08:14 AM

Ohio State’s Mobile Design Lab puts digital skills on the move

The Ohio State University’s Digital Flagship initiative is hitting the road.

A shiny, black recreational vehicle was parked in front of the Recreation and Physical Activity Center on a recent Wednesday afternoon. The RV packs enough horsepower to crisscross the Buckeye state in comfort. But it’s intellectual muscle that really powers the new Mobile Design Lab.

“It’s a 34-foot bus that we’ll be able to take to all of our campuses and do outreach across the state around design thinking, mobile app development, coding, and how to use technology in teaching and learning as a student, as a professor or staff,” said Director of Learning Programs & Digital Flagship Cory Tressler. “So it’s really a physical, mobile design space for us, but also an outreach vehicle to educate everybody in our community.”

Digital Flagship is the university’s digital learning initiative to support educational innovation for students. The rollout of iPads to first-year students across the Columbus and regional campuses was one part of a larger effort to support student success through technology.

“[Our primary audience] is Ohio State students but also faculty and staff, as well as our outreach as the land-grant, flagship institution for Ohio. That means everybody in a larger sense,” Tressler said.

The land-grant mission includes using technology to solve community problems in central Ohio, across the state or at Ohio State, and preparing the workforce of tomorrow. It also means putting skills into the hands of students so that they’re better prepared for careers that haven’t even been thought of yet, Tressler said.

“So that’s the core mission of Digital Flagship – to better prepare our students for success here as well as into the future,” he said. “And this is a big part of that because this is the hands-on lab where you can come and learn all of these things.”

The design lab won’t be limited to the Ohio State campuses. The lab will provide outreach to K-12 schools, the larger Ohio community and extended campus partners.

The Mobile Design Lab will help students and faculty boost their digital skills with the support of on-site coding education, app development experts and state-of-the-art technology. Coding will be taught using Swift, Apple’s intuitive programming language for macOS, iOS and other Apple products.

Liz Webb, a second-year student majoring in public affairs, is one of the Digital Flagship student mentors. She said the lab is designed for those who might be intimidated by the technology or the idea of learning to code.

“So we’re going to have staff who know how to code and other students who are really well versed in the app development process and break it down with them,” Webb said. “We’ll show them the different steps that they’ll need to do and really work with them to make sure that they understand each part.”

Inside the Mobile Design Lab are large video screens for projecting at events or teaching larger groups. Smaller workstations can support individual users. Tressler said all it takes is imagination.

“So if you have an idea, which a lot of us do, for the next great mobile app, you’ll be able to learn what that means,” Tressler said. “In a physical environment like this, that means hands-on instruction in coding or hands-on whiteboarding of ideas.”

The lab’s seating on comfortable, scarlet and gray upholstery supports small group discussions and a large L-shaped couch area is available for team projects. A large awning and exterior monitors provide flexibility to teach outside.

“I think it’s going to really open up a lot of help for students who don’t know how to code or who have never really worked with app development, to really dive into that field,” Webb said. “It’s a really exciting area, and students can gain a lot within their studies and enrich different research projects or other plans that they have here at Ohio State by coming here and working with us to make their app dreams a reality.”

Ohio State students equipped with iPad toolkit as orientation begins


Digital Flagship educators begin preparing classes for iPad-enhanced learning