OUR OPINION: Apps course starts push for more rigor

By NEMS Daily Journal

The future of business and education met the present Tuesday morning with an announcement by CREATE Foundation, Toyota Education Endowment and Mississippi State University that students in 14 Northeast Mississippi high schools will be eligible in January to apply for a dual enrollment credit program developing web applications.
The 14 high schools all are in the eight school districts of the three counties of the PUL Alliance – Pontotoc, Union and Lee – the academic focus of the Toyota Education Endowment, a $50 million commitment funded over 10 years.
The focus of the program, entrepreneurial apps, flows from Mississippi State’s status as the second university worldwide (Stanford was first) to offer such courses, which can be widely adapted for iPhones and android phones.
Four students already selected for the inaugural class have advanced technological skills. The four – three from Saltillo High and one from New Albany High – said at a Tuesday morning press conference they have definite plans in mind for making money with the apps they will develop.
MSU President Mark Keenum said the course represents “a new era” because it is “business-oriented, cutting-edge development of apps and in the context of entrepreneurship.”
Similar courses are offered now to students enrolled at Mississippi State, and some have been profitably marketed. A cadre of professors from MSU’s College of Business will teach the course, two sessions online each week on high school campuses and Saturday mornings face-to-face at Toyota’s assembly plant facility near Blue Springs.
The planned but not funded Center for Professional Futures would provide additional, similar courses once built near Blue Springs, as CREATE’s Mike Clayborne noted.
“It is a combination of showing what is possible and being able to do something right now that will benefit these students,” Clayborne said.
The new course clearly is in line with intentions Toyota had in establishing the endowment for leading-edge upgrades in the academic rigor and expectations of schools of the PUL Alliance counties.
Tuesday’s announcement should be viewed as the first of many innovations in a process to help ensure jobs for the students in the three counties.