Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Merry Christmas

We stop for Christmas tomorrow and return on Tuesday, 5 January. It's that time of the year when you reflect on the past year.

One of the highlights was the addition of Hilary to the team, who joined us in June. Hilary replaced Shirley, who many of you know well, but she is full-time and Shirley was part-time, meaning that the team grew. As you probably know, my portfolio is roughly split between Caroline, who takes care of HNs, PDAs and vendors, and Hilary, who takes care of NC, NPAs and SVQs. The team tries hard to be known and visible to the sector and, I think, many of you have got to know Hilary already.

We've had a fairly productive year. Several NPAs were developed, the HND Interactive Media was completed, and a complete suite of SVQs was developed. Two special projects also occupied us - one linked to FITs and one linked to CEOP. The CEOP one was particularly pleasing since we have carved out something of a reputation in the Internet Safety/child protection area.

The HMIe report on the sector (the Aspect report) came out in November and was quite complimentary about SQA's work. In spite of the sector's well known problems (with uptake, achievement and teaching), I believe that the subject has had something of a resurgence in terms of popularity, with early indications about student registrations sounding very positive.

There have been disappointments too. The same report that complimented the range of qualifications also pointed out that there remains too much assessment. I also think that we still take too long to develop qualifications (the HNC/D Computer Games development has slipped a little). And, although the readership of this blog has steadily risen, it's not used interactively, with very few people using it to provide feedback.

I usually provide the names of people for you to contact -- but not today... we'll be enjoying Christmas with family and friends for the next couple of weeks. Have a good one too.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Computing Subject Network: Special Aspect report event

Scotland's Colleges organises regular subject networks when Computing lecturers get together to discuss curricular issues. There was a meeting on Friday dedicated to the recent HMIe Aspect report for the subject.

I was asked to speak about SQA's response to the report. My presentation [PPT] pointed out the good and not-so-good comments made about qualifications and assessment. My proposed actions included: continueing to try to reduce the amount of assessment, increasing the use of objective tests (and online assessment using SOLAR), and more innovative forms of assessment (using Web 2.0 tools and services). I will take these forward in the New Year. Feel free to use the comment facility if you think SQA should do anything else.

Overall, the report was pretty positive about SQA and the curriculum in general. The main criticism was about teaching and learning, and it was interesting to listen to some of the ideas about how this could be improved.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

New IT Professional Standards

I met with Chris Morrow, of E-Skills UK, on Monday afternoon to discuss new National Occupational Standards (NOS) relating to IT Professional. E-Skills maintains two sets of Standards: one set relating to IT user (ICT) and one set relating to IT professional (Computing).

It recently revised their IT Professional Standards and SQA, along with other awarding bodies, is now in the process of turning these Standards into qualifications. These have traditionally been SVQs but we explored the possibility of creating alternative awards, perhaps more attractive to employers. We'll be getting involved in this from January.

SQA uses the Standards for two purposes: (1) as the basis of SVQs; and (2) to inform our other vocational awards, all of which should relate to these Standards. The second purpose is important -- validation panels will ask for evidence of support from Sector Skills Councils and also ask how we used the Standards to inform our proposed award(s).

Contact Hilary for more information about SVQs.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Awarding Body Forum

E-Skills UK is the Sector Skills Council for IT. Once very quarter, it convenes a meeting of all of the awarding bodies involved in delivering S/NVQs. I attended the final meeting of 2009 today in London. SQA is one of a number of organisations that attend, including City & Guilds, EdExcel and BCS. I find it particularly useful since it is an opportunity for me to catch up with what is going on in the rest of the UK. There were several things of note at today's meeting.

It's not just Scotland that has problems with the teaching of Computing. OfQual has recently been critical of much the same issues in England. As a result, a new initiative called Vital has been launched by the OU and E-Skills to try to improve teaching and learning. The idea, if I understand it correctly, is for this project to collect useful resources and advise on teaching approaches. Although it is intended for England, the resources will be freely available. It will initially target the 14-19 age group. This initiative will be officially launched at BETT in January.

E-Skills own Skills Academy is progressing. The focus for this iniative is higher level IT skills. A pilot phase website will be available in April with the full launch in September or October.

There was also information provided about Online Basics, a training programme designed for the digitally excluded. It was pointed out that 29% of UK adults have never been online. This programme, which is part of the Digital Britain initiative, is designed to try to address that problem. It will be initially piloted in 39 UK Online centres in England and Wales.

Finally, a guy from Google gave a talk about a new initiative called Getting British Business Online, which, as the name infers, is about getting the 30% of SMEs with no web precence to use the Internet. The target is ambitious -- 100,000 extra business online within a year and it looks like there will be a big effort behind this in 2010. Google will provide every business that participates with a free domain name and website. Expect to hear more about this in the near future.

DIVA Refresh Survey

The SQA has commissioned a review of the Digital media & ICT Vendor Alliance (DIVA) programme with the aim of identifying any updating requirements and fresh opportunities relating to industry certifications and programmes in the IT, digital media and engineering sectors. The review is being undertaken by Sero Consulting, the consultancy team that worked with the SQA to establish the programme.

Feedback from colleagues in the sector is an important part of the review process. We would therefore be grateful for your support in completing a short survey on your experience and views regarding industry certifications and programmes.

We appreciate that your time is valuable so we have asked for the survey to be short and to the point. There are 11 questions that should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

To contribute your views please click on the link below:

The survey will close on Wednesday 16th December 2009.

With thanks for your help.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Professional Development Award in Online Child Protection

A few months ago, CEOP approached SQA to ask if we would work with them to create a formal qualification based around their Ambassador programme. The Ambassador course is designed for professionals who work with children, and who want to be able to provide training to other adults in child online protection.

We were delighted to work with CEOP, and today I got great news --- the qualification is now validated! So SQA now has a formal qualification for people who want to specialise in child online protection. It's called the PDA in Online Protection & Safeguarding of Children and will be jointly certificated by SQA and CEOP. The Arrangements are not yet on the SQA website but should appear there in the near future.

We expect a wide range of professional people to undertake the qualification including teachers, social workers, and police officers. The award is very flexible, involving attendance at the Ambassador course followed by some online learning and uses online assessment.

I'm certain that it's the first national qualification of its kind in the UK and, as far as I know, the EU. It may even be a world first. There will be a national launch of the new qualification on Safer Internet Day in February 2010. In the meantime, please contact Caroline if you want to know more.

This PDA, which is for adult professionals, compliments the Internet Safety unit, which is for young people and others who use the Internet. And we're now looking at another unique area of protection in conjunction with a Scottish college.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Heads of Computing annual meeting

Every year, we organise an event for Heads of Computing in Scotland's 43 FE colleges. We held this year's event today. Around 40 people attended, which is pretty much someone from every college in Scotland.

The day seemed to go well, although we won't know for sure until we get the results from the post-event survey. If you attended, please complete this short questionnaire.

The focus of the event was the recent HMIe's Aspect report on the teaching of Computing in the college sector. Walter Patterson summarised the report's findings, and Ron Dillin led a workshop on the report's recommendations.

But it wasn't just the Aspect report. My own presentation outlined the current and forthcoming developments in Computing, including the new NPAs in Computer Games, to assist the Heads with the development plans for next year. Nigel Kennington gave a presentation on HNC/D Computer Games Development. Colin Buchanan did a demonstration of a new online forum. And, of course, I reminded everyone about the SQA Groupsite (now thi 108 members) and our new Twitter feed.

I'll upload and share the presentations once I have collated them. Thanks to everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to attend.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

External Verifier meeting

I went along to the bi-annual meeting of External Verifiers on Saturday. The EVs meet twice per year to discuss field issues -- issues that arise when they go about their verification duties. The lead verifier (David Drennan) led the event and a key part of the day was his annual report.

I get a great deal out of the event since I can find out about the issues facing the verifiers when they visit centres. Many of the problems that they face relate to unit specifications or assessment exemplars or other support materials. It also gives me an opportunity to let the EVs know about forthcoming changes to courses and support materials, and to let them know what is in my development plan for next year.

Being an external verifier is fantastic CPD for a teacher or lecturer. You can find out more about becoming an EV from Allison Paterson.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

New teachers' group

I attended a meeting this morning at the Marriot Hotel in Glasgow to meet with David Coull, of Mintlaw Academy, who is trying to get a new association off the ground.

David has recently formed the Scottish Institute of Computing Educationalists (SIOCE) with the aim of supporting the teaching of computing across all educational sectors - school, college and university. Although it only started in May, it already has over 200 members and several universities have promised to support it. David is planning an FE recruitment drive in January so look out for more information around that time. At present, there is no membership fee.

I can see a role for SIOCE on Sector Panels and Qualification Support Teams, and, of course, it would be an important organisation to consult with when we develop new awards.

You can find out more about SIOCE here or contact David directly.

And speaking of support for Computing teachers, Heriot-Watt University is hosting an event next June entitled Look to the Future, which is intended for Scottish computing educators. The event is part-supported by Google. More here.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Meeting with HMIe

I met with Iain Lowson, of HMIe, today. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how SQA could respond to the recent Aspect report [PDF] on Computing within FE.

I agreed to take forward two things as a result of the meeting: (1) advice to centres about the teaching of programming; and (2) advice to centres about the use of portfolios.

Programming remains a problem in FE. Some centres use advanced languages to teach the principles of programming, such as C++, which the students find difficult to understand. So I agreed to look at how languages such as Scratch could be used within National Certificate (NC) programmes.

The report also mentioned how assessment can sometimes drive learning. We discussed how portfolio building could be a more natural way of generating evidence of assessment, rather than several short assessments. I agreed to look at ways of using portfolios within the NC awards. Some kind of digital portfolio (using Web 2.0 tools or e-portfolio products) would be the focus of attention.

If/when I am given the green light to take forward these suggestions, I will ask for volunteers on the SQA Groupsite, so don't forget to subscribe.

The Aspect report features prominently in next Friday's (4 December) Heads of Computing event in Glasgow. There are still places available if you want to attend. You can register here.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Digital Literacy

I went along to a presentation by Vanessa Ranaldi this afternoon about Microsoft's Digital Literacy curriculum. Vanessa is a certified Microsoft trainer. Vanessa explained how Microsoft goes about updating its courses, particularly how it produces assessment questions. The Digital Literacy course uses objective testing. The updated course should be available from January 2010.

We currently cover the Microsoft curriculum through out NPA in Digital Literacy (SCQF 3) [PDF] that we developed in 2007. But we will have to update this next year when the new MS material becomes available.

SQA's Digital Literacy award is popular in schools and colleges as a basic introduction to ICT. Contact Hilary if you want to know more about it.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

SQA Groupsite is growing

To date, 77 people have subscribed to the SQA Groupsite, and me and my team have begun to use it to find people to carry out (paid) work for SQA. For example, Caroline recently requested volunteers to write assessment exemplars for a couple of Graded Units, and she got a quick and helpful response from several people on the group. The purpose of the group is to be as transparent as possible in the way we notify and allocate work.

So, if you haven't yet subscribed to the group, and you are interested in working with SQA in a variety of roles, please join. It would be great to have 100 members by Christmas.

If you have already joined the group, please update your profile. The more information you provide the better chance you have of being selected for some of the projects.

But don't worry if you have no or little experience in curriculum development. I appreciate that we all have to start somewhere and we will deliberately select "new blood" from time to time.

Friday, 6 November 2009

HNC/D Computer Games Development QDT

The Qualification Development Team for HNC/D Computer Games Development met this morning to discuss how things are going with that project.

The team are busy finalising units right now and also consulting with organisations such as Skillset and E-Skills, so it's a very busy time for the team.

Things are progressing reasonably well but it looks like our original target date of January 2010 will not be acheived, with a date of around March 2010 now more likely.

The good news is that the course is shaping up really well with some interesting sounding units on game design, game play and game physics.

This development is being led by Nigel Kennington, who would be happy to hear from you.

Monday, 2 November 2009

OfQual audit of Internet Safety

Auditors from OfQual visit SQA today to look at the awards we offer in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. One of these is Internet Safety. As part of my preparations for this audit, I have been revisiting the contents of the qualification and the support materials available to centres.

Internet Safety was SQA's first "e-qualification" and, as such, is very well supported with digital teaching, learning and assessment materials. The entire course can be delivered online but I had forgotten that we also developed teaching and learning materials for delivery on a mobile phone. At the time when we created a mobile version (around two years ago), the available technology was pretty poor but I recently checked the mobile version on my Google Android phone and it looks great on modern smartphones. The high quality screens and better HTML rendering makes these sorts of devices really viable e-learning platforms. There is also a comprehensive bank of online questions that can be used to assess this unit - so the whole thing can be offered to pupils and students very painlessly.

Although the uptake of Internet Safety is good, there is room for growth. Some Scottish schools offer it to entire years groups (for example, Airdrie Academy and The High School of Glasgow offer it to every pupil in S2) and I have wondered why this is not standard across all schools given the importance of online child protection.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about Internet Safety.
Loraine Johnston of James Watt College would like to speak to Centres who are currently delivering the HNC & HND Information Technology courses. She is looking for supporting evidence to justify delivering these courses, therefore any examples of good practice and advice would be welcome.
Please contact her at or 01294 559000 ext 3036.
Loraine Johnston
Senior Lecturer – Business & Computing
James Watt College of Further & Higher Education

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Operational plan for 2010/11

Like many of you, I have recently spent time on my operational plan for next year (April 2010 to March 2011). The main projects scheduled to begin next year are:
  • commence the review of HNC/D Computing
  • review HNC/D Computer Networking
  • launch HNC/D Computer Games Development
  • launch NPAs in Computer Games Development (at SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6)
  • develop support materials for the refreshed PC Passport
  • develop new PDAs to match Adobe and CIW certification.
It would be good to know if there is anything missing from this list. Are there any other developments that we should consider for next year?

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Vocational Computing awards

I recently updated the list of awards in my area. It's a handy simmary of vocational Computing qualifications (excluding SVQs) available (or about to be available) to centres.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Save File: Computing Vocational Awards.doc

It can be downloaded here.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Aspect report for Computing

I took time out this morning to go through the HMIe's report [PDF] into Computing in the college sector. It made interesting reading.

It's hard not to read a report like this from an individual perspective and, from an SQA angle, the report made pretty good reading. There were some kind words about the portfolio of Computing awards available to centres, and specifically the variety of awards and how up-to-date they are. It was nice to see this recognised since it represents a lot of hard work over a lot of years. There was also mention made of the efforts SQA is currently making, along with college representatives, to address some of the identified problems, such as assessment overload.

Of course, the report contains a great deal about teaching and learning, but there were many references to assessment that SQA needs to consider, including assessment load (still a problem), integration of assessment (linked to assessment burden), and formative assessment.

Formative assessment is particularly interesting. The report stated that it was little used and, when it was, it wasn't used very effectively. I think this is an area that SQA could work with centres to improve practice.

I'd be interested in your comments about the report.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

HMIe subject based report for Computing

As many of you will have noticed, HMIe has recently published a subject report for Computing. You can download it here [PDF].

This report will be the key topic in the forthcoming Heads of Computing event, on 4 December, so that you have an opportunity to discuss it with colleagues. In fact, the agenda for that day is shaping up very well, with lots of interesting topics, so I hope that you can make it along. If you can, you can register here.

In the meantime, I would be very interested in your reaction to the report, via the comment facilitity.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Reminder - Heads of Computing

There are still places available for the next Heads of Computing Event which is taking place on Friday 4th December 2009.

Please register online at the URL below if you have not already done so:

Friday, 16 October 2009

10,000 hits

The blog is about to reach it's first 10,000 hits since a counter was set-up last January. That's an average of just over 1,000 hits per month and an annual total of around 14,000 hits. It's not brilliant but it's OK. It would be much better if it was 1,000 unique visitors per month, rather than the number of page views. But it still represents a lot of Computing teachers and lecturers.

In my recent update letters, I stated that I planned to phase out the letters and use this blog to let people know what is going on in the vocational team in SQA. It takes time to maintain blogs and e-groups and other web services, and doing this as well as writing letters means me and my team are doing double the work. The online channels of communication are pretty well established now and it seems a good time (with 2010 around the corner) to begin to use them to replace older means of communication.

I'm often told that "it's easy" in my area to get people to use online communications. It's not. I can't say I have found Computing teachers to be any more or less receptive to web services than other other subject area. Using this blog instead of letters (for updates) and using the Groupsite instead of phonecalls (for job opportunities) might hasten the migration from old to new.

If you don't already do so, you might want to use a newsreader to keep up to date with this blog (and others, including podcasts). I use Google Reader, which I can highly recommend, but there are others. It's very simple to add a "feed" to a reader. Once you add a few feeds you don't have to "hunt the blogs" any more since the blogs come to your reader. It makes keeping up to date with specific blogs of interest very simple. Most blogs have a link to their feeds somewhere on the page (often at the bottom - like this one). And most modern phones have newsreaders built-in so you can check updates on your mobile.

So, here's hoping that this time next year I am reporting 1,000 visitors per month to this blog.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Online groups to support teachers

We've been using online groups for several years to support centres that deliver vocational Computing awards, using a range of (free) online services such as "E-Groups", "Yahoogroups" and "Smartgroups". As you probably know, we currently use Jiglu for most online groups.

The use of these groups has declined over the last few years. They were once vibrant, with hundreds of members and thousands of posts, but are much less active now.

As a result, we have cut back on the number of online groups that we support. The main public one are:

1. SQAComputing group on Yahoo (an announcement-only group)
2. Computing group on Jiglu (to support HNC/D Computing)
3. NCDMC group on Jiglu (to support NC Digital Media Computing)
4. PCPassort group on Jiglu (to support PC Passport).

Although their use has declined, these groups have tremendous potential to assist you if you teach one of the supported qualifications. They are a tremendous source of peer support (for example, asking for teaching materials) and SQA staff are members and can help too. It would be good if they were better used, so I hope that you join any appropriate group(s).

Now and again, I get an angry e-mail about the "poor support that SQA provides to these groups" when, for example, people want to leave them. These groups are not SQA groups. We do not host them and do not manage membership. It is up to each person to subscribe and unsubscribe as appropriate. Support should be sought from the service provider (such as Jiglu).

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

HNC/D Multimedia Awards

Now that the HNC/D Interactive Media awards are now available to centres, I thought I would remind you that the following HNC/D awards have a finish date of 31st July 2011 attached to them:

G7DD 15 HNC Multimedia Computing: Web Development
G7DE 16 HND Multimedia Computing: Web Development
G7DF 16 HND Multimedia Computing
G7A5 15 HNC Interactive Multimedia Creation
G7A6 16 HND Interactive Multimedia Creation

This means that candidates must be certificated by this cut-off date.

Update letters to centres

I recently sent two letters to all centres, one about NC developments and one about HN developments. You will find digital copies of the letters on the SQA Drop. They contain important information for teachers and lecturers so they are definitely worth downloading.

For those who have already read the letters, you might have noticed that I plan to phase out annual update letters since this blog contains all of that information -- and a lot more. It's very time consuming to maintain new and traditional forms of communication and the team already make extensive use of blogs, e-groups and other communication tools (such as Twitter). So, general letters to centres will go unless there is something really vital to tell you.

That's another reason to bookmark this site or, better still, add the feed to your newsreader.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Computing team update

There have been a few minor changes to the team's tasks and I updated the team organisation chart this morning.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

It's worth downloading and printing this document so that you contact the right person, which will save you a lot of time and mean that you get a faster response.

Don't forget to subscribe to the new Twitter feed for regular updates on developments and events.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Unit writing training

We held our first unit writers' training event yesterday afternoon in The Marriott Hotel in Glasgow. It went well. Twelve people attended.

The idea is that instead of training writers whenever a new development begins, we will run these training events two or three times per year and people will come along to one of these events when they need to.

There are several advantages. Firstly it's much more time efficient for the team -- instead of training two or three writers at a time we can train up to 20 people. Secondly, it permits people to attend training who are not actually writing units for SQA but want to update their skills in case they ever do get involved in unit writing. Around half of the people who attended yesterday's event are not currently writing units but wanted to attend the training anyway. The end result is that we should have a pool of people who have been recently trained in writing SQA units.

We will endorse everyone who attends this training on the SQA Groupsite, so that we know who has been trained. In time, we can require everyone who writes units for us to attend one of these events.

The next event is not yet scheduled but will take place sometime in early 2010. Please join the Groupsite if you want to keep up date with developments or contact Caroline if you wish to discuss unit writing training.

Monday, 5 October 2009

SQA Computing Groupsite

Some time ago, I posted a message about a new online service for people who are interested working with the SQA Computing team to develop curricula, such as write units, develop assessment packs or serve on Qualification Design Teams or validation panels.

So far, 49 people have subscribed to this service -- but the target is 100 so please consider subscribing. You can find out more here, where you can also join this group.

I plan to use this site as a one-stop-shop to let people know about training opportunities and also to let you know about the opportunities available to get involved in SQA's work. So please think about joining.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

HNC/D Computer Games Development

The draft framework for the HNC/D in Computer Games Development has been completed and the Qualification Development Team (QDT) would value your input on it.

Information on the draft framework can be found here:

After you have browsed the framework, please complete the short survey that can be found here:

Other feedback options can be found on the first website.

All comments are welcome. Thank you for your time.

HN Computer Games QDT

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Reminder - Unit Writing Workshop

Further to my earlier post we still have available places for this workshop on Thursday 8th October 2009 (1300 - 1700 hours).

This workshop will cover both HN/NQ Unit Writing with a particular emphasis on the Computing areas.

If you are interested in coming along please register by clicking on the URL below:

This event is free of charge.

Annual Heads of Computing Event

In the recent HN Update letter to centres, you were informed that we were in the process of discussing plans for the forthcoming meeting of Heads of Computing.

This year's event will take place on Friday 4th December starting at 1000 hours and finishing approximately 1530 hours. It is being held in the Jury's Inn, 80 Jamaica Street, Glasgow.

If you are interested in coming along to this event then please register online by clicking the URL below:

At this moment in time, the limit is 2 delegates per centre. There is no cost for this event.

Look forward to seeing you then !

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

PDA Diploma in Online Protection of Children

SQA's award in Internet safety was the first qualification of its kind in the UK (and, as far as we know, the EU) and we have followed that up with, what we believe to be, the world's first national qualification in online child protection.

Working with CEOP, we have developed a PDA Diploma in Online Protection & Safeguarding of Children. This Level 8 award is designed for teachers, police officers, social workers and others who work with children. It consists of two units, and provides an opportunity to learn more about the increasingly important field of online child protection.

We held the validation event for the award today. Although the Panel placed several conditions on the proposals, we're confident that we can address these quite rapidly, and have the qualificaiton available by October.

Contact Caroline for more information about this award.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

NPAs in Computer Games - survey

A QDT was recently established to develop NPAs in Computer Games at levels 4, 5 and 6. We now need to find out whether support exists for these qualifications.

Please help by completing the survey and circulating to any interested parties: we need school teachers, further education centres and industry professionals to give constructive suggestions and feedback to the design team.

You can access the survey here.


The Qualifications Support Team (QST) for NC awards (SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6) met last Friday afternoon. This group meets twice per year to discuss ways of supporting Computing qualifications at these levels. There is another group for HN awards (SCQF Level 7 and above).

The members of the QST are college lecturers and school teachers, and the meetings are a great way to let SQA know what support materials are needed to help centes to deliver these awards. Firday's meeting was very productive with lots of actions resulting from it, including minor revisions to a number of units to either clarify or simplify them.

If you have any suggestions for changes to units or new materials to support awards, please contact Hilary or complete and submit a form.

If you want to participate in the QST (for either HN or NC awards) please join the SQA Groupsite, where I will seek volunteers, or contact Hilary if you want to know more.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Interested in writing SQA Unit Specifications?

We are holding a Unit Writing Workshop on Thursday 8th October 2009 in the Glasgow Marriott Hotel at 1300 hours until 1630 hours for those who are interested in writing SQA Unit Specifications for future projects within the Computing Team. This workshop is ideal for those who have no or limited experience but also for those who have had past experience but would like to 'brush-up' on their existing knowledge and skills.

Places are limited so if you are interested, click on the URL below to register:

We plan to hold two workshops per year so if you are unable to make it along on the 8th October, we plan to hold another event Spring 2010 so please keep checking the blog for future updates.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Update on NPAs

We had hoped to have the conditions lifted on the NPAs validated in June. These were:

NPA Software Development (SCQF 4)
NPA Social Software (SCQF 4)
NPA Website Development (SCQF 5)
NPA Computer Hardware & Software now Computer Systems and Networks (SCQF 5)
NPA Digital Photography (SCQF 5)
NPA Digital Media Production (SCQF Level 6)

There have been some unforeseen delays but as all the documentation is now in place they should be on the system by mid-September.

Arrangements for Digital Media Animation G9FC (SCQF 5), Digital Media Basics G9FD (SCQF 4) and Digital Media Editing G9FF (SCQF 5) will be published shortly.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

E-learning materials for HNC/D Computing

Over the years, mainly thanks to ESF funding, we have managed to produce various e-learning materials for units within HNC/D Computing. The list has grown slowly and is pretty impressive. In fact, you could use it to offer an entire qualification online. Caroline reminded me a few days ago of the URL where the material is located and I thought I'd pass it on. It's here. I'd be interested to know, from those of you who have used it, what it is like.

Monday, 24 August 2009

NC Digital Media Computing Level 6

Please note that from August 2009 there is a new Group Award code for NC Digital Media Computing at Level 6 (G9GK 46). This is because the core skills Numeracy Unit (optional within mandatory section) has been added to the framework at Intermediate 2 (F3GF 11). The Arrangements document is being amended accordingly and will be back on the website shortly. In the meantime please contact me for any further clarification required.

This information will be included in Bobby's update letter to centres.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Team training

My team try to use ICT to communicate with teachers and lecturers. Once every year we take a day out to review our use and discuss new ways of working. Today was one of those days.

We discussed the various online services that we use. Services such as Jiglu, Blogger, and Groupsite. We took the opportunity to tidy the online groups -- so don't be offended if you have been removed from some old ones.

We also spent some time adding to our Groupsite profiles. If you haven't already done so, don't forget to join the Computing Groupsite and add do your own profile. This is one of the new services we intend to use in the coming year.

Another new service we intend to use is Twitter. We created an SQA Computing Twitter account called, unsurprisingly, "sqacomputing" so please follow us at @sqacomputing. We will use it to notify followers about important news and events relating vocational Computing courses -- but we promise to use it sparingly so that you are not bombarded with updates.

One of the outputs from today will be a new and updated list of online groups that we use to support teachers and lecturers. Hilary will update the list of groups and post an updated summary sometime next week.

Monday, 17 August 2009

SQA team

It's the time of the year when you will be getting organised for the new term and preparing materials for your classes. When you contact SQA it will save a lot of time if you contact the right person. Here is an organisation chart for the vocational Computing team:

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

You might want to download it, and keep it handy for future reference.

Please identify the person who deals with the specific area you want to enquire about and contact that person directly. You will get help more quickly if you do.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Welcome back

It's the time of the year when teachers and lecturers return to their schools and colleges for a new session. Welcome back.

I guess you will be returning to a mountain of paperwork and e-mails to get through but I hope you have some time to look over this blog to see what's been happending over the summer. The highlights were: the computer games developments (see below), PC Passport changes, and revised Graded Units for some HN programmes.

I set up a special online group for people who want to work with me and my team, in any capacity from unit writer to validation panel member. Please subscribe to this group if you are interested in finding out more about how you can get involved in qualification development.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Interactive Games Festival

The Edinburgh Interactive Games Festival is on today and tomorrow at the Corn Exchange in Edinburgh. I attended today.

It was interesting to listen to the presentations, which included a keynote from the President of Electronic Arts. I noted several interesting statistics... the games business is bigger that the music business; that 40% of gamers are female; and that one in four gamers are over 50 years old.

A recurring theme was the rise of social gaming, particularly on mobile platforms such as smartphones. Other predicted growth areas included role paying and games that have an impact outside of the game itself (such as Wii fitness games). Some of the demonstrations were very impressive including one that involved a virtual pet that was incredibly life-like. It looks like the next few years will be very exciting.

There are pointers here for the current qualification developments in this area, which I will feedback to the respective teams.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

HNC/D Computer Games Development

Running in parallel with developments at NQ level, we are also producing Level 7 (HNC) and Level 8 (HND) awards in Computer Games Development. This project has been running since last January and we hope to have the new awards available to centres from January 2010.

The development team, led by Tony Gurney, are busy writing units right now, and we had a meeting this morning to discuss progress and review the draft units. We hope to have complete draft units available by the end of this month (August) and the units finalised and on the system by the end of October.

We had an interesting discussion today about minimising the time spent on assessment and using digital (rather than paper) forms of assessment whenever possible. I am regularly told that students spend too much time on assessment and this detracts from their enjoyment of the subject. So, here's hoping, we manage to keep assessment to a minimum and to make it as engaging as possible.

Contact Caroline for more information about HNC/D Computer Games Development.

Friday, 7 August 2009

PC Passport review

I previously mentioned that we were about to make changes to the PC Passport units and assessments in the light of feedback received from centres that had delivered the revised awards.

Elaine Cunnignhame is leading this project and we had a meeting this morning to double-check the proposed changes to ensure that they made sense and would not present problems to centres. It was a good meeting and we made final decisions about what changes to make.

This review is a minor review - a point change - so it's PC Passport version 2.1 not version 3.0. Although we intend to make several changes to each of the units, these changes are minor clarifications or improvements or reductions in assessment. The awards will not change (in terms of their structure) nor will the outcomes or assessments (in any fundamental way).

But it does mean that, in time, we will replace all of the units, in each of the PC Passport awards, with these new improved versions. We will also commission some new NABs to match some of the new units (where the new units require new NABs). I hope to have the new units available to centres from January 2010 (but the old units will continue to be valid until you are notified otherwise). The revised NABs will begin to appear from early 2010.

Please contact Hilary if you want to know more about this project or any other aspect of PC Passport. Don't forget the PC Passport page on the SQA website.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

NPAs in Computer Games

The first meeting of the Qualification Development Team (QDT) for the new NPAs in Computer Games Development was held this afternoon in the SQA offices in Glasgow.The Team has representatives from schools, colleges, Higher Education and industry. The lead developer is Julie McLaren, formerly of Forrester HS and about to take up a new post at Madras College in Fife.

We had an interesting discussion on the contents of the awards. The Team is proposing new awards at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6 (Intermediate 1, 2 and Higher), mostly consisting of existing National Units but we also intend to develop two new units, dealing explicity with the knowledge and skills involved in developing computer games.

We intend to consult on the contents of the new awards in the near future so look out for more information soon. In the meantime, please contact Hilary if you want to know more about this project. And don't forget the HNC/D Computer Games Development, which is on-going. Contact Caroline for more about this development.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Training for unit writers

Until recently, there was a dedicated team in SQA with responsibility to train peolpe to write units. But this responsibility has now been delegated to individual qualification teams so it is now my responsibility to ensure that the people who write Computing units know what they're doing.

There are so many concurrent projects in my area that I don't intend to train-on-demand i.e. arrange specific training events each time I begin a new development. My intention is to arrange two or three training events each year and people simply go along to one when it suits them. They might attend because they are currently involved in a writing project or they may attend because they want to learn more about unit writing for future work. It would be my intention to ensure that everyone (who wants to write units) keep their skills up-to-date by attending at least one of these training events every two or three years.

I previously mentioned a dedicated online group for people who want to work with SQA and I'd appreciate if you would subscribe to this group if you want to know more about unit writing.

Friday, 31 July 2009

HND Graded Units - Update

We are in the process of updating the following HND Graded Unit Specifications:

F0NA 35 Information Technology - Graded Unit 2
DN4N 35 Computing: Software Development - Graded Unit 2
DN4P 35 Computing: Technical Support - Graded Unit 2

Changes to these specifications include amendments to -

1. Conditions of Assessment including minimum marks per stage
2. Minimum Evidence Requirements item detail and marks allocation
3. Conditions of assessment to include marking in stages
4. Instructions for designing assessment tasks
5. Corrected type of Assessment Instrument

We anticipate the amended versions (ie Version 02) will be available for download from the SQA website within the next 2 weeks.

Please ensure that your centre has the most up-to-date version.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Digital Literacy

I had a discussion about this NPA with Caroline this morning, and she pointed out the range of materials available to support this small but important qualification. The materials are available on the Digital Literacy homepage.

We have recently bid for funding to develop e-assessments for this award and, if we're successful, the qualification will be fully supported for traditional and online delivery.

Contact Hilary for more information about Digital Literacy.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Arrangements Documents - Update

We are busy updating various HN/PDA Arrangements Documents for awards within the Computing portfolio. Most of the changes reflect additional optional units within each of the frameworks.

A selection of documents will be amended and uploaded on the website by 1st August 2009, therefore, any documents downloaded after this date will be the most up-to-date version.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

DIVA Lead Centres - Online Forum

We have created an online forum for all vendors (and associated vendor lead centres) who are part of the DIVA (Digital Media and ICT Vendor Alliance) partnership through SQA.

The focus will be to share information, keep up-to-date with all vendor curriculum changes, ensuring SQA DIVA website is current and also for members to offer advice and guidance to any vendor related queries that may arise through colleges delivering their programmes.

If you are a Vendor or Lead Centre then please get in touch with me direct and I shall send you an invitation to join the group.

For more information on DIVA, please click here.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Working with SQA

One of the advantages of this blog and the forums is that we can use these communication channels to let people know about current developments. It is one of SQA's strengths that, unlike most awarding bodies, we mostly use ordinary teachers and lecturers to develop the curriculum. But, sometimes, even these methods fail to find the people that we need to help us develop qualifications and assessments.

So I have created a "groupsite" for individuals who are interested in working with me and my team. The idea is that, as opportunities arise, I will put information about the project on this site and seek volunteers to come forward and assist with the work. I have used a service called Groupsite, which, unusually, is very strong on profiling and background information... which is ideal for the sort of task I want to use it for.

So, if you want to be sure to know about opportunities to develop awards and support materials, please join this group. It's a simple process to sign-up and once you do you will be sure to know what is going on in SQA and how you can get involved.

We'll continue to use the usual channels to identify people to work with us, but this service will ensure that you don't miss any opportunities.

Friday, 3 July 2009

BECTA - Development Opportunity

We have been approached by BECTA to develop Units for input to the QCF system so that these Units can be offered in England/Wales etc. The Units are based around the BECTA Framework for ICT Technical Support (FITS) programme.

BECTA have created a suite of training materials to support the training of School IT Technicians and IT System Managers. The suite of materials are based on the ITIL model but is a lighter version for school audience. It is envisaged that writers will develop the Units and also create the assessment strategy. Happy to also provide more information in relation to background to the development etc for those interested in taking this forward.

This is a funded opportunity through BECTA who are keen to get small QDT (ie two writers) on board and start this process ASAP. The deadline date for the award (ie 2 units) to be on the system is 1st October 2009.

If interested, please get in touch with me and I can provide more information.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Basic ICT skills training

A new government report calls for basic computing skills training to be provided to all adults in England. More.

Friday, 26 June 2009

QDT meeting for HNC/D Computer Games Development

The QDT for the HNC/D Computer Games Development met this morning to finalise the qualification frameworks and agree who is doing what over the summer.

The meeting was led by Tony Gurney and was very productive. We had a lively but constructive discussion about exactly what the qualifications should look like and then decided who was writing and vetting each unit. In total, 14 new units will be created, which is a lot but not that surprising given the nature of the subject area. So, it's going to be a busy summer for most of the members of the QDT.

We are aiming to have the units completed by mid-September when we will post them for public feedback so watch this space. The qualification is due to be available to centres from January 2010.

We are also developing games-based awards at SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6, which means that, at the end of these developments, we will have qualifications in this area at levels 4-8.

Contact Caroline for further information and the HN awards and contact Hilary about the NC awards.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Scotland's Colleges Annual Computing Confererence

Central College hosted Scotland's Colleges' second annual Computing Conference today. There was an excellent turnout, with around 80 people attending, representing just about every college in Scotland. Speakers include representatives from the HMIe, LTS and and a number of vendors.

I gave a presentation about SQA developments over the last 12 months, which included the development of 12 new NPAs, the completion of an HND (Interactive Media) and the commencement of a new HND (Computer Games Development).

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

I particularly pointed out the changes to the Computing team and recommended that everyone print-and-keep the current team set-up.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

When the current developments are complete, the portfolio of vocational Computing awards will look like this.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Friday, 19 June 2009

Internet Safety and child protection

I've been in London for a couple of days attending various events relating to Internet safety in general, and child protection in particular. Our Internet Safety qualification has established a reputation for SQA as something of an innovator in this area but it's always nice to be involved in national initiatives.

On Wednesday I attended a FOSI event about mobile safety. The audience was from all over the world, including representatives of the major mobile phone companies and the UN, and I was asked to participate in a panel session to answer questions about national qualification in this area.

Then on Thursday I went along to the CEOP offices to observe around 100 people undertake the Ambassador training programme. This programme is designed for people who work with children to deliver the ThinkUKnow child safety course.

I had interesting and productive discussions with CEOP about how SQA could support this important training programme. More news will follow shortly.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Scotland's Colleges 2nd Annual Computing Conference

You are invited to Scotland's College's Second Annual Computing
Conference being held on the 25th of June from 9:30am to 3pm at
Central College in Glasgow.

The event is free and is the perfect way to end your academic year and
send the whole department away buzzing with new ideas for next year.

Speaking at the conference will be Iain Lowson of HMIe on Ungood
Practice: 10 Things We Shouldn't Be Doing!, Bobby Elliot of the SQA on
the latest awards, James Stanger on the CIW qualification, Jenny
Kilgore of the OU on retention and attainment in Computing, Mark
Brownrigg of the LTS on the Curriculum for Excellence, Colin Maxwell
of Adobe on a range of support materials available and Tony Gurney of
Scotland's Colleges on the programme for next year. In addition there
is an exhibition area with your chance to chat to the speakers and
explore what's available from several other vendors.

This is also a chance to network, share practice, and start to address
issues that concern everyone involved with delivering Computing and IT
in Scotland's colleges.

The complete programme and the link to book for this free event is at and I look forward to seeing you there.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Adobe Flash Training

On Wednesday 24th June Adam Smith College will be hosting a one day training event for staff wishing to develop their skills in using Adobe Flash.

This instructor-led course is intended to equip F.E. Lecturers with the practical skills required to deliver the following units within the NQ Digital Media Computing framework.

F180 11: Interactive Multimedia for Website Development
F1KB 11: Animation Fundamentals

The course uses a hands-on approach and is geared towards beginner and intermediate users and will focus on the following topics:

Introduction to Adobe Flash
The Flash interface
Drawing tools in Flash
Frame-by-frame animation
Motion and Shape tweening
Adding simple interactivity - Play and Stop buttons
Introduction to movie clips
Publishing a Flash animation

There will be examples of how Adobe Flash can be used to deliver these units and discussion regarding suggested teaching approaches, all within a friendly and relaxed environment.

The session will commence at 10am at the Nairn campus in Kirkcaldy and finish at 4:30pm, with a break for lunch, which is provided, between 1pm and 2pm. Tea and coffee will be available throughout the day and there will be plenty of opportunities to network with other lecturing staff and discuss teaching issues.

The cost of this event is £100 including lunch and places are limited.

To book please contact Mark McPhee on:

Tel: 01592 223719

Thursday, 4 June 2009

HND Computer Games Development consultation event

We held the Computer Games consultation event in Glasgow today. We had planned to run a similar event in Dundee on Monday but we cancelled it due to lack of interest. And the turn-out today wasn't great (eight people attended but three of these were members of the QDT). I'm not sure why there has been so little interest in these events. Perhaps it's the time of year; perhaps it's just that there is not a great deal of interest in this area; or perhaps it's "development fatigue" since there have been so many developments in this area over the last couple of years.

Tony Gurney, the lead developer, discussed the proposed arrangements and gave attendees the opportunity to comment on how the developments are going. There were lively discussions on the role of mathematics, the need for lower level games-based courses, and the skills required from graduates from these awards.

So, in spite of the low attendance, it was a good event and it achieved its goal -- of giving Tony feedback on the general direction of the development to allow him to firm up his ideas and get on with producing the qualifications.

Contact Tony if you want to find out more about this development or use the comment facility on this blog to provide feedback.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Welcome to Hilary

Hilary Weir joined the team on Monday. She replaces Shirley who has moved to the textiles subject area. Hilary also replaces Jacquie Campbell and effectively picks up both Shirley's and Jacquie's portfolios.

Crudely put, Hilary will deal with National Certificate/NPA/SVQ awards (including PC Passport) and Caroline will deal with HN/PDA awards. It's not quite as simple as that and the attached organisation chart defines who is responsible for what.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at

Save File: HN SVQ team (June 2009).doc

I'm delighted to have Hilary in the team since she is full-time and provides more continuity to centres. In time, as she learns the ins-and-outs of the subject area, she will be a valuable source of help and support to you.

I would advise you to print and store the organisation chart so that you know who to contact for your particular queries. The document also contains our e-mail addresses and telephone numbers so that you know exactly how to contact us.

HN Graded Unit: Projects

Some time ago, SQA published guidance on the assessment of project-based Graded Units. The main change was that each stage in the project (design, implementation and evaluation) should be separately marked, and each student must pass each stage (rather than a single overall pass mark for the entire unit). The existing computing GUs take this holisitic approach and, therefore, require to be changed. These are the project-based Graded Units for the following awards:
  1. HND Comuting: Software Development
  2. HND Computing: Technical Support
  3. HND IT
So Caroline and me met with David Drennan (Senior EV) and Deryck Nutley (Cardonald College) to discuss how to take this forward. We agreed to take the opportunity to claify the unit specifications while we were revising them. Once we produce revised unit specs, we will also write new assessment exemplars to reflect the revised units.

The new units and assessments will take some time to produce but I'm hoping that they will be avaialble to centres by the end of the year. In the meantime, the existing Graded Units and exemplars are fine to use.

Contact Caroline for more information about this project.

PC Passport changes

PC Passport was first introduced in 2004 and rapidly became SQA's most pupular vocational qualification. It was revised in 2007 to make it compatible with the National Occupational Standards for IT. We also took the opportunity to update its structure and contents.

Whenever major changes are made to any award, there are errors and ommisions and we've had a lot of feedback from centres about inconsistencies in the units and errors in the assessments. So, a few months ago, I commissioned Elaine Cunninghame, of Paisley Grammar School, to review the units and assessments and identify these errors.

I met with Elaine this afternoon to discuss her findings. It all seemed good, with sensible suggestions about to improve units and assessments. I should emphasise that these changes are small clarifications and improvements to the PC Passport suite of awards. It's not PC Passport v3.

It will take some time to "operationalise" these changes but you can expect to see the improved units and assessments appear in the autumn.

In the meantime, contact Hilary for anything to do with PC Passport.

Monday, 1 June 2009

NPA validations

We held two validation events today - each consisting of three NPAs. All six were validated with conditions.

The awards are:
  1. NPA Software Development (SCQF 4)
  2. NPA Social Software (SCQF 4)
  3. NPA Website Development (SCQF 5)
  4. NPA Computer Hardware & Software (SCQF 5)
  5. NPA Digital Photography (SCQF 5)
  6. NPA Digital Media Production (SCQF Level 6).
There were several conditions and recommendations but none that should take too long to address. We're hoping to have the conditions lifted by end-July (due to holidays between now and then). The awards should be available to centres from end-August.

I'm particularly grateful to Ron Dillin (Stow College) and Lorraine Johnson (James Watt College) for convening the panels.

More information about these NPAs (or any other NPAs) from Hilary.

Dundee Event - HND Computer Games Consultation

Unfortunately we have had to cancel the above event in Dundee on the 8th June 2009 due to insufficient numbers. This is the first time we have had to cancel an event but we strongly felt that there was limited representation from the field to consult with at this point in time. An e-mail to those who had registered for the Dundee Event was sent this morning giving alternative options.

The good news is that the Glasgow event on Thursday 4th June is going ahead so please, if you have not had time to register now is the time to do so by clicking on the URL below:

Saturday, 30 May 2009

HN Computing review meeting

I've mentioned previously what SQA planned to do to help with the performance indicator problem in this subject area.

A sub-group of the QST for HN Computing, along with some other volunteers, met this morning to identify specific assessment exemplars that are currently causing delivery issues and that we could improve.

We identified four examplars that we plan to rewrite:
  1. Computer Operating Systems 1
  2. Computer Architecture 1
  3. Computing: Planning
  4. Software Development: Array Data Structures
Each pack was assigned a couple of writers who will produce alternative assessment exemplars that, we hope, will be less demanding (in terms of time and pass marks). The Senior Verifier was on-hand to ensure that national standards were maintained.

We also looked at ways of integrating assessments and one concrete action was to produce a new exemplar that combines the assessment of IT: Applications Software 1 and Working Within a Project Team.

So, all in all, we will produce five new assessment exemplars to provide alternatives to the existing packs and that may lighten the assessment load on student and teachers.

It takes time to get new packs into the hands of teachers but I hope that these new improved versions will be available to centres by the autumn.

Contact Caroline for more information about HN assessment exemplars or other support materials for HN subjects.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

HND Interactive Media

The Arrangements Document for HND Interactive Media (Group Award Code: G9AY 16) is available on the SQA website for download by clicking here

The Units are available via the SQA website and all Unit titles and codes are available within the arrangements documentation.

We are in the process of writing Assessment Exemplars for the following Mandatory Units within the HND Group Award:

Sound and Vision for Interactivity
Interactive Media Composition
Designing and Developing an Interactive Active Product
Human Computer Interface
Professional and Legal Issues for Interactive Media Developers
Interactive Media: Graded Unit 2
Building an e-Business

These are being project managed through our Support Materials section and all packs should be available for the start of next session (August 2009).

HNC/D Computing assessment review

The Computing for Change group has met a couple of times to consider ways of improving the performance indicators for HNC/D Computing. As part of that work, I agreed to look at specific issues with the assessment of these awards.

A sub-group of the Qualification Support Team is meeting this Saturday to look at "problem" assessment exemplars and also consider ways of integrating assessments (across units) to reduce the assessment load.

I met with Caroline this morning to discuss the arrangements for the meeting. So far, we've had a low response to requests for the names of the specific units/examplars causing problems. It's not too late to suggest examplars that need to be improved so please use the comment facility to suggest packs.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

CIW Site Designer Foundations Masterclass

SFEU have arranged two events based around the CIW Site Designer Foundations Masterclass.

These are being held on Tuesday 23rd & Wednesday 24th June 2009 at the Glasgow Metropolitan College.

To register online for these events as well as find further information on start times, venue location, agenda etc please click on the URLs below:

Please note that this is not an SQA hosted event so if you have any queries, please get in touch with the events organiser (details found on information pages above).

ESF financial support for Scottish qualifications

SQA has received significant sums of funding from the European Social Fund for several years, and we were recently told that this would continue until, at least, 2011.

As part of this funding, I've been asked for ideas for resources to support NC and NPAs in my area. This could be additional assessment exemplars or teaching and learning material or online learning or assessment material. In fact, the financial support is available for e-assessment at any level (including HN).

So if you have any ideas for support materials that you would like, please post a comment here.

Monday, 25 May 2009

E-assessment as default

I attended an internal SQA staff update session this morning and one of the key messages coming out of it was that e-assessment "should be the default position" for new qualifications. In other words, rather than justify its use, we should justify when it's not used. By and large, we're still producing paper assessments - and sometimes assessments that are actually barriers to e-assessment - so this is important news.

I plan to produce some guidance for my assessment exemplar writers to illustrate how, in Computing, we can put this into practice. For example, on Saturday I attended a training event for writers of assessments for the new HND Interactive Media units so this is a good opportunity to put this into practice.

Reminder - HND Computer Games Consultation Events

This is a reminder that we have two consultation events coming up in both Glasgow and Dundee. If you intend to come along but have not yet registered, please do so using the URLs below as these spaces are on a first come first served basis.

The first event will take place on Thursday 4th June at 1330 hours in the Crowne Plaza, Congress Road, Glasgow - If you would like to register for this event, please click on the URL below:

The second event will take place on Monday 8th June at 1030 hours in the Queens Hotel, 160 Nethergate, Dundee - Again, if you would like to come along, please click on the URL below:

Look forward to seeing you then.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

PC Passport and UCAS points

I received a query this morning about UCAS points for PC Passport, which made the check the current position.

Some time ago, I posted a message indicating that PC Passport (at SCQF Level 6) was likely to attract UCAS credit. Well, it's now official. From 2010, PC Passport at Higher level (SCQF 6) will get 45 UCAS points (approx. the same as a Higher "C").

Planning for NPA validations

Shirley and I have been planning for the forthcoming validation events for six new NPAs.

On Monday, 1 June, there will be two validations events - one in the morning and one in the afternoon to validate the following new NPAs:
  • Software Development (Level 5)
  • Website Enterprise (Level 5)
  • Computer Hardware and Software (Level 5)
  • Digital Media Production (Level 6)
  • Digital Media Photography (Level 5)
  • Social Software (Level 4)
We have got Panel members identified, including college, industry and Sector Skills Council representatives so everything is in place.

I'm hoping for a successful outcome so that we can make these awards available to centres as soon as possible.

IT Exam Exemplars

We are still looking for a couple of exam exemplar writers for the HNC Information Technology Graded Unit.

These are for availability Winter 2009, therefore this would be work over the summer period alongside a specified vetter/verifier.

If you are interested in becoming involved in this project, please contact me direct (

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Successful NPA validation

As many of you will know, we are developing a large suite of NPA awards, three of which were validated a couple of months ago resulting in a large number of conditions to be addressed before the awards were acceptable.

This morning we held the re-validation event for the following awards:
  • Digital Media Basics (SCQF 4)
  • Digital Media Editing (SCQF 5)
  • Digital Media Animation (SCQF 5).
This time the awards were validated without conditions. There were a large number of recommendations, but no conditions, which means we can operationalise them immediately and make them available to centres as soon as possible.

There are two more validation events for NPAs in early June, when we hope to make another siex awards available to centres. And three more game-related NPAs have just started development.

Contact Shirley for more information about these or any other NPA awards.

Monday, 11 May 2009

HND Computer Games Consultation Events

We have two Consultation Events coming up for the development of the new HND Computer Games award. The aim of the day is for the Qualification Design Team (QDT) to give an update on where we are at with the development, possible structure themes, survey findings and the opportunity for feedback from those in attendance.

The first event will take place on Thursday 4th June at 1330 hours in the Crowne Plaza, Congress Road, Glasgow - If you would like to register for this event, please click on the URL below:

The second event will take place on Monday 8th June at 1030 hours in the Queens Hotel, 160 Nethergate, Dundee - Again, if you would like to come along, please click on the URL below:

Look forward to seeing you then.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Team changes

Over the last few weeks I have been involved in discussions and interviews relating to the make-up of the vocational Computing team within SQA. The outcome is that the team is going to change.

Jacquie has already moved to a new post and Shirley is about to join another vocational area (relating to textiles). In return, the Computing team will be gaining Hilary Weir, who is joining us from the Support Materials team. Both Jacquie and Shirley are part-time (with me) and Hilary is full-time, so this change should improve the service to centres. These changes will take place on 1 June.

I'll post an updated organisation chart, defining who is responsible for what, once we have agreed this.

I'm very grateful to Jacquie and Shirley for the help they have given me during the last few months. Shirley, in particular, has a long association with this sector and has played an important part in the evolution of vocational Computing qualifications in Scotland, and has developed friendships with many of you over the years. Both will be missed but Hilary, in time, will become well known to you.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Changes to Group Awards

Following my earlier blog posting detailing the HN Unit changes that were in the process of being made, I've listed below the HN Group Awards these changes will affect - please note that all revised Units below have a lapse date of 31/07/2009 and a finish date of 31/07/2011:

Professional and Legal Issues for Interactive
Media Developers (DF6A 35 revised by F6BY 35 in these frameworks)

Multimedia Computing: Web Development G7DE 16
Multimedia Computing G7DF 16

Human Computer Interface (DF60 35 revised by F6BV 35 in these frameworks)
Multimedia Computing: Web Development G7DE 16
Multimedia Computing G7DF 16
Computer Games Development G7Y8 15
Information Technology G857 15
Information Technology G8CX 16

Narrative and Genre in Computer Games (DE30 35 Revised by F6BX 35 in these frameworks)
Computing: Software Development G5VT 16
Interactive Multimedia Creation G7A6 16
Communication with Media G7GW 15
Communication with Media G7GX 16
Creative Industries: Professional Writing Skills G8MY 15
Media Analysis and Production G916 15
Filmcraft and Animation G92V 16

Graded Unit Exam Exemplars - Writers Required

We are looking for a batch of writers interested in writing HNC Graded Unit Exam Exemplars for the following HN Units:

DH36 34 HNC Computing: Graded Unit 1
DV6D 34 HNC Information Technology: Graded Unit 1
F21G 34 HNC Interactive Media: Graded Unit 1

We will be producing approximately three packs for each Graded Unit for availability Spring 2010.

If interested, Please get in touch with me direct ( and I shall provide further information.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

HNC/D Computing assessment

I've posted several times about the problems with student achievement in HNC/D Computing.

On Saturday, 30 May, a sub-group of the Qualification Support Team for these awards is going to meet to discuss how best to (quickly) reduce the assessment load in some of the component units.

So I would appreciate if you could identify particular units, or particular assessment exemplars, with demanding assessment loads. For example, there may be a particular unit that you teach where you feel the assessment takes an undue amount of time. Or an assessment exemplar that could be rewritten to reduce the time taken to complete it.

If you know of any units or exemplars, please post a comment here and we will consider your suggestions on the day of the event.

HND Interactive Media - Update

Some of you have been in touch regarding to the new HND Interactive Media award - I though I'd give a brief update on where we are at with having the award coded and available to centres.

The award conditions were lifted approximately 2 weeks ago and we've been busy having new units finalised, new codes allocated to many of the units, arrangements document house-styled and all unit and group award codes added to the documentation.

This is currently with our in-house wordprocessing team and as soon as this is received (ie end of this week) we shall undertake a final proof and upload to the website.

The following new HN Units have been uploaded to the website by our web team:

F6BM 35 Web Server Platform
F6BN 35 Developing Rich Internet Applications
F6BV 35 Human Computer Interface
F6BW 35 Interactive Media Composition
F6BX 35 Narrative and Genre in Computer Games
F6BY 35 Professional and Legal Use for Interactive Media Developers
F6C1 35 Self Describing Data (XML)
F6C2 35 Web Development: Dynamically Generated Content
F6C4 35 Web Development: Producing a Data Driven Website
F6C5 35 Web Development: Web Optimisation

The following Units should be avaiable for download by the end of the week:

F6BS 35 Digital Imaging: Advanced Bitmap Techniques
F6BT 35 Digital Imaging: Advanced Vector Techniques
F6JJ 34 Building an e-Business
F6JC 35 Sound and Vision for Interactivity
F6JB 34 Digital Portfolio

As soon as the remaining two units have been coded (ie HND Interactive Media: Graded Unit 2 & Designing and Developing an Interactive Product) I shall inform you of the new code for download.

If you have any questions relating to this new award then please get in touch with me direct ( and I shall be only too happy to help.

Friday, 1 May 2009

HND Computer Games and SVQ meetings

There were two important meetings this afternoon. One related to the HND Computer Games qualification that is currently under development, and the other related to the new SVQs that we are producing.

The QDT for the HND Computer Games Development award met to discuss progress. The project is being led by Tony Gurney. We are at the consultation/market research stage so things tend to move a little slowly but we are making progress. There is currently an online survey and we plan two public meetings in early June to discuss our plans (one in Glasgow and one in Dundee). Contact Caroline for more information about this development.

At the same time, there was also a meeting about SVQs. E-Skills recently revised the National Occupational Standards for IT Users and we now have the task of creating new qualifications (SVQs) to match the new Standards. David Drennan is leading this work. We're not sure what the time scale will be but new SVQs will be available in the not too distant future. Contact Shirley for more information on this development.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Computer Games

I visited Forrester High School this morning to discuss qualifications in computer games.

A group of teachers, representing the school, college and university sectors, had been thinking about developing awards relating to computer games, and wanted to discuss their ideas with me.

It was a good meeting and their ideas were very interesting with lots of potential. The group proposed three new awards (National Progression Awards) at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6. I explained the process that has to be followed to turn ideas like this into real qualifications.

The first stage is to ensure that SQA has the capacity to support the development so I'll discuss this internally before deciding if/when to take this forward. But it sounds an interesting development, which I'm sure would be popular with schools and colleges.

We are currently developing a new HND in this area (HND Computer Games Development), which will include reviewing the existing HNC award (HNC Computer Games Development), so developing new awards at Levels 4, 5 and 6 would compliment these on-going developments.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Changes to various HN Unit Specifications

Following the last HN QST meeting, the following HN Unit Specifications have been updated and version 02 is now available on the SQA Website - please refer to the Administrative Information section within the Unit to see a description of the changes made:

F0N0 35 Professional Issues in Computing
DX43 35 Information Technology: Legislation and Codes of Practice
DF6C 34 Software Development: Introduction
F1VS 34 Interactive Media: Planning
F1YY 34 Web Development: Essential Content

Any associated exemplar materials will also be amended to reflect the changes made if applicable.

In addition to the changes above, the following Group Award changes will become live over the next 3-5 days:

DM2X 35 Computer Operating Systems 2 (now an optional unit within HNC IT and HNC Computer Networking)

D7LW 34 Communication: Using Information Technology and Desktop Publishing will be
added to frameworks as an either/or with DF5Y 34 Desk Top Publishing

DG06 35 and D76D 35 Internet: Web Server Management will have lapse dates added to them and centres should deliver the latest version of this unit being DM3C 35

All changes will be included in the next Update Letter to Centres.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

NPA QDT meeting today

We're in the process of finalising three NPAs and developing six new ones.

The three being finalised are:
  1. Digital Media Basics (Level 4)
  2. Digital Media Editing (Level 5)
  3. Digital Animation (Level 5)
We're hoping to have the validation conditions lifted within the next month.

This morning I met with the development team for the new NPAs. These are:
  1. Digital Media Production (Level 6)
  2. Website Enterprise (Level 6)
  3. Computer Hardware & Software (Level 5)
  4. Software Development (Level 5)
  5. Social Software (Level 4)
  6. Digital Photography (Level 5).
These new awards are already well along the road to being written, and the validation event for them will take place on Monday, 1 June. We're looking for validation panel members if you want to be involved.

Please contact Shirley if you want to know more about these developments or serve on the validation panel.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Free Training Sessions

The e-Assessment and Learning Department offer free training sessions for our on-line assessment (SOLAR) system and also in the area of e-portfolios.

SOLAR online assessment - am session (
Skills 4 Work Deskspace e-portfolio - pm session (

New dates for training are listed below and will take place at SQA Offices, Optima Building, 58 Robertson Street, Galsgow G2 8DQ (Map available on request)

21st May 2009
28th May 2009

We are offering 2 places* per centre at each of the sessions. Please book early to avoid disappointment.

The sessions are aimed at Schools, Colleges and External Training Providers.

For more information on booking current and future training events please contact Derek McFarlane on 0845 213 5406 or e-mail

*Please can you check if staff have attended from your centre previously. We would also ask that if you would like training at your centre outwith these dates, a minimum of 10 staff are required.