Your friend's version attempts to ‘smooth’ your rhetoric and add what he takes to be an important additional consideration—that the applications you will develop will be appropriate to all conceivable users and situations. But he has changed your meaning.
Your version names three abilities which the courses will hone:
- information gathering and analysis
- information digitization
- development of appropriate applications
His version also names three abilities (slightly different ones) which the courses will hone—
- to gather information
- to digitize information
- to analyze information ...
but he goes on to states that you will hone these abilities while—that is, in the course of—developing applications.
Now it may be that he is right: that you will not get any better at developing applications and that developing applications is merely the context within which you will get better at handling information. Only you can determine whether that is the case.
But I suspect what has happened here is that your friend noted that you speak of three operations performed on ‘information’ and found an elegant way to wrap these up in a single coordinate construction: “gather, digitize, and analyze information”. And then he had to deal with your third ability. He wanted to avoid another and right away (this is called the horror aequi principle), so he joined this to what went before with a while construction.
WARNING: This replacement of coordinating conjunctions with subordinating expressions such as while or as well as or in addition to is a very common error in business and technical writing. Take note that these expressions are not equivalent to and: they signify quite different relationships between clauses.
If in fact your friend is wrong, and developing applications is in fact one of the abilities you expect the courses to hone, I suggest that what is missing is the relationship between those applications and your previously mentioned operations on information. Perhaps what you mean is something like this:
The courses will hone my ability to gather and analyze information; to structure that information in appropriate digital form; and to develop applications which will enable users to access that information in a variety of useful formats.