Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Monday, 30 March 2015

Launch events for NPAs

I attended a meeting on Friday to discuss our plans to launch three important new or revised awards. These are:
  1. NPA Digital Passport
  2. NPA PC Passport
  3. NPA Cyber Security.
We plan to launch Cyber Security around September time, perhaps to coincide with the Scottish Learning Festival. This award will be available to centres from August. We plan to have a combined event for Digital Passport and PC Passport since these awards are "cousins". Digital Passport will be available to all centres from July (it is currently being piloted) and PC Passport (revised) will be available from January next year. The launch event for these awards will be held later this year.

Please contact Helen for more information about any of these awards.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

HNC/D Computer Games Development

Some time ago, we asked Gillian Flockart, of Dundee & Angus College, to scope the changes needed to the current HNC/D Computer Games Development award. Me and Caroline met with Gillian this morning to discuss her findings.

Gillian reported that centres are pretty happy with the existing qualification, and that most of the changes should be small, such as the addition of some new units and minor changes to some existing units. We discussed, at some length, the role of maths within the award.

We are now going to move onto the development phase. Gillian is going to lead the development. So we're looking for QDT members. Please contact Caroline if you are interested in participating in this development. I am hoping for one face-to-face meeting (most likely in May) when we would discuss the changes and assign people to the tasks.

The new award will be available to centres from August 2016. Contact Caroline for further information about this development.

Resource lists

We've made two recent changes to the way that we develop new qualifications. We now produce FAQs for all new awards, which evolve as the qualification itself develops. And we also produce resource lists for new awards.

A resource list is a list of online and offline resources that can be used to deliver the new qualification. There is normally one resource list per unit. Each list will contain: YouTube videos, websites, Wikipedia articles, podcasts, online quizes, e-books and other online resources, as well as some offline resources such as text books and articles. The key thing is that these are linked to specific outcomes and performance criteria so that teachers know precisely where (and how) they can be used.

I normally ask the QDT to populate these lists (voluntarily) but, occasionally, the lead developer (or another member of the QDT) takes a more pro-active role.

Although we've only done a few, they have proven to be popular with teachers and lecturers. The Digital Passport lists were well liked by the pilot centres. Here is the one we created for Social Media Literacy (SCQF 4).


So, look out for resource lists in the future.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Computational thinking

"Computational thinking" is an important part of the new Computing Science qualifications with the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). But it's not something that is (overtly) prominent in vocational awards. So I am researching the various definitions of the term to come up with something that can be used by my Qualification Development Teams (QDTs) when they are designing new qualifications. There are lots of similar, but different, definitions around. One of the best is the one from the Royal Society/BCS [PDF]. But there are other good ones too. The aim is to come up with guidance on how best to ensure that this vital concept is embedded within vocational awards.

Friday, 20 March 2015

New unit on cyber security

As you may know, we're currently developing a suite of awards in cyber security. We recently received a request from Police Scotland to develop an introductory unit to cover the fundamentals of the subject, suitable for everyone.

Unsurprisingly, we're calling the new National Unit: Cyber Security Fundamentals. It will be a single credit unit at SCQF Level 4, covering the basic knowledge and skills that everyone should know about the subject area. The contents will include: online safety, data security, hacking, digital forensics and cyber threats.

I hope to have the new unit available to centres from August. It will be added to appropriate group awards (such as the NC Computing with Digital Media) and available stand-alone. But the representative of Police Scotland made it clear that he felt the unit should be taught to everyone.

In the meantime, you can see the current version of the unit hereContact Helen for more information about this unit.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Qualifications Support Team

The Qualifications Support Team (QST) for vocational Computing awards met this morning. The QST is responsible for ensuring that centres are supported when they deliver SQA awards. The remit includes:
  1. delivery issues
  2. assessment issues
  3. revisions to awards
  4. support materials
  5. monitoring uptake
  6. monitoring quality issues.
It was a good meeting, with over 10 people in attendance.


One of the most important jobs it carries out is to consider requests for changes to qualifications structures. This usually comes from suggestions from colleges about possible additions to qualification frameworks.

The QST is not a talk shop. It makes important decisions about a range of things. We're always looking for more members so please contact Helen if you want to find out more about joining the team. We are particularly looking for representatives from schools and training centres.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

NPA Cyber Security

The Qualification Development Team (QDT) for the new National Progression Award (NPA) in Cyber Security met yesterday for an all-day event to discuss the contents of the new awards.


There was a good attendance (over 10 people attended), which allowed us to break into teams to look at each "strand" in the awards (data security, ethical hacking and digital forensics). We focussed on the purpose and outcomes in each unit, and made a lot of progress. We have already decided on the structure of the awards (see the qualification FAQ) so the next stage is to get down to writing the units. I asked for volunteers (to write the units) at yesterday's event. In total, there will be nine new units (see the FAQ for details).

We're making good progress. We're aiming to have the award validated in July and available to centres by August. We've already had a lot of interest in this development and expect several centres to offer it next session.

Contact Scott Hunter (the lead developer) for information about the contents of the award or contact Helen Zhang (Qualifications Officer) for information about the development or to find out how to get involved.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

New Senior External Verifier for Computing

I am pleased to let you know that Gillian Leitch of Clyde College has been appointed Senior External Verifier (SEV) for Computing. Many of you will know Gillian who has been teaching Computing, and serving as an EV, for many years. Gillian will replace David Drennan as SEV. I will be sorry to lose David who has done a great job over a long period of time. The SEV role is changing too, becoming more of a leadership role than a hands-on role. Gillian commences her new role on 1 August.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

NPA Computer Refurbishment

Some time ago, we received a request to develop a new National Progression Award based on refurbishing and recycling computers. It was an interesting idea so we decided to take it forward. Me and Helen had our first meeting with the lead developer this morning. Many of you will know June McCamlie from her teaching days (she is currently an External Verifier). I've asked June to lead this work.

The NPA will consist of two (new) single credit National Units at SCQF Level 4. The Unit will be:
  1. Refurbishing & Recycling a Computer
  2. Setting up a Computer.
The Units will be based on an existing syllabus, currently in use in some international centres. We hope to have the NPA available to centres (including Scottish centres) from June.

Please contact Helen for more information.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

HNC/HND Interactive Media - Consultation Survey

As you are aware, we are in the process of reviewing HNC/D Interactive Media and we are now at the stage to consult with the sector on the proposed changes to the awards.

I would be grateful if you could take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire by clicking here

You can find out more information relating to the development from a previous blog posting here

If you would like to discuss any aspect of the proposed revised awards, please contact Fiona Murnin who is the Lead Developer for this review.

Thanks in anticipation.

New HN Digital Skills unit

I have recently had a number of requests from other subject areas about a good, general purpose Higher National Unit in the area of digital skills. This reflects the growing importance of digital skills across all sectors. There are some general purpose IT units in my portfolio (such as IT Applications) but they a little long in the tooth and don't cover areas such as social media and information literacy.

As a result of those requests, I commissioned a new HN Unit entitled Digital Skills at SCQF Level 7. This Unit will be suitable for inclusion in a wide range of HN awards. The aim is that the unit covers essential computing/IT skills.

A draft version of the Unit has been written.


I am currently consulting with colleagues to get their feedback on the Unit but please let me know if you have any comments.

Monday, 9 March 2015

PC Passport review

The QDT for PC Passport met for the second time on Saturday in the SQA offices in Glasgow. We got down to discussing the contents of the new award and managed to (mostly) compose the outcomes for all of the units.


I've updated the FAQ in the light of the meeting.


We've now decided on the qualification title, structure and outcomes. The next stage is to write the Group Award Specification and the component units.

As you'll see (from the FAQ) we've went back to basics -- simple structure and dedicated units for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and databases. But don't think that it's old fashioned since we aim to make the qualification reflect the latest productivity software such as Office 365 with a heavy cloud/collaborative focus.

We're ahead of schedule with this development, which I hope to have available to centres by January 2016. Contact Helen for more information.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Lead developers

One of the strengths of the way SQA develops awards is the involvement of practitioners in the qualification development process. We use practising teachers and lecturers to contribute to the contents of the new or revised qualifications. A key role in this process is that of lead developer. This person is responsible for, effectively, devising the qualification (in consultation with other QDT members). We usually select a teacher or lecturer for this role.

Right now, we have David McDade (Kelvin College) leading the NPA Digital Literacy review, Frank Frame (retired teacher) leading the PC Passport review, Scott Hunter (Kyle Academy) leading the Cyber Security development, and Fiona Murnin (New College Lanarkshire) leading the HNC/D Interative Media review. We hope that this not only ensures that the qualifications are fit for purpose but also gives centres a sense of ownership of the awards.

Contact me if you want to know more about the role of lead developer.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

PC Passport FAQ

As you may know, we are currently reviewing PC Passport. The development is making good progress. We create a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for new or revised awards. Here is the FAQ for PC Passport.


It can be viewed here. The FAQ will be updated from time to time so that it contains the latest information about the development.

Contact Helen for more information about PC Passport.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

New Units in Big Data and Data Science

As you will have read in a previous blog posting, we have been busy developing two new HN units in the area of Big Data at SCQF Level 7 and Data Science at SCQF Level 8.

Both units are now complete and available for download via the SQA website.

I am currently liaising with the Qualification Support Team (QST) to establish which frameworks the units should be part of and once this has been decided, they will be added as optional units.  If you are interested in delivering the Units and would like them as part of a particular group award, please get in touch with me directly and I can feed this into the QST for discussion.

Each unit will have an Assessment Support Pack (ASP) - both ASPs are under development and will be available to centres by May 2015.

You can view the published units by clicking on the links below:

Big Data (SCQF Level 7)
Data Science (SCQF Level 8)



NPA Cyber Security development

The Qualification Development Team (QDT) for the NPA in Cyber Security met for the first time yesterday afternoon in the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow.


There has been a lot of interest in this development since it was first announced and there was an excellent turn-out at the meeting, with representatives of schools, colleges, universities and employers in attendance.

After I explained the qualification development process, and the role of the QDT, we got down to business. We had a wide-ranging discussion about the title, nature, levels and contents of the awards. We made some important decisions. The awards will be called "Cyber Security"; they will be developed at three levels (SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6); the introductory level will be fairly generic and the advanced level will be more specialised. We hope that the awards will attract a lot of learners, particularly young women, and we aim to make them as interesting and engaging as we can.

The next stage is to define the precise structures of the award (at each of the three levels). We made some progress on this but we need to finalise the frameworks.

We hope to have the new qualification available to centres from August. In the meantime, keep your eye on the qualification FAQ, which will be maintained throughout the qualification process.

Please contact Helen for more information about this development.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Digital skills report

The UK government published a report yesterday on the need to improve digital skills. The House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills published a report entitled Make or Break: The UK's Digital Future. A BBC article summarises the main findings and recommendations, which include:

  • the need to ensure everyone leaves school with basic digital literacy
  • the need to attract more women into computing
  • the need to improve intermediate and high-end digital skills
  • more emphasis on digital skills within Modern Apprenticeships.

The report claims that the UK is at a "tipping point" with digital skills. One that will determine the shape of the future UK economy. I was particularly interested in the comment about the importance of medium and high level digital skills since this is often an area that is overlooked.

The Computing portfolio of qualifications already has a lot of awards in digital literacy but I will look at it again once I have read the report in full. I hope that schools and colleges take the opportunity to check that their programmes address the issues raised in the report.

The full report can be downloaded here [PDF]. Contact Helen for more information about digital literacy qualifications.

Monday, 16 February 2015

NPA Digital Literacy FAQ

I previously mentioned that the QDT for this award met for the first time last week. I have now created a FAQ for the revised award. You can read (and download) it here or simply scroll the embedded version below.


It's early days in this development but this FAQ will be updated as our thoughts solidify so please keep an eye on it in the coming weeks and months. By the end of the development, it will contain all the essential information that you need.

Contact Helen if there is anything you want to ask that's not answered in the FAQ.

Friday, 13 February 2015

NPA Digital Literacy

I mentioned previously that we were about to review the NPA in Digital Literacy, which was first introduced in 2007. The first meeting of the Qualification Development Team (QDT) met yesterday.

It was a good meeting. We discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the current award, the likely demographics of the revised award, and the knowledge and skills needed within the new qualification.

The QDT decided to retain the current title on the basis that there is a strong focus in digital literacy in schools and colleges. I was told that there is also a dearth of qualifications at this level (SCQF Level 3). But the current award's focus on numeracy and communications needs to be changed to make it focus more on computer skills.

The revised award would focus on computer skills, digital skills and software skills. It would be a simple, broad-based introduction to computing, which would permit learners to acquire basic knowledge and skills, and progress to further qualifications in the area. A suggested structure was:

  1. Computer Basics
  2. Digital Skills (new)
  3. Using Applications (new)

The current award has low uptake but the QDT felt that there was a real need for a qualification in this area at this level and that the revised award could prove to be popular.

Please contact Helen if you want to know more about this development.