Programming Mobile Applications for Android Handheld Systems: Part 1

This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the design and implementation of Android applications for handheld systems, such as smartphones and tablets.

About The Course

This course has been developed in two parts (Part 1 and Part 2), which will cover the fundamental programming principles, software architecture and user experience considerations underlying handheld software applications and their development environments, enabling course completers to build their own Android applications and experienced engineers to master a powerful set of development skills.

Part 1 of this course will focus on the core components of the Android platform that underly all Android applications:

  • setting up your Android Development Environment
  • working with screen configurations and multiple screen sizes
  • working with the all-important Activity Class and its lifecycle
  • being able implement intents and permissions
  • running multiple activities with the Fragment Class
  • creating user interfaces to make your apps run smoothly for your users.

Part 2 will focus on advanced components and concepts provided by the Android platform:

  • notifying users about important events
  • handling concurrency
  • acquiring data over the network 
  • leveraging multimedia and graphics
  • incorporating touch and gestures into your apps
  • working with sensors

To bring these concepts alive, the course will involve in-­depth, hands-­on examples of applications implemented with the Android Platform. Students will apply what they learn, also using the Android Platform, in laboratory projects and in a large course project defined in collaboration with MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Mobile Cloud Computing with Android (MoCCA) Specialization: New and Improved

We are proud to announce that the MoCCA specialization has already reached hundreds of thousands of learners around the globe. 

In its last iteration, we worked with Google to provide Nexus tablets, feedback from the Google App team, and the potential to be featured in the Google Play store to top course completers.

This time around, we are providing more flexibility for all of you busy learners. We are running the Programming Mobile Applications courses in more digestible one-month-long sections, each with a meaningful mini-project at the end. Additionally, we will be re-offering the courses more frequently. Now, you can find a convenient time to join us or pick up where you left off if you didn’t quite finish before.

Note: To participate in the final project, you must earn Verified Certificates for all courses in the sequence. Learners who purchase Full Access to the entire series will also receive two years of unlimited retries while these courses are offered.

For previous MoCCA students: If you have already completed my previous version of this course, "Programming Mobile Applications for Android Handheld Systems” offered in January and September 2014, you do not need to retake this course to continue towards the Specialization certificate and final project in 2015. 

Please consult the Specializations Help Center or contact the Coursera support team if you are not sure whether you qualify.

What is the MoCCA Specialization?

This course has been designed as part of a Coursera Specialization designed to help learners create complex, cloud-based Android Applications, called the Mobile Cloud Computing with Android (MoCCA) Specialization. 

The other four courses are led respectively by Drs. Douglas Schmidt and Jules White of Vanderbilt University, and some of the programming assignments and the course project for these courses will be coordinated.

  • Course 3: Programming Mobile Services for Android Handheld Systems: Concurrency
  • Course 4: Programming Mobile Services for Android Handheld Systems: Communication
  • Dr. Douglas Schmidt, Associate Chair of Computer Science and Engineering and Professor of Computer Science, Vanderbilt University

The third and fourth courses in the sequence focus on systems programming topics, such as middleware services and background processing.

  • Course 5: Programming Cloud Services for Android Handheld Systems: Spring
  • Course 6: Programming Cloud Services for Android Handheld Systems: Security
  • Dr. C. Jules White, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Vanderbilt University

The fifth and sixth courses in the sequence will focus on connecting Android mobile devices to cloud computing and data storage resources, essentially turning a device into an extension of powerful cloud-based services on popular cloud computing platforms, such as Google App Engine and Amazon EC2.

Although each of these courses stands alone, those who do choose to complete the entire MoCCA sequence will gain a much more detailed, end-to-end understanding of handheld systems and their applications.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I already passed the previous version of this course in 2014? Do I have to re-take this to qualify for the final project?

  • If you passed the 2014 version of this course with a Verified Certificate, you will be credited for completing Part 1 and Part 2. You do not have to retake these two courses.
  • However, if you did not pass, or did not earn a Verified Certificate, you should take Part 1 and Part 2.
  • If you have questions, please consult the Specializations Help Center or contact the Coursera support team.

What are the course objectives? Upon completing this course, students should be able to:

  • Use Android platform's organization, patterns and programming mechanisms effectively to develop their own Android applications.
  • Use development tools, such as those found in the Android Developer's Toolkit to efficiently create, understand, debug and optimize Android applications.
  • Name the key forces and constraints acting on handheld devices and know how to accommodate these when designing and building their own Android applications.
  • Know where to find additional sources of information to understand and solve Android-related problems.
  • What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?
  • How to write the software applications that you and half the world are running on your handheld devices.
  • What computer languages do I need to know?
  • Experience with Java should be enough. As mentioned in the Recommended Background Section, those who don't know Java, but have strong familiarity with other languages may want to take a Java tutorial prior to starting this course.
  • Can students take this course if they have no prior experience with Android programming or programming with Java?
  • This course assumes that students are comfortable programming in Java and have some experience programming Android apps. If you don't have any significant Java programming background, please look on the Internet for one of the many Java-related tutorials that are freely-available.
  • Can students use programming language, other than Java, for the course?
  • Not really. The main programming language for Android is Java.
  • Do I need to buy an Android device?
  • No. All the graded exercises will be done using the Android Emulator.
  • Will you use Eclipse or Android Studio in this course?
  • All of my videos use Eclipse. But now that Android Studio is out of beta release state, I encourage students to start using it.
  • Is it necessary to take all the courses in the Specialization sequence?
  • No. If you just want to take some of the courses in this sequence--or take them all in different order--you're certainly welcome to do so, and you'll still learn a lot. However, if you take all the courses in this sequence in the order presented you'll gain a deeper, end-to-end understanding of handheld systems, their applications and services, as well as their integration into the cloud.
  • How does this MOOC compare/contrast with courses at the University of Maryland? This MOOC is heavily based on courses I teach at UMD, called CMSC436, Programming Handheld Systems. The course lecture material is similar, but the quizzes, programming assignments, and level of feedback for the UMD courses are more challenging, given that we have about twice the amount of time to work on it. Also, as the UMD course has many fewer students, there's significantly more personalized guidance from the professor and TAs that can't (yet) be replicated via a MOOC. This is one reason why it's important for students to take on some of the  role of the Instructor. When we all work together, we all benefit.
  • When will the course material be made available each week?
  • All the course material (e.g., video lectures, quizzes, short essays, programming assignments, etc.), for each week will be made available at 12:00am eastern time (5am UTC/GMT). each Friday of the course.
  • What is the most effective way to learn material covered in the course?
  • I recommend watching the videos multiple times, looking for different levels of meaning in the diagrams and the examples. Likewise, I recommend reading outside sources of information. Naturally, participating in the online discussion forums (and ideally, a meetup group if one is available in your area) will help make the course material more engaging.
  • Which web browsers are recommended?
  • Coursera recommends using the Chrome and Firefox browsers. There's also a mobile app for Coursera MOOC, as well.
  • Is the course broadcast live? I live on the other side of the world from you!
  • No. Course lectures are videotaped. Students watch the lectures and do programming assignments and quizzes when it's convenient for them.
  • Where can students download the slides that are presented in the videos?
  • PDF versions of the slides will be available online as the videos are released.
  • What resources will I need for this class?
  • For this course, you'll need is an Internet connection, a computer on which to run free Android developer tools, and the time to read, write, and discuss.
  • What should I be reading to prepare for class?
  • There is no course textbook. If you want to get started early, dive into the Android Developer's Website
  • When I try to watch the videos before the class start, I get an error message.
  • You can preview some of the videos by pressing the "Preview Lectures" Button at the top of the course webpage

How do I qualify for the final capstone project? Has this requirement changed since the last offering?
As before, you will need to pass all courses in the series with Verified Certificates in order to qualify. 

This time, however, we've simplified the criteria by making the programming assignments mandatory. We decided to do this because we felt the assignments were an important part of learning the material and students were confused by having multiple requirements. 

I remember this course used to be part of a larger course in 2014. Why was it split into two courses?
Based on survey feedback, completion data and studies of other courses, we realized that having shorter courses gives our students more flexibility around their busy schedules.

Even though the courses have been split, the overall content remains the same, so we feel confident that we are not diluting the actual learning standards of our material.

If I passed the older version of the course, do I have to retake it to be a part of the Specialization?
It depends: Did you earn a Verified Certificate with distinction in the last offering? If so, you do not have to retake this or the next course.

However, if you did not earn a Verified Certificate with distinction, you should retake this course. This includes:
  • Passing with an unverified Statement of Accomplishment
  • Passing normal (not distinction) with a Verified Certificate
Does this mean that the overall cost of the Specialization is greater now?
Yes. Since there are more courses now, the overall cost is greater than before. However, we felt this was reasonable because the cost of earning the official certificate and capstone is still very affordable compared to many other university courses. Plus, if you just want to join and check out our course content, it's still free and available to everyone.

I still have questions about these changes. Who should I talk to?
Please consult the Specializations Help Center or contact the Coursera support team.

Recommended Background

This course is created for students who already know how to program in Java, but are not expected to have studied mobile application development. This corresponds roughly to Sophomore- or Junior-level undergraduate students in a computer science related discipline or the equivalent.

If you don't already know Java, but have strong familiarity with other programming languages, you can improve your Java knowledge by taking one of the many Java tutorials and online courses available on the web.

As discussed above, this course assumes previous programming knowledge. It also assumes that you are willing to search for, read and learn from Android's developer documentation. This is both a necessary skill for success in the class, and, in our experience, a necessary skill for successful Android developers at all levels.

In short, this course is not designed for truly novice programmers. If your background is not appropriate for this class, consider first taking a less programming-intensive introduction to Android such as "Creative, Serious and Playful Science of Android Apps", by Lawrence Angrave of the University of Illinois and Urbana-Champaign.