The iOS Design Lab at MSU: Create. Share. Impact.

By fall 2018, the lab had recruited a cohort of 20 stellar students to embark on this year-long journey.
Sarah Gretter

Michigan State University has launched the first iOS Design Lab in the United States. The Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology and the College of Arts & Letters have been working with Apple to offer students a space to create, share, and impact their communities by solving challenges through Swift, the coding language of Apple.

By fall 2018, the lab had recruited a cohort of 20 stellar students to embark on this year-long journey.


Everyone Can Code

The iOS Design Lab aspires to welcome students from all colleges who are either novice or experienced coders. With a current representation of majors ranging from Professional Writing or Computer Science to Experience Architecture and Advertising Management, the lab relies on a personalized and adaptable approach to coding. Apple’s Everyone Can Code (ECC) curriculum is a “new approach to coding that gives everyone the power to learn, write, and teach code” (Apple, 2018). The flexibility of the ECC curriculum allows for students to move at their own pace while learning the basics of Swift and gaining familiarity with iOS platforms.

Students in the Hub's flex space convening

Challenge-Based Learning

To place coding in context, the lab’s pedagogical approach is grounded in Challenge-Based Learning (CBL). Based on Apple’s 2008 white paper Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow-Today, CBL provides a structure for learning through real-world challenges, thanks to “innovative practices in education, media, technology, entertainment, recreation, the workplace, and society.” (Digital Promise, 2018). While similar to other frameworks (e.g., Problem-Based Learning), CBL distinguishes itself by the freedom students have to decide what challenge they want to focus on based on their own passions and interests.

Students around a white board in the Hub's flex space looking perplexed.

Making thinking visible

In order to surface the ideas, assumptions, and solutions that inform the app creation process, the Lab relies on design thinking activities. Design thinking practices are a particularly good fit for CBL because they allow students to gather around guiding questions to make sense of both their individual and collective understanding of issues surrounding app development. Design thinking also provides a format for conducting human-centered research, a principle that grounds the lab in a humanities-focused approach to technology.


Students in the Hub's flex space putting pink, blue and purple sticky notes on a board.


In order to merge design and coding through Challenge-Based Learning for students from a variety of backgrounds, the iOS Design Lab had to form an instructional team that was as interdisciplinary as the experience itself. At present, the team is composed of Sarah Gretter (Hub) and Scott Schopieray (CAL) as Design Coaches, along with Anderson Day (undergraduate student, experience architecture) and Matt Drazin (graduate student, educational psychology and educational technology) as Swift Coaches. The lab is currently hosted in the flex space of the new Digital Scholarship Lab at the Main MSU Library.

Students in the Digital Scholar Lab

The next round of applications for the 2019-2020 iOS Design Lab cohort will be available during Spring 2019. For more information about the iOS Design Lab, contact Sarah Gretter <> or visit the following: