Students developing mobile app for health literacy

By Derek Devine

When Professor David Gillman discovered the Florida Literacy Coalition had a desire to turn popular online resources into a mobile app, he knew the early stages of development would be a great fit for an independent study project at New College.

Students in Professor David Gillman's ISP course discuss the mobile app they are designing for the Florida Literacy Coalition
Students in Professor David Gillman’s ISP course discuss the mobile app they are designing for the Florida Literacy Coalition.

Creating a fun, educational and fully functioning mobile app takes months to develop, so Gillman’s role was to decide a reasonable scope for the ISP. He settled on building a small prototype by focusing on the visual elements within the mobile app. To kickoff the project, the seven ISP students were tasked with reading the Staying Healthy health literacy curriculum on the Florida Literacy Coalition website — an online resource that has been downloaded more than a million times. This research allowed the students to quiz each other and form the best questions to include in the game-like mobile app to quiz users about health.

The Florida Literacy Coalition promotes, supports and advocates for the effective delivery of quality adult and family literacy services. The way they share their resources continues to evolve, so having the answers to common questions at the fingertips of each user is key. The mobile app will serve as a primer for learning the United States health system, touching on topics such as healthcare, medicine and nutrition. It will even give step-by-step instructions for a doctor’s office visit — from calling and making an appointment to checking out after the care has been provided.

Second-year student Hunt Sparra is excited to be at the forefront of the entire process, though he knows there is a lengthy task at hand.

“We don’t have the time to code and develop an entire app during the ISP timeframe, but coming up with the vision and outline is very doable,” says Sparra. “Our work is a valuable start for the development that will continue after this ISP.”

A screenshot of the app the ISP class is developing.
A screenshot of the app the ISP class is developing.

Sparra studies computer science at New College where he focuses on game development and artificial intelligence. Having an opportunity to design and develop a mobile app captured his attention when looking for possible ISPs.

“There are plenty of individual and group ISP opportunities for students at New College,” says Sparra. “I picked a group ISP that involved a lot of teamwork with others so I could learn more about group dynamics when it comes to completing a project.”

Collaboration is a necessity when it comes to proposing and choosing ideas to make the mobile app game-like and fun. The whole group decides on the best ideas as they work to develop the wireframe models of the app and build a prototype to test essential features such as designated skill levels, in-app rewards based on performance and user-specific feedback.

Although the mobile app is not yet complete, a few representatives from the Florida Literacy Coalition admired the early progress and gave feedback to help the students move forward. The working relationship will continue throughout the spring as visiting professor Sinan al-Safaar will lead more hands-on work as students develop the mobile app. There is also potential for a summer internship, an opportunity Sparra would love to have.

“I want to see this project through its completion,” says Sparra. “Having the ability to work on the project from start to finish would be huge stepping stone for my future.”

Students will give a short presentation of the project at the ISP Fair at the end of January.

— Derek Devine is the social media manager at New College of Florida


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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