Monday, 27 October 2014

HNC/D Interactive Media

The QDT for HNC/D Interactive Media met on Saturday to make some key decisions about the revised award. The development is being led by Fiona Murnin.

The first decision we made was the title. The revised awards will be called:
  1. HNC Digital Design & Web Development
  2. HND Web Development
  3. HND Digital Development.
The HNC will be common to both HNDs. One of the HNDs will focus on web development; the other will be more general and focus on digital platforms.

We also discussed employment opportunities, progression paths, professional recognition and vendor accreditation. It was a productive meeting that gave a lot of ideas to Fiona.

You can see the evolving Group Award Specification below.

Contact Fiona if you want more information about this development.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Welcome to Liz

I recently wrote about Helen, who is replacing Hilary, but I want to introduce Liz Sinclair.

Helen can't join my team until the end of November so I needed help during the period between now and then, given that Hilary has moved onto her new post. So Liz will, temporarily, provide cover until Helen can join me.

I won't update my team diagram until Helen joins us.

Liz has taken over Hilary's portfolio so, essentially, e-mail Liz in place of Hilary for any of the subjects in the above diagram. Liz is an experienced QO who has been with SQA since 2005 and I'm sure that she will be able to help.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Review of HNC/D Computer Games Development

As part of SQA's regular review process, the HNC/D Computer Games Development is due to be reviewed this year. SQA was the first awarding body in the UK to introduce qualifications in this area. The awards have proven to be popular, with over 1000 pupils in Scottish schools doing the NPA award.

When we're pretty sure that a qualification needs an update, we immediately commence a full review. When we're not so sure, we begin by "scoping" the changes needed. Given the pretty positive feedback I've had about this award, we're going to scope it this year.

We're looking for someone to carry out the scoping. This involves the completion of a pro forma that explores the strengths and weaknesses of the current award, and outlines the likely changes needed. The person would consult with centres that currently offer the award, as well as employer and professional representatives.

Please contact Caroline if you are interested in carrying out this work or want to find out more. Ideally, you will have experience of delivering the qualification. I hope to commence the scoping in November and the person would be required for around one day per week.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Respect Me

I don't normally promote third parties, or third party events, on this blog since you come here for qualification news, but I'll make an exception for this event.

RespectMe's annual conference takes place on 18 November and it sounds very worthwhile, with workshops on bullying, cyberbullying, and homophobia. More information here.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Michael Young seminar

I attended a lecture by Michael Young on Friday afternoon as part of SQA's series of research seminars. Michael is a professor at the University of London and has recently written a book about the role of knowledge in schools.

The theme of Michael's lecture was knowledge, and its importance in today's world. He stressed the importance of conceptual knowledge over "context based knowledge". Conceptual knowledge, he said, was "generalisable"; context based knowledge was "particular" to a specific set of circumstances. He used the term "powerful knowledge" to describe conceptual knowledge that "emancipates" and permits the learner to "think the unthinkable". Michael contrasted conceptual knowledge with dogma. He said: "If you only have skills then you are just another machine".

I enjoyed his talk. It was challenging and thought provoking. It has made me think about the role of knowledge in vocational qualifications.

SQA's research seminars are for SQA staff, and invited guests, to keep staff up-to-date with the latest thinking on education, learning and assessment.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Welcome to Helen

I recently wrote about the vacant Qualifications Officer post in my team due to Hilary's recent appointment as Digital Literacy Manager.

I'm pleased to let you know that Helen Zhang has been appointed to the position. Helen currently works as a QO in another team, but this post is for a longer (fixed term) period. Helen will formally join my team on 27 November.

Helen has worked for SQA since 2010, in various positions including our international team, so is an experienced member of staff. I'm sure that you'll all get to know her over the next couple of years.

Hilary asked me to finish this post with a message. Don't contact Hilary for more information. :-) Please contact me.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Aspect report on Computing

I've mentioned previously the recently published Aspect report [PDF] on Computing in colleges. I've now had a proper read of the final report.

Section 9 lists a number of actions that various agencies should carry out. There are none directly addressed to SQA (the curriculum got a pretty clean bill of health) but there are some that, I think, SQA can play an important role. These are:

  • the role of Mathematics within Computing programmes
  • the achievement rates in the subject area
  • employer involvement in programmes.
The report also mentions vendor links (in Section 2 rather than a recommendation) and this is something, too, that I plan to look at.

I intend to liaise with the HMIE who wrote the report (Sheila Page) to discuss how SQA can help. I think that the first recommendation (the role of Maths within Computing) is something, in particular, that SQA can assist with. Look out for future posts about this.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Local options within HN awards

Around this time last year, I wrote about local options within HN awards. I also raised local options in my last two update letters.

Local options permit colleges to customise (to a certain extent) HN awards to meet local demands. For example, a college with a large software development company nearby may want to add more programming units to an award.

We used to change frameworks on an ad hoc basis but the number of requests increased to the extent that I changed the procedure so that the QST considers each request, and we update the frameworks annually (for the start of term). However, you don't need to wait a year to find out if your request is successful. The QST can consider your request pretty quickly and you will get a response within a week or two (normally). But the framework will only change once per year.

Computing is one of the few subjects still to offer local options. Most have dropped this feature. I think it's a good idea but it was becoming time consuming to constantly change frameworks. This new procedure seems to work well.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about local options within HN awards.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

HNC/D Interactive Media

I recently appointed Fiona Murnin as lead developer for the review of HNC/D Interactive Media. Fiona is Course Leader at New College Lanarkshire, and also serves as an External Verifier for SQA.

Me and Caroline met with Fiona yesterday afternoon to discuss the role of the lead developer and also to create a project plan to revise the existing award. The lead developer is a vital role that encompasses several important tasks, including the writing of the Group Award Specification (which includes the qualification structure) and also leading the QDT at the validation event.

Fiona's first job is to write the rationale and aims of the award. We plan on doing this in a novel way. Instead of writing aims, frameworks and other information separately, we plan on completing the appropriate sections of the Group Award Specification directly. That will save us piecing it all together at the end.

The Group Award Specification has been shared online, so you can see how it is progressing at any time.

Fiona will gradually populate the document over the coming months. Feel free to use the comment facility to let us know what you think of it. She will be consulting with stakeholders in the coming months so look out for information about that in the near future.

We hope to have the revised awards (HNC and HND) available to centres from January 2016. Contact Caroline for more information about the development or contact Fiona for specific information about the revised qualification.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Lead person for new colleges

A couple of months ago, I posted that I planned to create a list of contacts for the new regional colleges. I also mentioned it in the update letters that have recently been sent to centres.

In those letters I ask for each college to nominate a person to be the lead contact for the college. This person would be the subject contact (for vocational Computing awards) and would be used to cascade subject-related information to their colleagues.

Prior to regionalisation we maintained a list of college contacts and this worked well for contacting centres. But due to the many changes that have taken place in the sector, this list is out of date. The new college lead person for Computing doesn't have to be the most senior person in the college. It can be anyone who is willing to be the first point of contact for me and my team, and be willing to share information with their fellow lecturers.

I would appreciate if you would contact me directly if wish to serve as your college lead person. I just need a name at this time, after which I will take it from there. Of course, you should consult with colleaguees before volunteering.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Changing how we communicate

I recently posted a message about my annual update letters. In that post I stated that my annual update letters would be sent (via e-mail) to your SQA Co-ordinator for onward distribution to relevant staff. I learned today that that's not the way things are done any more.

SQA Co-ordinators in centres were getting swamped with information, and asked for more to be put into the weekly Centre News, which contains a wide range of SQA-related information about qualifications and events. This week's Centre News can be viewed here. There are links to my letters at the foot of that page and there are instructions about how to subscribe on the right hand panel.

The update letters will also appear on the respective subject pages, either here for NC/NPA awards or here for HN/PDA awards.

I appreciate that the new way of sending information like my update letters is less direct than the previous method (you have to go looking rather than it coming to you) but the old method was causing information overload. It's really another reason to read this blog. There's nothing in the update letters that hasn't been discussed on this blog -- and it arrives here a lot faster than my once-a-year letter. So please bookmark this URL or, better still, add the RSS feed to your favourite reader app. I use Feedly on my PC and smartphone. Or you can follow us on Twitter.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Update letters

I asked the admin team to send out two update letters on Friday: one for non-advanced awards and one for advanced awards. They contain important information about changes to vocational Computing awards.

The non-advanced letter includes information about new National Units, new group awards (such as NPA Digital Passport) and changes to existing awards (such as PC Passport).

The advanced letter includes information new Higher National Units and details about new and revised awards at SCQF Levels 7 and 8.

There's nothing in either letter that readers of this blog will not already know but for those who don't regularly read this blog they contain vital information about changes to qualifications, including important dates.

The letters will be sent to centres on Thursday, as part of SQA's normal (electronic) weekly update (via your SQA Co-ordinator), so look out for them shortly after that.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Aspect report for Computing

I've previously mentioned the Aspect report for Computing. The final version was published this morning. The report can be downloaded here [PDF]. I haven't had time to read this version but I was privvy to a late draft version, which was much more positive than the previous report (2009).

These subject-based Aspect reports are important. They provide an objective measure of teaching, learning and acheivement in a subject context. So, there is a lot to be taken from them. From SQA's perspective, I will go through the report to see what we can do to address the issues that are identified. One springs to mind immediately. The first recommendation is "to establish clearly the place of mathematics in computing programmes" and that is something that SQA can contribute to. I'm sure that we will be able to help in lots of ways.

I think that the sector will be pleased with the report. It makes much better reading than the previous one, and highlights many of the improvements that have taken place since then. Everyone with an interest in computing in Scottish colleges should read this report.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Digital evidence

SQA's vision is to "digitally transform" over the coming years, and we are currently looking for examples of good practice within centres. We're specifically looking for examples of where you have used digital approaches to the generation of evidence. For example, you may have used a blog to record learner activity and used that as evidence for a unit. We'd like to know the name of the qualification, the nature of the assessment, and how you (digitally) went about it. Please contact me if you have any examples.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Sector Panel

The Sector Panel for Computing met today. The Panel meets once per year and its purpose is to provide guidance about external developments. The members include representatives of schools, colleges, universities, training providers, employers, national organisations and professional bodies.

There was a good attendance today and a busy agenda, which included a discussion about the recently published report entited "Education Working for All" and soon to be published Aspect report on Computing. We were particularly fortunate to have HMIE Sheila Page attend the meeting to give members a preview of the forthcoming Aspect report (which will be published this Friday).

The Panel is not a talk-shop. We agreed on a number of actions today that we will take forward over the coming months. One of these actions will be to explore subject areas that are not well covered by the current portfolio of awards, such as software testing and data security.

We would like to increase the school and employers representation on the Panel so please contact Caroline if you are interested in participating.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Review of HNC/D Interactive Media

As you may know, we are currently revising HNC/D Interactive Media. The Qualification Design Team (QDT) met for the first time on Friday. The QDT is responsible for all aspects of the development. I chair the group. The QDT has representatives of various Scottish colleges (including City of Glasgow, Fife, Ayrshire and New College).

It was a positive and productive meeting. There was a lot of agreement about the changes that need to be made. And one in particular - that the focus should be on web development. In fact, a title change to HNC/D Web Development is a possibility. But no-one wanted major changes. The current course was dated but still popular "with great job prospects" as one of the members pointed out. So, it will be a clear evolution from what we have.

We're looking for more representation from universities and employers so if you know anyone who could help please let Caroline know.

We're not sure about timescales for this development but it's like to be available to centres from January 2016. Contact Caroline for more information about the development or to join the team.

Friday, 12 September 2014

NC Computing with Digital Media

I received notification yesterday that the Group Award Specifications for the National Certificate in Computing with Digital Media are now available on the SQA website. The Specifications can be found on the non-advanced Computing page or you can access them individually at these links:
  1. NC Computing (Level 4)
  2. NC Computing (Level 5)
  3. NC Computing (Level 6).
The support materials for these awards are available on SQA Secure.

Please note the change in title. The previous award was called Digital Media Computing. This one is called Computing with Digital Media. But, I suspect, it might simply be called Computing in practice.

My apologies for the lateness in publishing these documents. I know some of you are offering these awards this year and have had to contact Hilary directly for this information. Please contact Hilary if you require any help or assistance with these awards.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Operational plan

The team's operational plan is our work plan for the year. It defines what we aim to do during the current financial year (April to March). There are two ways for a development to get onto the plan: one way is for the qualification to be due a review (normally every five years); the other way is when a business case has been made and approved. The starting point for many new developments is the ideas capture form.

My current operational plan has a number of developments on it. These include:
  • review of NPA Digital Literacy
  • review of PC Passport
  • review of HNC/D Computer Games Development
  • review of HNC/D Interactive Media
  • review of HNC/D Information Technology.
There are a number of smaller developments too, such as the new big data units.

We're at various stages in these developments but most are at relatively early stages (some have not commenced). We're always looking for people to get involved, so please contact Hilary if you are interested in the Digital Literacy or PC Passport reviews or contact Caroline for the HN developments.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Popularity of awards

Around this time of the year, I get the annual statistics for my subject area. I received the data for 2013/14 today. It always makes interesting reading. It's fascinating to see what's actually popular in centres.

It takes me a little while to do a detailed analysis of my area but a quick glance reveals that the single most popular award is (new) HNC Computing. But the entire HN family of awards is growing in popularity, particularly HND in Software Development. That's a big change from 10 years ago, when numbers were declining.

A stand-out statistic is the uptake of the NPA in Computer Games Development, which is hugely popular in Scottish schools and colleges. That's particularly pleasing since, when we devised it, it was a bit of a gamble since, some thought, that the interest in computer games was a fad. The feedback from the centres is that learners really enjoy the course and learns vital skills (including coding).You can find out more about NPA in Computer Games Development by contacting Hilary.

The entire subject area is growing in popularity mainly, I suspect, because of the great job opportunities and the increased focus on coding as a life skill. Don't forget to download the entire qualification porfolio.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Big Data HN Unit

Some time ago I explained that we were developing a new Higher National Unit on big data. The Unit isn't finished yet, but it's a long way along the road so it seems like a good time to get your feedback. Here is the current version of the Unit.

I wanted to develop this Unit is a non-standard way, through collaboration with the wider community. Using this link you can comment on, or edit, the specification. Please feel free to comment or edit as you see fit.

I hope to have the Unit published by the end of September.