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There’s an app for that, thanks to class collaboration

The application that pairs food and beverages with Netflix movies.

The application that pairs food and beverages with Netflix movies.

The importance of students building a resume throughout their college career becomes apparent when they begin searching for a job. Associate Professor of Marketing Peter Kaufman and Assistant Professor of Information Technology Rishi Saripalle teamed their students together to help give them an advantage.

The two classes were organized into small teams based on student skill and experience, and given the task to build mobile and web applications, more commonly referred to as “apps.”

One objective of the project was understanding the market for an app including market size, target users, positioning, and competition. Students also had to identify features the users would want the app to have, and develop a launch strategy which included how they would attract users. “The marketing students focused on sizing up the market for their apps and target user group,” explained Kaufman. “Then they passed the features off to the computer science students, who translated those into technical requirements and implemented them to create the app.”

To accomplish the project, the students worked with individuals from different backgrounds. Kaufman said, “This is not always easy, but is crucial to success in business and in life.”

“Working with students from various backgrounds will also help them in other major milestones in their career, as they might not face or contact a person from the same discipline,” Saripalle said. “The need for interdisciplinary skilled students is a growing need in the industry.”

Early on in the course, the students were privy to presentations by app developers from a large financial services company in Illinois. The company discussed the steps they take leading up to the launch of an application including market research, features of the app, technical requirements, building, and testing. “The company was able to talk to the class about how apps work in the real world, before they embarked on developing their own,” said Kaufman.

The project allowed students to think freely and be creative. “The ideas presented by the students are real-time problems that they are facing or seeing,” said Saripalle. “They are not some canned problem or some standard problem from the textbook that has been solved many times.”

Some of the apps presented include how to find lost objects, things to sell, a directory of ISU student organizations, and food and beverages that pair well with movies found on Netflix. At the end of semester, 15-minute presentations consisted of the students justifying why they chose their app, how they conducted their market research, how the app was built, and their competition. Students working on the Netflix app stated in their presentation that with over 65 million Netflix subscribers, they felt they had a solid product. They also said their app gives a social feel to what is typically an individual activity.

Chad Surratt, a marketing student, reflected on how advantageous the app project was. “This project has proven to be the most difficult and beneficial project that I have experienced while at ISU,” he said. “The project took me out of my comfort zone all semester, and I am glad it did.”

When asked if they would conduct this collaboration again, Kaufman and Saripalle both said most definitely yes. “Developing and successfully introducing new products is the lifeblood of companies,” said Kaufman. “In the future, as students embark on their careers, they will also need to be creators and introducers of new technology. I think that we need to provide the next generation of leaders and problem solvers with these types of experiences.”

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