AU Students Develop App for Studying Spanish Phonetics

Anderson, Ind. — Over the past two years, students in the computer science program at Anderson University have been partnering with the modern foreign language program to develop an app that aids in studying Spanish phonetics. It is a custom tool that contains specific vocabulary and content for the SPAN 3140 course at AU. The research for the app has been presented at two Scholars Day events and at the 2018 CIS Case Competition at Ball State University.

The idea for the app was originally created by Mikayla Phillips BA ’17, who double majored in computer science and Spanish and minored in TESOL. In the fall of 2016, she was taking a class that focused on developing software for Android phones, and she developed a prototype app for her final project. The next semester, she completed an independent study to expand the app to iOS and worked on simple prototypes for iOS and Android.

In the fall of 2017, Dr. Jennifer Coy, professor of computer science and physics and the advisor of Phillips’ independent study, decided to focus on further developing the app in her CPSC 4430 course on software engineering. The five students in the class used the Scrum Agile development method to create a Software as a Service (SaaS), which allows users to connect to the server with any device running any operating system. “By the end of the semester, they had created a functional app that the students in SPAN 3140 used while studying for their final,” said Coy.

The app presents users with the two content areas from the SPAN 3140 course: vocabulary and allophones. Each area displays a list of the content plus two types of quizzes. Words in the quizzes are presented in a randomized order and the app keeps score, so the user knows how many words they answered correctly on the first attempt.

During the past spring semester, three students chose to continue work on the app. Ally Wallace, a junior computer science major, worked on the project as an independent study. Maddie Pleninger, a junior majoring in computer science and minoring in math, and Lizette Romero BA ’18, an information systems major, were employed by the department to also continue development.

The three students worked to add additional functionality and improve the appearance of the app, and they presented the app at the 2018 CIS Case Competition at Ball State University. “The students wrote a paper and created a presentation for the event,” said Coy. “While they were not selected as winners, they did enjoy the competition and learned a lot from the experience.”

Coy and the students worked very closely with Carrie Clay BA ’99, assistant professor of Spanish. “Professor Clay agreed to meet with my class every other week during the fall 2017 semester,” said Coy. “This gave the students the experience of working with a non-technical client, and she provided great feedback on what features the app needed and guidance on the design.”

In addition, Aaron Tucker, an information systems major graduating in August, Alex Ruckman BA ’18, computer science major, and Tyler Cooper, a senior working toward a bachelor of science in computer science, worked on early versions on the app.

Coy found the opportunity incredibly valuable to her students. “The opportunity to work with a real, actively involved client to develop a real, actively used application was so valuable to them,” she said. “In addition, the Spanish students will benefit from this app next fall and in the years to come.” The app also provides an ongoing project for students to continue to improve in the future, gaining experience and adding skills to their resume. “I am very happy with how this turned out.”

Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.

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