Monday, 28 February 2011

Supporting centres to develop new awards

I posted recently about how colleges can develop their own qualifications. Many centres have "devolved responsibility" and can validate their own awards. Alternatively, centres can ask SQA to lead the development.

If colleges go down the latter route, SQA's Business Case Group (BCG) scrutinises their proposal and decides if the idea is viable. I attended a BCG meeting this morning because a college had proposad a new HNC qualification in my area. There was a positive outcome, which will be communicated to the centre in the near future.

The alternative route is for centres do develop a "single centre award" under their devolved responsibility powers. In this case, the centre has responsibility for developing the qualification, with advice from SQA, but they take responsibility for the development.

It's worth noting that under either scenario, the qualification, once developed and validated, is a national qualification, available to any centre. Also, under either scenario, SQA has responsibility for validating the units and would normally have representation at the validation event.

Contact Marketing for more advice about developing your own awards.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

NPA Computer Games Development

If you are considering offering SQA's new National Progression Awards in Computer Games Development (available at SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6) you may be interested in attending the Game to Learn: Take 2! conference at Dundee College on 18 March. The NPA covers the design, creation of graphics, sounds and animation and development of computer games.

Colin Maxwell from Carnegie College will lead a workshop on how to create a 3D game using Blender, the free 3D modelling and animation tool. The session will look at using Blender in the context of teaching Units in the NPA Computer Games Development qualification. Delegates will be lead through the creation of a 3D game, from the initial design to a working prototype. More information on the conference is available here

Assessment Support Packs for the Units will be available on our website shortly and web-based teaching and learning material is being developed for August 2011.

New Operating Systems Units (Windows 7, Linux....)

We are in the process of finalising three new HN Units on Configuring, Troubleshooting and Managing Desktop Operating Systems which are listed below.  The Units were written with Windows 7 in mind, however, the Outcomes in each of the Units have been written in a vendor-independent manner.  There is no restriction placed on the operating system to be used and centres are free to choose any operating system of their choice.
  1. Configuring a Desktop Operating System (2 Credits at SCQF Level 7)
  2. Troubleshooting a Desktop Operating System (2 Credits at SCQF Level 7)
  3. Managing a Desktop Operating System Deployment (2 Credits at SCQF Level 8)
Each of the above Units may assist candidates to prepare for Microsoft Certifications (70-680 TS: Windows 7 Configuring, 70-685 Pro: Windows 7 Enterprise Desktop Support Technician, 70-686 Pro: Windows 7 Enterprise Desktop Administrator).

We aim to have the Units finalised , coded and available to centres by 1st April 2011 at the latest.  These will be added automatically to the HNC/D group awards as optional units.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Support Materials for NPA/NC/HN/PDA Awards

I receive many phone calls and e-mails from centres looking to find out which exemplar materials have been produced (or in the process of being produced) for a variety of units within our Group Awards.

We have a dedicated team within SQA who project manage the production and publishing of all Support Materials for units within NPA/NC/HN/PDA awards across all qualification areas.

This team maintain tracking spreadsheets of all support materials and these are published on the SQA website and updated on a monthly basis.  These spreadsheets are an excellent resource for centres giving up-to-date information on the development/publishing stages.

Please click here to access the HN support materials spreadsheet.

Please click here to access the NAB/ASP support materials spreadsheet.

Monday, 21 February 2011

College-devised qualifications

I've previously commented about the collaborative and inclusive way that SQA develops qualifications. We also encourage centres to come up with their own ideas for new qualifications. Many do.

This morning I spent some time discussing an idea from a centre for a new HND in my area. I advised the person about SQA's qualification toolkit, which is useful for all types of developments, and also the specific facilities we provide to centres that want to develop their own awards. The first thing you have to do is to complete and submit a development proposal form [DOC].

Of course, before you do anything, you should check the current portfolio of awards to ensure that your idea is new.

Contact Jacquie if you want to know more about the process of getting support for your ideas or contact me if you want to discuss the idea before submitting a proposal.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Educational policy in England

I've mentioned SQA's research seminars and masterclasses before. I attended a research seminar on educational policy in England this afternoon. It was presented by Professor Jo-Anne Baird and Professor Janette Elmwood of Queen's University.

The focus of the seminar was the impact of educational policy in the 14-19 age group in England. The presenters emphasised the sheer number of changes that had occurred in England during the last ten years. For example, funding for English colleges "had changed every year for the last 10 years" resulting in an atmosphere of constant change. The presenters had carried out research with school pupils and college students, and said some interesting things about assessment. English students liked external assessment, expressing the view that it was "fair" and "equal", compared to internal assessment, which could be effected by their relationships with their teachers. They liked a mix of examinations and courseworks but felt there was too much assessment.

The presenters pointed out that "the student voice" was rarely heard when policy was created -- which reminded me that I need to get a student representative onto the QDT for the HN review. :-)

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Internet Safety course and social media

Our short course on Internet Safety ended on Friday. It was also an experiment on using social media to engage students. We used Twitter to communicate with students and Blogger to deliver course contents. Ninety-nine people followed us on Twitter. I'm not sure if that's a success or a failure -- but it definitely was an interesting experiment.

The experiment reminded me that there remains issues surrounding the pedagogy of online learning. I wrote something about that a couple of years ago. It also reinforced my view that Twitter has a lot of educational potential.

Speaking of which, if you don't already do so, please follow the SQA team on Twitter.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

QDT meetings

Today was a busy day for Qualification Design Teams. I went along to the QDT for HNC/D Computing this morning and attended another QDT meeting this afternoon for HNC/D Service Management & Delivery.

The QDT for HNC/D IT & Service Management discussed the aims of the awards, and looked at potential frameworks for the awards. There was also an interesting discussion around core skills. The QDT hope to have these new awards complete by the Summer.

Contact Deryck for more information.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Skills for the UK digital economy

Late last year, I attended an early briefing about a soon-to-be-published report on the future of video games and visual effects in the UK. That report has now been published [PDF]. I attended a Westminster briefing today, in London, to discuss how the education system should react to the report. The report was funded by NESTA, which produced a short video to illustrate the findings.

The presenters emphasised the importance of video games and visual effects to the current and future UK economy, and expressed concerns about the education system (which are fully explained in the report). There were specific concerns about the school curriculum, particularly the emphasis on ICT rather than computer science, the unpopularity of STEM subjects, and the lack of women in IT (currently 15% of accepted applicants to Computing degrees are women).

The point was also made that using, and writing, computer games can develop a wide range of contemporary skills, including creativity, analytical thinking and team working, which most modern education systems seek to deliver.

Scotland has a strong background in this sector, and SQA has the best developed portfolio of computer games qualifications in the UK. We also haven't experienced the huge reductions in students studying Computing that has happened in the rest of the UK (57% reduction in A Level Computing since 2001 and 33% reduction in Computing degrees since 2002). But there is a lot in the report (it contains 20 recommendations) that everyone in education needs to think about.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Computer Wings and Spreadsheet Safe

SQA occasionally endorses the qualifications of external organisations. An example is our relationship with Q-Validus, with whom we endorse their Computer Wings and Spreadsheet Safe programmes.

I met with Liam Priest, of SQA's New Ventures team, this afternoon to discuss how to promote these awards. The programmes consist of a number of ICT units, at SCQF Level 7 (one unit is at Level 6), all of which have been credit levelled and rated on SCQF. Completing students receive internationally recognised certification from Q-Validus.

You can find out more here or contact Liam directly.

Today is Safer Internet Day 2011

Today is Safer Internet Day in almost 70 countries across the world. We launched our free Internet Safety course this morning. It's not too late to join. Simply follow us on Twitter.

Or, better still, join the 900 approved centres and offer the full qualification yourself. Thousands of young and not so young learners have already completed the award.

Contact Caroline for more information.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Internet Safety course is free this week

This week we are offering the Internet Safety course for free as part of SQA's contribution to Safer Internet Day, which takes place tomorrow.

We plan to use social media to give learners a taste of the Internet Safety course. It's completely free and there is no (formal) assessment. All you need to access the course is a smartphone (or a PC).

The week-long course will sample the contents of the Internet Safety award, which includes topics such as on-line fraud, identity theft, grooming, and protecting yourself against viruses. It's suitable for all learners, young or old. You can do as much, or little, of the course as time permits.

Signing-up for the course is easy. Simply follow us on Twitter and we will take care of the rest! If you don't already use Twitter, you can sign-up here. If you really don't want to use Twitter (and we would prefer it if you did) then you can access the course blog directly (but you will miss out on some of the course interaction).

The course runs from tomorrow (Tuesday) until Friday. Contact Caroline if you want to know more.