Creative, Serious and Playful Science of Android Apps

Lawrence Angrave, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In this course, you will learn the fundamental computer science principles that power today’s apps. You will also create your own Android app using Java and standard software development tools.

This course is a novice-friendly and delightful introduction to computer science and to programming Android apps for smartphones and tablets. No prior programming knowledge is necessary. In this course you will have fun learning to create an app for modern Android devices, such as the Nexus tablet.

You will use the programming tools that Android software developers use to build your own useful app during this course. Along the way, we will introduce fundamental computer science principles and programming ideas that power today’s smartphone and tablet apps.

We will also peek beyond the borders of Android programming to the world of computer science. Meet computer science undergraduates, see one of the first vacuum tube computers, the first transistor, and now-modern scientific research on the Blue Waters supercomputer—all at Illinois.

Android Developer Track: Weeks 1–5 (required for passing the course):
This portion of the course is intended to give you a slow and gentle introduction to the basics of Android application development such as downloading, installing, and setting up the tools you will use in this course. You will also create your first Android app and share the results of your experience with your classmates—all while writing hardly any code at all!

Computer Science and Programming Track: Weeks 6–8 (optional):
During this latter portion of the course, you can delve deeper into computer science fundamentals and beginner programming techniques. Together we will explore this content while developing another really cool project to share.


This course is composed of 2 tracks organized into 8 distinct weekly topics:

Android Developer Track

Week 1: An App for Hello World

Week 2: A Simple App for ILLIAC

Week 3: A Working App for ILLIAC

Week 4: An App for Emily

Week 5: A Simple Web App and Debugging Code in 0g

Computer Science and Programming Track

Week 6: An App to Share My Views

Week 7: An App for Bitmaps and Images

Week 8: An App for Moving Pixels


Recommended Background

No prior computer science experience is required.

Suggested Readings

There is no required textbook for this course, though there may be links to free articles and other resources available on the Web for you to read.

Course Format

In addition to watching video lectures and answering practice in-lecture questions each week, you will participate in the following activities:

  • Weekly quizzes based on the lectures each week (first 5 are required)
  • Peer-graded projects in which you will create your own apps (first 2 are required)


What resources and technology will I need for this class?

A reasonably modern and powerful Linux, Windows, or Mac-OS X computer is required. A modern Android tablet or phone (such as the approximately USD$199 Nexus 7) is useful but not required because you’ll be able to use a virtual device that runs on your computer.

How do I pass this course and what will I earn if I do?

Earning a 70% or higher in the Android Developer Track (Weeks 1–5) will qualify you for a Verified Certificate if you are participating in the Signature Track and earn you a badge from Illinois. In addition, if you also earn a 70% or higher in the Computer Science and Programming Track (Weeks 6–8), you will receive an additional separate badge from Illinois. (You do not need to be enrolled in Signature Track to receive the badges.)

See what others have to say about this course!

"I entered this course with zero Android knowledge and am quite amazed at what I am able to learn in a few short weeks." -M. A. "…this was a very nice introduction to mobile programming, and I enjoyed it a lot!" -S. W. "…not everyone can explain things in such a fun way and with so much passion…No course has ever inspired me so much other than this one." -G. A.

Illinois is a world leader in research, teaching, and public engagement, distinguished by the breadth of our programs, broad academic excellence, and internationally renowned faculty.

Join the Illinois community for Creative, Serious and Playful Science of Android Apps:

Image sources: Flickr / JD Hancock, Flickr / kosheahan, and Flickr / etnyk

  • 20 October 2014, 8 weeks
  • 2 December 2013, 11 weeks
Course properties:
  • Free:
  • Paid:
  • Certificate:
  • MOOC:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Email-course:
  • Language: English Gb


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