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.