With guidance from Enterprise Technology’s Swift champion Khang Nguyen and mentors with the NMIEL, her app is coming alive.  

“The Apple Swift Playground allows you to think outside the box and create prototypes as soon as you have an idea,” said Nguyen, a senior majoring in computer science at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. In the role of a Swift champion, Nguyen works directly with students to develop their apps. “You don’t need comprehensive computer skills to build an app anymore — that really opens up creative opportunities.”

Retha Hill, director of NMIEL at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has led a charge since 2007 to introduce journalism students to emerging technologies to enhance digital communication. 

“When you look ahead to augmented reality, virtual reality and the metaverse, or talk about how to engage people younger than 30 with news — that's where certain apps or news games come into play,” Hill said.

In addition to app development, students with NMIEL have created more than 50 digital games, collectively earned more than $150,000 in start-up funding and have won prestigious national journalism awards. 

“You can shoot and edit your own videos, photographs or build things that used to take a specialist to do — by yourself,” said Hill, who is also the chair of Massi’s Barrett Honors committee — a group appointed to collaborate, mentor and evaluate her final project. “Being able to build an app using programs like Apple Swift Playgrounds puts you in a powerful position when you're looking for a job because your employer is not only getting a journalist — maybe someone who has broadcast or writing skills — but they're also getting someone who can build an app.”

As companies blur the lines between physical and digital spaces, this integrated process of developing technical skills across the education spectrum may be key to student success long after their ASU experience. 

“It's been really fun,” said Massi. “And the coding and entrepreneurial experience is exactly what I wanted to take away from my creative project for Barrett. It's checked all the boxes so far.”

In addition to teaching the NMIEL, Hill is set to launch Immersive Media Storytelling at Cronkite in the spring of 2023, a class focused on extended reality and app development with modules using the Swift Community Playground. 

This initiative is supported by ASU Enterprise Technology, in collaboration with Apple’s Community Education Initiative, which partners with institutions to create opportunities for learners of all backgrounds to gain skills in coding.

Written by Kevin Pirehpour.