This term I have been lucky enough to be released for four hours on a Tuesday morning to assist my old colleagues in Business, Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics to facilitate Mobile App development in the Diploma of IT. The department has been struggling after the unexpected passing of a colleague.

To side track just briefly, I was lucky to call Frank both a teacher and a colleague. As a student, I didn’t care much for networking and server management related units. Yet Frank was this fountain of knowledge and always took the time to explain the concepts in ways everyone could understand. Being able to make classes engaging for everyone, as I later came to learn myself, is not an easy feat. Even now I tend to find myself looking back on those classes and leaning on the experiences I had as a student of Frank’s to inform my own teaching practice.

Which has been an interesting challenge to overcome this term. Being dropped into the unit at almost the last minute has meant I’ve had to get up to speed on my C# and Xamarin knowledge quickly. Things I haven’t covered since doing the mobile apps unit myself during my Advanced Diploma. In my current role the most we had previously done was a bit of app development using MIT App Inventor. So to say my programming skills had slipped was a bit of an understatement.

It did bring forward an interesting conversation, however, about the unit’s contents being focussed on Xamarin over frameworks like Flutter or Ionic. Each framework has its advantages and disadvantages I’m not going to get into in this post, but at the core they all provide cross-platform capability so any of these frameworks will do the job.

The thing about TAFE’s a lot of people don’t quite understand is that there’s a national body that develop the performance criteria and then trainers develop material in line with those criteria, and having been through it I can tell you it is not a fast process. In a nutshell, there’s a government body that interacts with a lot of industry to guide what skills and knowledge needs to be covered to ensure graduates are learning the necessary skills for the workplace. The materials are created and reviewed by teams of people to ensure the contents meets these criteria and lots of tweaks often need to get made.

Anyway, long story short, this material for Xamarin covers all of that performance criteria, and if anyone wanted to do anything other than make iterative changes to the unit they would have to go through the process of redeveloping the course materials a process that can take months once you jump through all the hurdles. Documenting whatever framework they wanted to use in place of Xamarin in enough detail that anyone could pick up the unit in future.

You’re probably reading this wondering what my preference would be? It’s not a straightforward answer. Xamarin is familiar, and a Microsoft product now that uses C# natively. I’ve toyed with Flutter in the recent past, I liked that it was Dart based, and React is just wickedly popular as a framework right now even if it was created by Meta. If I was developing a unit from scratch to these criteria, I would probably lean more towards Flutter. Luckily, though, that is not a decision I have to make. At least not in a work sense!