Monday, 29 November 2010

Appointment of Linux Cascasde Centre

Arriving in College Principal and Heads of Computing inboxes this week is an invitation to consider working with SQA and LINUX  IT . In partnership we hope to

·         Upskill staff in Colleges
·         Build capacity across Scotland to deliver open source qualifications
·         Ensure that appropriate recognition is given for open source qualifications
·         Build a sustainable relationship with the global open source community

Saturday, 27 November 2010

External Verifier meeting

The team of External Verifiers (EVs) meet occasionally to discuss a range of issues relating to quality assurance. The Computing team met this morning in the SQA Glasgow offices. The meeting was led by David Drennan.

There is a standing item on the agenda when I update the EVs about recently developed (or soon to be developed) qualifications that they might come across while carrying out their duties. My update today included the recently developed NPA Doing Business Online, the new NPAs in Computer Games Development, and the range of vendor related developments currently taking place, such as the CIW project.

Gerry MacKie came along to update the EVs about the HN Review and to get their views on a range of issues. We had an excellent discussion. The EVs supported the idea of a common HNC leading to specialised HNDs, they also supported a generic HND award, and wanted the HNC to continue to be assessed by an examination.

Being an External Verifier is fantastic CPD for practicing teachers and lecturers. Contact Allison Paterson if you want to know more.

Friday, 26 November 2010

College/university subject partnership

I attended a meeting at Glasgow Caledonian University this morning about college/university links. Anne Russell is leading a project that aims to improve the links between colleges and universities in the Glasgow area. Representatives of universities and colleges attended. The project is funded - by the Funding Council - until July 2011.

It was a productive meeting. We identified some of the issues facing students who move from college to university, issues such as self-confidence, critical thinking skills, independent learning, and examination technique.

One of the ideas to come out of the meeting was to develop an HN unit expressly for this purpose -- to teach college students the essential skills required for surviving in university. This unit would focus on soft skills, such as presentation skills, self-confidence, and essay writing skills that are essential at university. I offered to liaise with the QDT for the HN Computing review to see if such a unit could be included in the new HN qualifications. If it's felt that a unit like this would be beneficial, Anne thought it could be produced pretty quickly (by April of next year).

I'd be interested to know your thoughts of including a unit like this in the new awards.

Monday, 22 November 2010

PDA Web Design

I met with Loraine Johnston of James Watt College this morning to discuss the progress with the new PDA in Web Design. Loraine is the Lead Developer for this project.

The new PDA is based on the official curriculum for the CIW Web Design Specialist (formally CIW Site Designer) qualification. 

The proposed award will consist of three mandatory single credit units at SCQF Level 7.  These are currently in the process of being finalised and will also be added to the optional section of the HNC/D Interactive Media awards.

We plan to hold the validation event towards the end of January 2011.  The proposed award  (i.e. PDA in Web Design at SCQF Level 7) would be available to centres by the 1st March 2011 at the latest.

We have been working closely with CIW over the past few years and have maintained strong links in this area.  This new award will sit alongside the existing PDA in Web Technologies: Fundamentals at SCQF Level 7 which is based on CIW Web Foundations qualifications.

Friday, 19 November 2010

New NPA and Big Business Breakfast

This week is Global Enterprise Week and, as part of that, Google has been promoting it's Getting British Business Online (GBBO) initiative. It held 25 simultaneous "business breakfasts" across the UK this morning, including one in Glasgow, which I attended.

GBBO is a fantastic opportunity for small businesses to establish a web presence - for free and in 20 minutes. David MacMurtrie, of Google, led the event. He emphasised the phenomenal growth of the Internet and how vital it is for all Scottish businesses to be online.

SQA is one of a small number of UK awarding bodies that is supporting GBBO by providing a qualification to anyone who gets involved in the initiative and wants to develop their knowledge of e-commerce. Our qualification - NPA in Doing Business Online [PDF] - is available now. Contact Hilary for more information.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Computer Games learning materials

Hilary and me met with Graeme Clark, of SQA's E-Assessment & Learning team, this morning to discuss support materials for the new NPAs in Computer Games.

We will be developing teaching and learning material for the entire suite of awards (at Levels 4, 5 and 6) in electronic format, suitable for delivery on a wide variety of platforms (such as stand-alone PCs or VLEs). Stevenson College will carry out this work, on SQA's behalf. The material will be available by Summer 2011.

The Support Materials team in SQA is currently working on assessment packs for these awards. There will be one pack for each "strand" within the courses -- one for Design, one for Media Assets, and one for Development. Each pack will be multi-level, covering Levels 4, 5 and 6. We're hoping to see these packs early 2011.

Finally, with respect to the NPAs, we plan to organise a support event in March of next year to help centres that are considering introducing these awards from August 2011. At that event you'll see (some of) the support materials, and hear from teachers who have delivered the awards during the current session. More information will follow.

Contact Hilary for more information about NPA Computer Games Development.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Sector Panel meeting

The Sector Panel for Computing & IT met today at The Park Hotel in Glasgow. Fourteen people attended.

The purpose of the Sector Panel is to provide SQA with guidance about what is happening externally and what we need to do to ensure our awards are relevant and up-to-date. Today we discussed the on-going HN review, Genny Dixon of E-Skills UK updated us on national developments, Chris Jones raised a variety of issues coming from the Scottish Computing Alliance, and we had a discussion about the Curriculum for Excellence.

The Computing Sector Panel is one of only two Sector Panels that still exists (there was a time when every subject had one) so I am pleased that we continue to work - and work effectively if today's meeting was anything to go by.

I keep the membership of all my committees under review and I usually apply the "three strikes rule" - that is, if someone misses three consecutive meetings (in the case of the Sector Panel this represents missing meetings for 18 months) I would ask them to stand down. I will be reviewing the membership of  the Sector Panel in the near future so please contact Caroline if you are interesting in joining the committee.

Reid Kerr prize giving ceremony

I was asked to present the SQA prize at the Reid Kerr prize giving ceremony, held at Paisley Abbey yesterday afternoon. It is a fantastic venue for an event like this.

Jean Hubert Kasubandi won the SQA prize, having overcome tremendous problems to acheive his HND.

These events are great. It's fantastic to see the pride on the faces of students and their families. I had a great time. The college did a great job in organising the ceremony, which went like clockwork.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Visiting centres

The demands of my job make it difficult to get out and actually visit centres to talk to teachers and students but at the end of last week I managed to visit two colleges that I have previously taught in.

On Thursday afternoon I visited Clydebank College, at the invitation of Graeme Downey, and met several of my ex-colleagues. Graeme, kindly, gave me the chance to talk to students and I had a discussion with a group of NC students and a group of HNC students. It was very interesting to get the students' perspective on SQA courses. It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that the amount and type of assessment figured prominently in the students' feedback.

On Friday, I met with ex-colleagues from Stow College and, once again, it was interesting to hear ordinary teachers' views on SQA qualifications. Ron Dillin had kindly arranged this. I got plenty of feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of our awards.

It's good to get out and meet teachers and students so don't hesitate to contact me if you would like me to visit your centre. I can't promise to always be available but either myself or Caroline or Hilary will try to accommodate you.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Qualifications Support Team

Over the past few years, we have established the HN Qualification Support Team (QST) for Computing which offers ongoing support and advice to allow for improvements and to exemplify national standards for our HNC/D & PDA portfolio of awards.

We are in the process of reviewing our membership of the group and in order to ensure full coverage of all areas, we seek some new volunteers (particularly those with experience in delivering Computer Games and Vendor Curriculum linked with SQA units).

The QST physically meet twice per year but have a dedicated e-group which offers an excellent communication channel between meetings.

There is no attendance fee paid for these meetings, however travelling expenses are fully reimbursed.

If you are interested in joining, please complete the HN QST Application Form and return to me.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Oracle Academy and Thinkquest Information Seminars

There are strong links between Higher Information Systems, a range of Higher National Units and the Oracle Academy Programme. Here is an opportunity to get involved both in the Oracle Academy Programme and to find out about Think Quest which offers opportunities across the curriculum and a lot of potential support for Curriculum for Excellence activities.

Diva Update

In the background over the last 12 months we have been reviewing, renewing and expanding the Digital and ICT Vendor Alliance. This is a culmination of the review of the original project.  As a reminder DIVA originally set out to encourage
·         Liaison with global vendors giving early insight into up-and-coming developments
·         The Mapping of vendor curriculum and certifications to SQA units
·         Encourage new and innovative qualification development
·         Develop the Provision of expert training in Scotland for teachers and lecturers
·         Identifying  opportunities for Scottish staff to attend key conferences
·         Allow access to free or discounted industry curriculum materials for both learners and teaching staff
·         Provide added value support and communications about vendor activities for teaching staff
As we reviewed the programme  with Colleges  and vendors  and relevant sector skills councils we identified a range of challenges that should be taken into account in any refreshed programme.
The review exercise led to a set of 10 recommendations as follows:
1.       Re-affirm and re-invigorate the role of DIVA as a strong vehicle for delivering SQA Corporate Business Plan 2009-2012 objectives and broader policy objectives.
2.       Raise the profile of DIVA within SQA, in particular assign responsibility as an internal DIVA Champion to a senior level post within SQA with a cross-departmental remit.
3.       Create a process for regular strategic level dialogue with DIVA vendor partners.
4.       Review the Lead Centre model to encompass cross-sector and cross-regional Lead Centre Partnerships, leveraging the benefits of existing vendor/education sector relationships.
5.       Expand the range of DIVA partners but review the selection criteria for which vendor developments to engage with, placing more emphasis on mapping to key industry trends and existing/predicted demand to ensure take up by learners and relevance to employers.
6.       Focus on mapping vendor certifications to awards rather than creation of vendor specific units, but take into account good practice in relevant vendor developments when building new units.
7.       Encourage vendors to submit their courseware and certifications for SCQF credit rating.
8.       Explore how DIVA can help to deliver the objectives of the Curriculum for Excellence development work.
9.       Address the sector requirements for stronger DIVA communications, showcasing and peer-to-peer networking opportunities.
10.   Use greater collaboration to achieve DIVA goals and leverage the potential benefits of DIVA.

Following the review we have spent the last six months working with Vendors to review and refresh our existing agreements. Over the next few months expect to see more announcements as programme moves forward in step with  A Digital Ambition for Scotland