Students turn to Digital Flagship to learn to code

A program offered to students, faculty and staff at The Ohio State University is teaching the basics of coding and app development.

Digital Flagship Swift coding and app development courses offer the knowledge needed to build practical apps and code effectively. So far more than 3,000 members of the university community have started the free certificate program. Each course covers a wide variety of skills, offering a well-rounded approach to code and design apps.

The self-paced, online curriculum is divided into four competency-based courses culminating in a non-credit, continuing education certificate from Ohio State in the basics of Swift coding and app development processes. Users can complete Apple’s Swift certification as a complement to the Ohio State credential.

For some Ohio State students, the courses help them ramp up as they prepare for classes in computer engineering. Alec Owen, a second-year industrial and systems engineering major, started the courses before diving into his degree program.

“I’d say the course was probably my first intro [to coding] and it did help me. It prepared me a little bit for my fundamentals of engineering classes where you do a lot of programming,” he said. “So that was helpful.”

The certificate is designed to make it easy for people from all backgrounds to get started coding and developing apps. No experience is required.

The courses allow users to move through lessons on their own schedule, speeding through what comes easily or spending more time in areas they want to develop. For Bobby Moosally, a second-year computer science and engineering major, the ease of programing in Swift was a major appeal.

“I guess the syntax of Swift … was really simple. It was very user-friendly and I was able to find the things I needed to find very quickly when I was doing assignments,” he said.

The courses build on each other, with the first course providing a strong foundation for the more advanced work to come. Small assignments and check-ins throughout the first course help ensure students master the foundational concepts before proceeding to the next level.

Kelsey Woods, a research assistant in the School of Communication, said she started taking the courses to prepare for her next step in the job market. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Woods made Swift coding into a hobby like some turned to gardening or cooking.

“I was trying to broaden my skill range to become a more attractive candidate. And then once the pandemic hit, I put that job search on hold for a little bit,” she said. “But it actually became kind of nice and something to do that felt like I was progressing. I was learning a new, useful skill and it was kind of like my quarantine hobby.

“I don’t necessarily see myself as an actual coder, but I think it’s really important to understand that code and have a really basic knowledge of it,” Woods said. “Especially if you’re interacting with coders to make sure you’re speaking the same language.”

Adding skills that will help students stand out in a competitive job market was a common goal for students taking the courses.

“I think a lot of the core skills will be valuable. Even if it’s something I don’t use in my career, it would be something fun to have if I ever want to do a little project on my own,” Owen said. “It would be fun to be able to make an app just for something that you want to do.”