The App School

Delivery

The delivery of ‘TheApp School’ provided participants with idea/concept development alongside skills training. Throughout the scheme, participants worked on a ‘live brief’, developing their ideas for iPhone ‘Apps’ one of the fastest growing areas of the digital industry -whilst undergoing training on key skills that creative and digital businesses require. At the end of the project, successful applicants had the chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts possibly winning the opportunity to see their concept realised.

To stimulate demand for the programme upfront, entry onto the programme was via a competition: entrants had to propose initial ‘App’ concepts, whilst demonstrating that they were actively seeking a career in the creative and digital industries. Information about the programme was circulated through local press, resulting in coverage in the Manchester Evening News and South Manchester Reporter, alongside through a wide range of other communication channels. These included Community Arts NW, Manchester Beacons, MMU alumni services, Cornerhouse, etc.

Over 50 applications were received, and these were judged by staff at MMU and The White Room. The 11 applicants with the best overall proposals were invited onto the course. The course itself comprised of two main strands: a 3-day ‘Ideas Lab’, and a series of 4 one-day ‘Business Lab’ training sessions.

The Ideas Labs were lead by multi-platform training expert Stuart Nolan.Taking place over a long weekend, this intensive series of workshops provided an opportunity for the participants to challenge and refine the ‘app’ concepts they had originally presented. A local ‘app’ developer was on hand throughout one full day of the weekend to provide technical insight, and a panel discussion comprising a range of Manchester based digital companies currently developing successful apps (including Connect2Media and StarDotStar) were also provided.

Following on from the ‘Ideas Lab’ weekend, the participants then attended a weekly one-day ‘Business Lab’ training session, each delivered by respected digital industry trainers. The sessions covered ‘Developing your career in the Digital and Creative Industries’, ‘An introduction to Project Management’, ‘Financial management for creative and digital businesses’ and ‘Getting the best out of you and your team’. Although tackling high-level cognitive skills, these sessions were developed to be accessible to the participants. In addition, each participant undertook a ‘Psycuity’ personal profile, and received a full report and feedback, which is designed to provide indepth self-awareness, similar to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.

Throughout both the Ideas and Business Labs, the learning was designed to refer back to their ‘app’ concept providing real-world context to the training. Further, in each Business Lab training module, the participants were required to pitch how they would apply what they had learnt during that session back to the trainer. For example, in the Financial Management workshop each participant had to pitch the finances of the project as if they were pitching to an investor. The Ideas and Business Labs were all held at Cornerhouse.

At the end of the programme, an additional half-day session was delivered by Stuart Nolan whereby participants had the chance to work through their final pitches. Following immediately on from this was the final pitch panel, where all 9 participant pitched their ideas to a panel, which included representatives from MMU, Connect2Media, LA-based MEDL Mobile, White Park Bay and Manchester Beacons. The winning app ‘Hurdy Gurdy Hero’, sought to re-create a medieval instrument, after a confident and inspiring pitch by Abigail Sanders. That app is currently being developed by MMUs Computer Science department.

Outcomes

Feedback from participants has been very positive (see User Feedback / Anecdotes), as has feedback from local creative and digital businesses that have heard about the project. Participants on the programme have been offered internships at Connect2Media, and LA-based App Developers MEDL Mobile (who were present at the pitch panel) have been in touch with the participants to explore future opportunities. In addition, participants themselves have been exploring networking opportunities to create their own links with the sector. Further, the relationship between Cornerhouse, MMU, TheWhite Room and industry has been strengthened, which is already leading to new collaborations.

Feedback

We captured feedback from participants online, both after the initial Ideas Lab weekend and after the Business Lab programme ended.The feedback was universally positive. Here is just a snapshot of the responses:

“I have never had any chance to learn about understanding finances, and it was great to be taught thin gs that i know personally will be useful now and in the future.”

“I think it was a fantastic opportunity to get to meet like-minded people in Manchester and get to know people already in the creative industry in the area.” “I just want to say Thank you for this opportunity”

“…it was a brilliant and I really hope its the beginning of an excellent series of App Schools”

“To be a part of the app school has been exciting, fun, friendly, and very useful for my future career in design and the creative world. A big thank you to phil and the rest of the people involved for making t his possible.”

“one word -EPIC”

Media coverage

Given the innovative nature of the project, coupled with the growing media interest in smartphone ‘Apps’. The App School attracted a great deal of coverage within Manchester. These are listed below, with images include in the Annex to this report.

On launch, the programme was instantly covered in the South Manchester Reporter, who ran a one-page interview withTheWhite Room’s Phil Birchenall (with a front-page lead-in). This feature can be found online at: http://menmedia.co.uk/news/s/1192463_apps_the_way_to_do_it_at_school

The Manchester Evening News also featured the call-out for applications, through a half-page feature in their Media section.

Crains Manchester published a story about the project on 25th Feb: http:// www.crainsmanchesterbusiness.co.uk/article/20100225/FREE/100229935

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About the Author

Aidan Gee, Head of Digital Development

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