Cornell University was ranked #10 on the Wall Street Journal’s 2018 college rankings.

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Cornell University was ranked #10 on the Wall Street Journal’s 2018 college rankings.

September 28, 2017

Cornell AppDev Develops Student-Led, Hands-On Design Course

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Seeking to fulfill a perceived void in Cornell’s product design curriculum, Cornell App Development has introduced student-developed and student-taught courses.

“While Cornell excels at aspects of design, there was definitely a void with digital product design,” said Sahil Khoja ’19, one of teachers for the course. “This course serves as a foundation for product design.”

The course, Introduction to Digital Product Design, aims to impart applicable skills and hands-on experience in digital product design. The course was first developed by Nicole Calace ’16 and Andrew Aquino ’17, now product designers at Facebook.

CU AppDev — the team providing the instructors — allows students “to work in a startup environment and gain practical experience in software development, design, and product management,” according to their website.

To that goal, the course incorporates lectures, assignments and feedback, all developed and taught by students on CU AppDev’s design team.

“In the beginning, it’s tough to see people drop the class because of how time-consuming it is, but the class isn’t meant to be an informative design class,” Khoja explained. “It’s extremely hands-on, applicable and interactive.”

In the future, Khoja would like to shift focus towards “more contemporary design topics such as virtual or augmented reality design.”

“I want to prepare students for the future while allowing them to build their digital product design foundations through the class,” he said.

With project-work and prototype development assignments from the class, students are able to develop their portfolio to use on their resumes.

“Students walk out with the first case study which they can tack onto their portfolio and use for job interviews right after taking the class,” Khoja said.

When Tae Kyung Kong ’20 took the class last year, he both developed an Instagram case study and found a passion for information science.

It is the most thorough case study I have done and am most proud of,” he said. “The supportive teachers and teaching assistants were very helpful throughout the entire process.”

Kong even said it was “the best course I have taken at Cornell so far” and that the course “exposed [him] to the entire design process from research to visual design,” he said.

To improve the course, Kong said he hopes “to see more of interactive workshops and one-on-one’s with aspiring designers in the Cornell community.”

“I think it would be great to get real industry designers to host talks or workshops with students because there is a difference between designing at a company and designing during class,” he said.

Kong said he would recommend the class to people with an interest in art and technology, saying that “this class provided me with a totally different perspective on design and allowed me to discover my passions.”

“I discovered that design isn’t just about aesthetics or what’s on the page, it’s about understanding user needs, identifying the problem and then designing a solution,” he said.

Intro to Digital Product Design is being offered as a one-credit pass-fail course taught on Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Olin 255.