Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas

The team's Christmas Party was held yesterday so a few of us are feeling a bit sensitive this morning.

The photo shows Santa drawing the Secret Santa before we left for our meal. I was lucky enough to get gold coins.

We close today until Wednesday, 5 January. The team wish everyone a relaxing and happy holiday.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

HNC/D Computing and Networking QDT meeting

Some time ago, I wrote that there was a dedicated blog to keep you up-to-date with the review of HNC/D Computing and HNC/D Networking. We held the third meeting of the QDT yesterday. The blog has a full report.

I don't plan to post many more messages about this development on (this) main blog so please bookmark and read the dedicated blog if you want to keep up to date with what's going on.

Blogger has recently introduced new templates for reading blogs via a mobile device (such as a smartphone or tablet) and I have enabled that functionality on these blogs. So, if you're reading this on your phone, I hope that it looks good!

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Skills review for video games and visual effects sectors

I attended a meeting in London yesterday presenting the findings of a large piece of research relating to their video games (VG) and visual effects (VFX) sectors. The meeting was hosted by NESTA.

The findings will be presented to the government in the New Year. This was an invitation-only, early look at what will be in the report. SQA was the only UK awarding body invited, perhaps reflecting our position in this sector.

Some fascinating information was presented. Young people at school were unaware of the UK's significance in the computer games/visual effects sectors. Only 3% of pupils knew Grand Theft Auto was made in the UK. Nineteen percent of (UK) teachers knew this, although this doubled (almost 38%) of Scottish teachers. The authors said that this was a recurring theme - that Scotland was consistently more aware of, and more involved in, these sectors, the Scottish results being consistently higher than the UK average. There was poor awareness of the importance of Maths and Physics in the production of video games and visual effects (none realised that physics is involved in computer games), most pupils and teachers reporting that ICT (as distinct from Computer Science) was the most importance subject to prepare them for careers in these fields. The importance of highly developed programming skills was also not understood. Fewer than one in five (19%) ICT teachers had a degree in Computer Science; not many more (22%) were able to go beyond writing basic computer programs. The actions required included "bringing programming back into the classroom", and making Maths and Physics more attractive to school pupils, perhaps by introducing computer games and visual effects into these subject areas.

The researchers reported that around 1500 students graduated with a VG/VFX-related degree in 2009 and around 10% of these graduates found employment in this sector within 6 months of graduating. The success rate for industry-linked courses was higher (20%) and the overall employment rate (50%) was higher still. It was pointed out that 2009 was a very bad year for graduate employment in any sector. Interestingly, less than one in four VG/VFX degree courses included Maths as a mandatory part of the programme. This figure was lower in FE programmes, with 16% including any Maths.

Employers reported difficulty in filling VG/VFX positions (at all levels) with appropriate people. They complained about "inadequate programming skills" and poor team working and project management skills. The authors recommended a more systematic engagement between industry, HE and FE.

It was pointed out that the video game/visual effects sectors are presently worth $50 billion today and this will increase to $90 billion by 2015, making it one of the largest commercial sectors in the world.

The Livingstone-Hope Independent Review for Video Games and Visual Effects Sector will be published in early 2011.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Performance indicators in Computing

The performance indicators (PIs) for Computing are a problem for most colleges and it's an issue that has been raised by the Sector Panel on many occasions. At the last Sector Panel meeting, Ron Dillon (Stow College) and Joanna McGilvray (Forth Valley College) asked to look into this in more detail.
 So, Ron, Joanna and me met this afternoon to take this forward. We looked at some data about uptake, and unit and award pass rates.

It was an interesting meeting. We agreed to try to create a template that could be used, from year to year, to record and track progress in terms of course and unit entries and pass rates. This is not as easy as it sounds because of the inevitable complexities that arise when you look at any large data sets. But we hope to produce something that both SQA and centres can use.

Contact me if you want to know more about this project.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Weather problem

I put something on Twitter about the current situation re. the Computing team's availability during the severe weather. We're still operational! The SQA offices are open. I made it into the office today, Hilary is working from home, and Caroline is on annual leave. So, you will get a response to your queries but it is better to use e-mail than the telephone.

Twitter is better for updates like this than Blogger so, if you haven't already done so, please follow us on Twitter.

Help us improve

I've now set-up an evaluation questionnaire about the recent Heads of Computing event so, if you were one of the people who made it, I would appreciate if you would complete this short questionnaire.

One of the things I meant to say at the event, but forgot, was that I intend to create a survey in the New Year to gauge your satisfaction with the service that the team provides. I hope that this will be an annual survey so we can compare one year to another. I'll post a link to survey once it's ready.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Heads of Computing event

Friday's annual Heads of Computing event went ahead as planned in spite of severe weather problems. The start was delayed by an hour to give people extra time to get to Edinburgh. But, in spite of that, only 18 people managed to make it through the snow. We had expected 57 attendees.

I started the meeting with an update of what's been happening in the sector over the last 12 months and what is likely to happen in the forthcoming year. I highlighted what's already been developed, such as the NPAs in Computer Games Development, and forthcoming developments, such as the review of Internet Safety. My full presentation is below.
The key part of the day was a discussion about the current review of HNC/D Computing and HNC/D Networking. Gerry MacKie provided an update on what he's been doing over the last few months and sought advice about how to proceed. This meeting confirmed the views expressed at an earlier consultation event. There is a clear preference for one of the options. There is more information on the HN Review blog.

There were also presentations about the Curriculum for Excellence, our links with vendors, and a new National Certificate award in Computer Games being developed by a consortium of colleges. Genny Dixon of E-Skills UK also provided an update on a range of developments taking place across the UK.

The event seemed to go well. A formal evaluation will be sent to everyone who managed to get to Edinburgh. You can download all of the presentations here.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the annual Heads of Computing event.