience.

Learning Outcome Learning and Teaching Methods
On completion of the module, the student should be able to:
1. Appreciate and apply the theoretical underpinning of techniques used in the design of mobile systems.

Key issues are presented and explored in lectures.
Seminars that will adopt a problem based approach to learning using journal articles in conjunction with case studies to enable learning through research, practice and experience.

2. Evaluate different mobile technologies and architectures and be able to design, implement and evaluate a mobile based application in at least one key technology.

3. Assess contextual issues associated mobile applications and propose and/or implement solutions to these problems;

4. Assess security issues associated mobile applications and propose and/or implement solutions to these problems;

5. Interpret the broad range of business activities that are supported or enabled by mobile technologies and be able to advise organisations on the appropriate use of mobile technologies.
[/quote]

My interpretation of the above is that the course is a general theoretical-based overview of the respective Android, iphone, Symbian platforms; whether it is on a par with the modules offered (and widely distributed via the Internet and blog posts) by their American University counterparts would require a much more detailed enquiry.

If, however you’ve been on the above course and wish to post a rebuttal; please do so via the comments as this would be important information for those wanting to make the right course decision.

Other avenues open to those attempting to break into iphone development is the NTI Leeds course (www.ntileeds.co.uk) and the respective course held at NTI Birmingham and other NTI branches across the UK.

This course costs £900+ (discounts are available if you live in the York and Humber area) and is a 4 day course. Its an excellent course as I’ve been on it myself, but the problem is that the high cost / education content ratio. There’s a lot to learn from the iphone sdk; and loads to learn before you even get to actual iphone games development.

The NTI Birmingham branch offers an iphone games camp (for 4 weeks), this is something I’m actually very excited by; however it is still going through a funding process (at time of writing) and it may not even get renewed.

The 4-week games camp (more at: NTI Birmingham ) is exactly what I mean; a focused, dedicated course — lectured by leading iphone developers; and sadly it may not even win funding.

Other avenues

One solution I’ve found is finding a University that offers a Business Hatchery, or a Business Incubator; The University of Sunderland offers a Master’s degree in conjuction with the Sunderland Software City; however the downside is that is geared towards business, it’s not a technical course; and whilst you would have mentors on your side — you wouldn’t necessary have a dedicated lecture/course material at your finger tips.

Although the idea of having/starting my own iphone/android business interests me, one would really need a good foundation in overall games programming and a lot of funding!

With this in mind, there is the option of doing a games programming Master’s degree course where you could learn XBox, PS3, PSP, DS programming (which is something I am tempted to do) and obtain the foundations for a dissertation project in Android/iphone.

If you are living overseas, or have duel Nationality, you could try the Stanford Universities, MIT’s, or even the

iPhone 3D Application Design
course at Victoria University in Australia.

Or, if you have the money or work at a like-minded company you could invest in Commercial training (ie: the 4-5 day courses that cost £1,000+). Try: Emagister or EventBrite to find events, courses in your area.

If you are not affected by procrastination, you can try some of the online resources; a summary of this and all links is at the bottom of this post.

A summary and comment

I’ve tried several avenues to find a college/University in the UK that is even touching iphone, android development and the response is disappointing and very frustrating.

Why are our Universities and colleges constantly playing catch-up? Perhaps its a wider sign of the “Austerity measures”; perhaps its a funding issue, perhaps its a demand issue; there be many a dragon in the way; and for those who want to get started, get involved and get into the App store; the message is as depressing as it is soberly re-assuring, — until we get the funding and the demand; you’re on your own.

Are you on a UK University course at the moment (Gaming or otherwise) that is covering iphone development (I don’t mean just the theory) and or Android development? What subjects did you cover and, if possible, please post 1 link only. Thanks.

Links and resources

Course finders
Other resources
iphone resources

Update (29 Jul 2010): List of courses/modules I found that offer iphone courses.