Thursday, 28 April 2011

Join our new online communities

As I posted earlier, Jiglu closes tomorrow. We are moving the online groups to a new service provider -- hosted by GroupSpaces. If you are currently a member of one of the Jiglu groups, you should have received an invitation to join one of the new groups. If not, please join the generic support group here, and we will take care of you. In fact, everyone should join this group since it is the main support group for all vocational Computing awards.

I look forward to seeing you on GroupSpaces!

HN Review - Unit Writing/Vetting Opportunities

As you are aware, we are currently consulting on the five group awards which are part of the HN Review (HNC Computing, HND Computing, HND Computing: Software Development, HND Computing: Technical Support and HND Computing: Networking).  If you have not yet had a chance to complete the online consultation survey, it can be accessed here.

Once all frameworks have been finalised we will be in a position to identify new units to be developed and also those requiring revision.

Given the high number of core and extended core QDT members, they will be involved heavily in the development work.  However, if you would like to be considered for unit writing and/or vetting then please contact me direct stating your area of expertise.  Should we require additional writers/vetters in addition to QDT members I shall be in touch with you direct.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Qualification Support Team for HN/PDA awards

There is a QST for non-advanced awards and one for advanced awards. Today was the turn of the advanced [HN] QST. Ten members attended a meeting in the Glasgow office, including a couple of new members. Most members are lecturers from FE colleges, across Scotland.

Like the NQ QST, the key activity is the discussion about the various suggestions from centres. We considered five QST proposal forms today. The QST is not a talk-shop. We take action and make changes to assessments or unit specifications or teaching materials when necessary. Some of the decisions made at today's meeting will result in concrete changes to units and assessments.

We do more than consider suggestions from centres. Today we also discussed SOLAR, Curriculum for Excellence, the current HN Review, and changes to the way we include vendor certification within HN awards. As always, the discussions were lively and constructive.

I told the HN members what I told the NQ members yesterday about the future of QSTs -- there will be no more face-to-face meetings. Future communication will be through an online community.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the QST for HN awards or enquire about membership.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Qualification Support Team meeting for NC/NPA awards

The Qualification Support Team (QST) for my non-advanced awards met this afternoon in the SQA offices in Glasgow. QSTs are charged with advising SQA about the support needs of our awards.

A key part of any QST meeting is consideration of proposals from centres, which can request improved assessments or revised unit specifications. We use two types of form: a QST proposal form, for such things as requesting changes to units, and an assessment feedback form, to ask us to revised assessments.

There was only one proposal today, perhaps reflecting the maturity and stability of this area, and this related to the Weblog unit, pointing out that some of the assessments were out of date. We agreed not only to look at the assessments but also the unit itself, in case we need to update both.

We had interesting discussions about a number of other topics. One worth mentioning is membership. We're looking for new members, so if you are interested in serving on this QST please contact Hilary.

I concluded the meeting by informing members about an important change in the way (all) QSTs will work in future. There will be no more face-to-face meetings. QSTs will, in future, be done online, through an online group. This will permit proposals to be considered on an on-going basis, rather than twice per year. Some members expressed regret at this change and suggested that we try to use social media (such as Skype) to keep the face-to-face aspect alive. I agreed to put some ideas together about how we can use ICT to communicate effectively.

Please contact Hilary if you want to know more about QSTs or want to submit a QST proposal form. QSTs are a great way to ensure that you receive the support that you need.

Criticism of ICT lessons

I received an e-mail yesterday, which contained a link to a story about boring ICT lessons in schools. SQA is working on new Computing qualifications as part of the Curriculum for Excellence, but there are already a large number of modern, engaging vocational qualifications available to centres. These include qualifications in Computer Games Development, Social Software, and Digital Culture.

I was disappointed to see the uptake figures for the Digital Culture units. These are available at SCQF Levels 4-8 but the uptake is very low, in spite of these units containing up-to-date and engaging outcomes relating to the more interesting aspects of ICT, such as social networks, collaboration tools, and virtual worlds, such as Second Life.

Contact Hilary for NC units, up to SCQF Level 6, and contact Caroline, for HN units at SCQF Levels 7 and up. These units are available now and are (optional) part of several NC and HN programmes.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

E-Placement scheme

I have previously posted about the E-Placement scheme, which is sponsored by the Scottish Funding Council and supported by E-Skills UK, Scotland IS, and Napier University.

I met with Colin Smith, of Napier University, this morning to discuss how SQA can support the academic side of the initiative. The placement lasts for (at least) three months and could be done between the first and second years of the HND Computing programme. Students are paid during the placement.

We looked at ways of accrediting the placement through SQA unit(s). Our options were to use existing units, of which there are several generic ones, or create a new specific unit for this placement, such as one entitled "E-Placement" or "Working in IT", which could be a two or three credit unit specifally designed around working in the IT industry. I have to consult internally about this but your views (via the comment facility) would be valued.

If we developed a new unit, it would be added to the existing HND Computing awards and, subject to QDT approval, included in the current HN Review.

Contact Mark Ratcliffe, of E-Skills, for more information about the E-Placement scheme.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Review of Internet Safety

SQA was the first awarding body in the UK to produce a national qualification in the field of Internet safety and we were delighted when E-Skills UK adopted our qualification as the basis of their own award in this area.

The National Unit [PDF] has been available since 2006. Since its introduction, it has proven to be very popular in schools and colleges; some schools offer it to every child in the early years of secondary school; many colleges include it in their adult education programmes. But technology has moved on in the last five years and it's time to look at the unit, with a view to updating it.

I began that process today when I had an internal discussion about our plans to update the unit. During the next few months we will be talking to various agencies and individuals to get their views on what we need to do to update the qualification. The revised unit will be available from August 2012 to centres in Scotland.

Contact Caroline for more information about the current qualification.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

New online groups

I met with Caroline and Hilary this morning to discuss the closure of Jiglu, and what we will do to replace that service.

We've been supporting qualifications through online groups since 2003, when we used Yahoo Groups. Since then we have used a range of services, including Egroups, Smartgroups, Google Groups and Jiglu. In the last few years, the field has thinned out and there are not so many choices today.

We decided to choose two service providers for our groups - our own internal service, called Quickr, and a public service called Groupspaces. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be closing the Jiglu groups and asking members to transfer to a new group based on one of these services. So, if you are a member of an online group, sit tight and await a notice of closure and an invitation to join one of these new groups.

We also decided, at today's meeting, to create one support group for all [vocational] SQA Computing awards. This will replace a number of smaller groups that were designed to support specific qualifications, such as PC Passport or HNC/D Computing. This new group is up-and-running now. It's an open (public) group, so please sign-up now.

Sorry for any inconvenience this change-over will cause but I'm sure the new groups will settle down soon, and a few minutes of your time now will, hopefully, give you years of help and support.

Monday, 18 April 2011

HN consultation questionnaire

The HN development is now at the stage where the QDT is seeking feedback on its proposals. More on the HN Review blog. Please take a little time to complete the survey.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

RIP Jiglu

I received bad news yesterday. Jiglu is closing. We've used this service for our online groups for a few years, and we've been very happy with it. We now have the problem of finding a replacement service and moving the groups to the new service. But time is not on our side - Jiglu closes at the end of April.

We are looking at a number of possible replacements, including our own internal service (based on Lotus Notes). Let us know (via the comment facility) if you have any suggestions.

I'll post more information about this once we have selected a new service provider.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Meeting with vendors

E-Skills occasionally hosts meetings between themselves, vendors and awarding bodies, and one of those meetings was held today in their London office. The purpose of the meetings is to provide a communication channel between the parties and to let the awarding bodies and vendors know about each other's plans.

A number of vendors (such as Microsoft, Apple and Cisco) attended this morning's meeting, along with a number of awarding bodies (such as City and Guilds, and EdExcel). There were discussions about planned changes to vendor qualifications and how best for awarding bodies to incorporate vendor awards.

Because of changes to the English qualification system, E-Skills (as a "unit submitting organisation") creates the vendor units that are put on QCF (the equivalent of Scotland's SCQF). These units strictly reflect the corresponding vendor units, but they are in "QCF-format". It was interesting to hear the English awarding bodies complain about the same problems as we have in Scotland -- the constantly changing nature of vendor qualifications and the time it takes to get them accredited on QCF and embedded inside qualifications offered to FE students. We're working on our own solution to this problem in Scotland, so watch out for more news on this shortly.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about SQA's links with vendor awards.

New Operating System Units

Following my blog post last month the following Units are now coded and available to centres:

FK89 34 Configuring a Desktop Operating System
FK8A 34 Troubleshooting a Desktop Operating System
FK88 35 Managing a Desktop Operating System Deployment

All three Units will be added to the optional section of all existing HNC/D Computing related frameworks.

They will also be part of the frameworks that are currently being revised as part of the HNC/D Computing/Networking Review.

Monday, 11 April 2011

20,000 hits and 200 followers

Coincidentally, this morning I noticed that this blog had just reached 20,000 hits and our Twitter account now has 200 followers.

I was particularly pleased with the Twitter statistic since we have been working hard to build-up that service, and 200 is a bit of a milestone. There's a long way to go. I'd like every Computing teacher or lecturer to follow the team, but 200 is a start. Organisations are beginning to see the potential of services like Twitter. It's becoming an important media outlet for their announcements - and it's great for customers since they can "follow" a company or a product or a service - and a surprisingly good way to get immediate customer support (try posting something on Twitter and you are likely to get a very fast response from the company).

The blog has been running for 7 years and has become an established communication channel. The 20,000 statistic is simply the number of hits it has received since the last time I reset it (some months ago). It receives around 150 unique hits per day. Interestingly, that figure has not risen or fallen much in the last couple of years. I estimate that the blog has around 500 regular readers, who visit at least once per month.

Social media will continue to grow over the next few years, driven by increasingly sophisticated smartphones, many of which come with services like Blogger or Twitter or RSS built-in.

You can follow this blog and Twitter in several ways. As well as visiting the blog, you can now get the posts sent directly to your inbox. To do this, simply add your e-mail address to the box on the right ("Follow this blog by e-mail"). Or, you can get it sent to your RSS reader by adding this feed. Or, you can follow us on Twitter - every update is also posted there.

I would encourage you to do both (read this blog and follow us on Twitter) since the information is not always the same (we put smaller updates on Twitter, such as staff availability).

If you are reading this then you are one of the 20,000. Thanks for taking the time. I hope that you find it worthwhile.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

E-Skills Tool for Selecting IT Career

BigAmbition - a digital career starts here

E-Skills have launched a tool that will help learners find the right career path in IT. A useful tool for current students and for profiling those interested in taking a computing course. BigAmbition's iPhone app is now available to download, and it's FREE!

The application is designed for students interested in a career in IT as it matches personality traits to IT job roles. Students play games to unlock the jobs and can then personalise a profile by adding skills and their own photo.

Link is

iPhone Screenshot 1

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Sector Panel meeting

The Sector Panel for Computing & Information Technology met today, for one of its regular bi-annual meetings. The meeting was held in the SQA offices in Glasgow. The purpose of the Panel is to advise SQA about external developments, and it's also an opportunity for me to update members about what we are doing. The Panel consists of representatives of FE colleges, universities, employers, and national bodies such as E-Skills UK and HMIE.

The agenda always covers a wide range of issues. Today we discussed, among other things,  new developments (I gave members an update on the HN Review), the marketing of SQA qualifications, and how to measure success in HN programmes. I have previously mentioned Ron and Joanna's work on measuring success in HN awards, and they gave a presentation to the whole Panel on this topic.

The Panel is not a talk shop. At a previous meeting, a new qualification on mobile technology was proposed so it was great to see Joe Spencer, of SQA's NQGA team, update members on progress to date. It's hoped to validate this new award (which will be called NPA in Mobile Technology and available at SCQF Levels 4 and 5) in May/June and have it available to centres from August.

There are some standing items on the agenda. For example, we always get an update from the Sector Skills Council for IT. Chris Morrow, of E-Skills, updated us on UK-wide developments, including the E-placement scheme, which I hope to incorporate into HN awards.

We keep the membership of the Panel under constant review so contact Caroline if you are interested in serving on this committee. Contact Joe if you want to know more about the NPA in Mobile Technology. Contact our stats team if want to know more about the statistical services that we provide.

Friday, 1 April 2011

E-Placement Scotland

Really just to follow on from Bobby's post yesterday - leaflets are on the way to every College and the team are currently making appointments with every College in Scotland. We are delighted to support e-skills , Scotland IS and the team at Edinburgh Napier University in delivering this programme.

What are the benefits for Colleges?
e-Placement Scotland is working with Colleges across Scotland to identify best practices in
accrediting paid work placements. We hope this will further encourage student participation. By
working with Government and Employers, our aim is to increase the availability of placements in the
IT Sector, and to create the conditions necessary to widen participation.

What to do next
Encourage your students to register on

  • Work with e-PlacementScotland to ensure we are able to create placements that best meet the needs of your students

  • Encourage your students to attend e-PlacementScotland events.
  • Contact Information