Friday, 27 August 2010

HNC/D Computing and Networking review

The first meeting of the Qualification Development Team for the review of HNC/D Computing and HNC/D Networking was held this morning.

There was an excellent turnout, with representatives of 11 colleges attending, including Adam Smith College, Central College, Dundee College and James Watt College.

The uniquely collaborative way that we develop qualifications, in partnership with stakeholders, is one of SQA's greatest strengths. These new awards will be shaped by the people who will ultimately deliver them.

The main aim of today's meeting was to set the scene, so I explained the background to the development and outlined some of the tasks that lie ahead of us. The immediate tasks for the team are to choose a lead developer and for this person to carry out consultation with interested parties. So I asked for volunteers and nominations for lead developer, who I am hoping to select in the next week or two.

There is a separate blog for this development, which will record all of the activities and keep you fully up-to-date with what's going on. I don't plan to post much about the review on this blog so please bookmark and visit the project blog.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Edinburgh Interactive 2010

Once or twice per year, I get the opportunity to attend really interesting conferences, one of which is the annual computer games conference in Edinburgh, which I attended today. This year's Edinburgh Interactive 2010 was very good and covered such things as games design, distribution, and business models. You also got the chance to see about-to-be-released games.

The presentations were particularly good this year, especially the ones on digital distribution and business models. 62% of computer games are now downloaded (rather than purchased in a shop) and the presenter claimed that in future games would be installation-free -- played entirely online without the need to download anything. He pointed out that at present we have a mixed economy (physical products and digital downloads) but that the future would be entirely digital.

The talk about business models was fascinating. The speaker argued that we need to focus on high value customers and stop treating everyone the same. He spoke about the "LTV" ("life time value") of customers and advocated that games should be free to play but then make money through online/virtual purchases. He pointed out that some players of World of Warcraft spent thousands of dollars in the game. Computer games only need to convert a small proportion of the free gamers to high value lifetime customers to make a lot of money.

Both these presentations (digital distribution and online business models) are relevant to more than the games industry. I can see how it could be applied to SQA products and services.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

HN update letter

The annual HN update letter was sent to Distribution yesterday to be sent to centres. It should arrive later this week. The readers of this blog can download it now.
Discover Simple, Private Sharing at
Save File: HN update letter - August 2010.doc

It contains important information about vocational Computing qualifications at SCQF Levels 7 and higher so please check it carefully.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Work experience initiative

The Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council is providing funding a for a new student placement programme, focussing on three areas -- one of which is IT. The e-skills placement programme, led by Edinburgh Napier University, will place 750 students in IT companies. The placements will last up to one year.

I plan to meet with Michael Kowbel, of E-Skills UK, to discuss how SQA can link to this initiative.

In the meantime, contact Michael if you want to know more about it.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Mobile technology

The Sector Panel suggested that we look at qualifications relating to mobile phone technology so Hilary and me met with Jim Krieger, of Anniesland College, this morning to discuss a proposal from Jim for a new NPA in Mobile Technology.

It seems a good idea to me. We discussed the possibility of developing a suite of awards at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6 (just as we did with the new NPAs in Computer Games Development). The awards would be quite small, consisting of a new National Units at each level. There was a general view that such awards would be very popular in schools and colleges, and contribute towards the goals of a Curriculum for Excellence.

SQA has a new process for approving developments such as this (and part of that process is to check that we have the capacity to actually carry out the work) so I couldn't make any commitments today but it sounds like a good idea that we should take forward to the next stage.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

How can we help?

Although the qualification team spends most of its time developing and maintaining qualifications and their associated support materials, we can also help centres in other ways. I've created a survey to try to find out what sort of help you would like. I'd appreciate if you would take a second to complete it.

Me, and/or one of my team, can either visit your centre or arrange a public event if there was enough interest.

Please note that we don't do verification/development visits, which is the responsibility of the Assessment Standards team. But we can help in other ways some of which are included in the survey. If you can think of other things we can do for you, post a comment here.

If you have an immediate need for help, please contact me directly.

Monday, 16 August 2010

NC update letter

The annual update letter relating to non-advanced awards was sent to centres on Friday. You can download it here. This letter contains important information about NC/NPA awards, including PC Passport.

I am currently working on a similar letter for HN awards, which I hope to send out later this month.

Welcome back

Welcome back to the many teachers and lecturers who re-started recently after the summer holiday. The blog is an excellent way of finding out what's been happening during the summer so I hope you take a few minutes to look through the past posts.

This year we plan to make more use of Twitter for regular, small updates so please follow us on that service. I am going to close the Yahoogroup mailing list, and replace it with our Twitter feed. If you have a smartphone, you should be able to pick up our tweets using any suitable app. You can also subscribe to this blog using an appropiate newsreader on your phone.

Finally, if you haven't already, please join our Groupsite, which we use whenever we are looking for people to help us with our projects.

Please use this organisation chart when you contact SQA. If you contact the right person, you'll get a much quicker (and more accurate) response.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Team development day

Once every year, the Computing team try to take some time out to review our use of online services. We met today to discuss our use of existing tools and consider the use of new tools. This time last year, we decided to give Twitter a try, which has proven to be successful.

The first thing we discussed was SQA's new, improved website. We all agreed that it is a huge improvement over the old version of the site. The Computing pages and qualifications are much easier to find now.

We also agreed to continue to use the blog and Twitter to communicate with centres. The blog appears to have a relatively large and loyal readership, with around 1400 hits per month from around 500 unique visitors. So it's clearly serving a purpose. Our Twitter feed has 160 followers right now but we would like this number to be much higher -- more like 500, so we will aim to get as many people as possible following the team via Twitter. That will be one of our targets for the next 12 months. If you don't already follow us on Twitter, please click this link.

We gave wikis another hard look today. They seem to be ideal tools for collaborative writing (and ideally suited to much of our work such as writing units) but we were left with mixed feelings when we looked at some of the free services available. We agreed to give them a try this year but only with a small-scale project.

Caroline set up a new blog for the HN review, which has just commenced. We hope to use a wide range of Web 2.0 tools to develop the new HNC/D Computing and HNC/D Networking awards.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Meetings with E-Skills

E-Skills is the Sector Skills Council for IT. I came down to London yesterday morning to attend two meetings with E-Skills, relating to standardising the awarding bodies' approach to delivering NVQ/SVQs. Yesterday's meeting was about their IT Professional Standards (called ProCom) and today's meeting is about IT User Standards (called ITQ).

SQA's relationship with E-Skills is not quite the same as other awarding bodies due to the different roles Sector Skills Councils serve in Scotland compared with other parts of the UK. But it's always interesting to meet with my counterparts from other awarding bodies, such as City & Guilds, EdExcel and BCS.

The qualification sector outside of Scotland is pretty complex, regulated by OfQual, which has a lot of rules and regulations about qualifications that awarding bodies down here have to adhere to. So it's interesting to me to see how this market works.

One of the most interesting things for me was the discussion on new areas that E-Skills should consider for including in their Standards. It was pleasing to see that many of the new areas being proposed came from Scotland, which appears to be ahead of most of the UK in this respect, such as our qualifications relating to e-safety and computer games.

Another interesting outcome was that E-Skills is going to require paperless evidence i.e. it must be in digital format. This doesn't mean that centres must use formal e-portfolio systems but some form of digital evidence must be provided. Free services such as Google Docs or Microsoft SkyDrive were suggested.

The HN review will make extensive use of E-Skills Standards (for IT Professional) and Genny Dixon of E-Skills is serving on the Qualification Development Team.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Updated e-Learning Materials

As you are aware, over the last few years we have developed in phases a number of interactive e-learning materials for various Units within our HNC, HND & PDA awards across the Computing portfolio.

We have recently made some minor updates to the materials as well as create some additional packs. We have passed the files over to our Web Team for upload to the website - these should be available by Mid-August. Once live, the materials can be accessed here.

DH2T 34 - Computer Architecture 1
D75X 34 - Information Technology: Applications Software 1
DH33 34 - Computer Operating Systems 1
DH35 34 - Computing: Planning
DH3E 35 - Software Development: Structured Programming
DH21 34 - Working within a Project Team
DH30 35 - Software Development: Applications Development
DV6E 34 - Database Design Fundamentals
DV6L 34 - PC: First Line Support
F0N0 35 - Professional Issues in Computing
DM2X 35 - Computer Operating Systems 2
D75V 35 - Computer Networks: Network Technology & Data Communications
DF9M 34 - Client Operating System
DF9N 34 - Network Server Operating System
DM31 35 - Software Development: Array Data Structures
DM32 35 - Software Development: Linked Data Structures
DH3D 35 - Software Development: Relational Database Systems
D77F 35 - Systems Development: Structured Design Methods
DX43 35 - Information Technology: Legislation and Codes of Practice
DX42 35 - Internet: Web Technology and Security
F1VS 34 - Interactive Media: Planning
F1VT 34 - Interactive Media: Authoring
F1VV 34 - User Interface Design
F1YX 34 - Digital Imaging: Bitmap and Vector
F1VW 34 - Client Side Scripting for Web Applications
F1VY 34 - Managing Database Systems using SQL
F1VX 34 - Internet: Web Development Standards and Legislation
F1W0 34 - Project Management for IT
DH39 34 - Internet: Introducing E-commerce
DF9T 34 - Internetworking Concepts 1: Development and Delivery Concepts
DF9V 34 - Internetworking Concepts 2: Security and Business Concepts
DF9R 35 - Network Infrastructure 1: Implementation and Management
DG00 35 - Network Infrastructure 2: Planning and Maintenance
DV6F 34 - E-Commerce: Introduction
F1XA 34 - Computing: PC Hardware and Operating Systems Essentials
F1X9 34 - Computing: PC Hardware and Operating Systems Support
DH3J 34 - SQL: Introduction
DE1N 34 - IT in Business – Databases
DE1M 34 - IT in Business - Spreadsheets

Friday, 6 August 2010

Update letters

I've spent some of today writing my annual update letters to centres. I'm a little earlier than normal this year since they are usually sent to centres in September. As usual, there will be two letters: one for non-advanced courses and one for advanced courses.

There will be nothing in the letters that readers of this blog don't already know but some teachers and lecturers still don't use online communications and prefer traditional means of communication -- and for them, the letters will be packed with important information.

I'm hoping to get the letters sent next week.