Saturday, 28 May 2011


I attended the AGM of the Scottish Institute of Computing Educationalists at the University of Dundee today. I was invited to speak about vocational qualifications in Computing. The audience was largely made up of Computing teachers from the school sector, who traditionally delivered "academic" qualifications such as Higher Level in Computing.

My colleague, Derek Middleton, gave an update on the Curriculum for Excellence, specifically the new awards being proposed at Levels 4, 5 and 6.

My own presentation followed one from Professor Alan Bundy, of the University of Edinburgh, who spoke about the declining interest in Computing and ways of stimulating interest. I talked about the current range of vocational qualifications that could be delivered in schools -- qualifications that are up-to-date and engaging.
My presentation highlighted awards such as Internet Safety, Digital Culture, Social Software and Computer Games Development. It seemed to be well received by the audience.

Contact Hilary if you want to know more about vocational qualifications suitable for delivery in schools

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Linux Training from Forth Valley College

Thanks to the generosity of LPIC  UK   Scottish Further Education staff   can sign up for free LPIC 1 training. The course runs from 20th June to 24th June at Forth Valley College, Falkirk Campus. Those wishing to book a place need to contact Joanne McGillvray  or Tony Dyer (

Monday, 23 May 2011

Satisfaction survey

A few months ago, I mentioned that I planned to get feedback from you about the quality of service that the (vocational) SQA Computing team provided. At long last, I have got around to creating a short questionnaire about this. It will only takes five minutes to complete, and the results will help us to improve the service. The survey can be found here:

I won't be sharing the results with you, since we will use it internally to identify strengths and weaknesses, but it will let us know what we need to do to improve the service.

Please contact me if you want more information about this survey.

NC Computer Games Development at SCQF level 5

Last week I attended the validation event for the centre led proposal for a National Certificate in Computer Games Development at SCQF level 5. Fiona Jackson from Forth Valley College was the lead developer and the design team included representatives from other colleges including Aberdeen, Adam Smith, Kilmarnock, Motherwell and Stevenson.

The Award has a number of new Units which have been designed to develop creativity in candidates, and will also hopefully increase the candidate base by attracting more females to Computing courses. It also includes the Units from the NPA in Computer Games Development at SCQF level 5 in the mandatory section, which means that candidates will be certificated for the NPA, as well as the NC when they successfully complete the required Units.

The qualification was validated with conditions and should be available for August 2011.

In the meantime please contact me if you would like further information.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Open for Education

I attended a JISC event today, in the National eScience Centre in Edinburgh, entitled Open for Education. The event had a number of speakers and workshops around how education can use open source software.

I throughly enjoyed the event. I was particularly impressed with the Google Docs and Facebook talks. Colin Maxwell, of Carnegie College, gave a very persuasive talk on how colleges can use Facebook as an alternative to the traditional VLE, pointing out how difficult it can be to get students to engage with a VLE and how easy it is to get them to use Facebook.

It was a good event but was the last one from JISC North & East Scotland, which closes in July. I've benefitted from many of their services and events.

Contact Kenji Lamb if you want to know more about this event or this topic.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

NC Technical Support

I attended a validation event yesterday, at the City of Glasgow College, to serve on the validation panel as the SQA representative.

The college had devised a new National Certificate award, at SCQF Levels 5 and 6, which relates to the more technical aspects of the subject, entitled National Certificate Computing: Technical Support. It was designed to articulate to the more technical HN awards, such as HNC/D Computer Networking.

The purpose of a validation event is for a group of independent experts to review the proposals to ensure that new qualifications are needed and valid. The panel was led by Walter Patterson, ex-HMI, and the Qualification Development Team was led by Margaret McKellar, of the college. Other members of the panel included representatives of E-Skills, industry, Higher Education, Further Education, and SQA (myself). Although the proposals received a thorough scrutiny from the panel, the qualifications were approved subject to a few conditions and recommendations.

The new National Certificate in Computing: Technical Support at SCQF Levels 5 and 6 should be available to all centres from August 2011. Contact Margaret if you want to know more about this new award.

Friday, 13 May 2011

College University Subject Partnership

I previously mentioned a joint college/university partnership designed to improve the student experience when they move from college to university. The College University Subject Partnership (CUSP) aims to improve the "soft skills" that college students need when they go to university. The project is led by Anne Russell.

There have been several meetings. I attended the latest meeting this morning, held at Caledonian University. The focus of this meeting was the current review of HN Computing qualifications. I gave members an update on how that development is going, including a sneak preview of the results of the current consultation.

There was an interesting discussion about a number of topics linked to FE/HE articulation such as core skills, the importance of examinations, and the place of mathematics in the frameworks. The HE representatives emphasised the importance of FE students gaining some exam experience before moving to university. I was interested in the discussion about maths since it has not really featured in the draft frameworks so far. The group felt that maths should be an option within all frameworks.

I asked Anne to canvas members about these (and other) issues and to provide a short written summary of the group's views, for the QDT's consideration.

Contact Anne if you want to know more about this initiative.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

support materials for NPA in Computer Games Development

The Assessment Support Packs (ASPs) for the National Progression Awards in Computer Games Development at SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6 are now published and available to download from the level 4 page on SQA secure site.

The ASPs integrate the three levels in one pack and cover each strand ie one pack for Design, one for Media Assets and one for Development.

Any checklists in the pdf versions are also available as separate word files for assessors to use.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Palestinian study visit

SQA hosted a group of Palestinian educationalists this morning, as part of their study visit to Scotland. I gave a presentation on qualification development to the group.

The purpose of my talk was to explain how SQA goes about developing, reviewing and maintaining qualifications. Giving it, reminded me of the strengths of the Scottish system -- particularly the collaborative way that we work with teachers and lecturers. But there are also challenges facing awarding bodies, some of which are decribed in the last slide in the presentation.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Curriculum for Excellence - Draft Course Specifications

Through our Curriculum for Excellence Teams, the draft Course Specifications for National 4 and National 5 have now been published on the SQA website (draft course specifications for Computing & Information Science can be found under the 'Technologies' heading).

The Course Specifications highlight the mandatory high-level skills and knowledge to be covered in the Course and outline the subject skills, knowledge and understanding that a learner will cover and which will be assessed at the end of the Course.

They have also published the Overview of Qualifications Report for Access 1 and Access 2 which covers all Courses and Awards at Access 1 and Access 2.

The next documents to be published are the Course Rationales and Summaries for Higher on 31 May 2011. Our webpages describe the stages each qualification goes through to be developed and give more information about what each of these documents are.

How to leave feedback

You can leave feedback on all of our draft documents via Have Your Say. The team would welcome feedback on the Course Specifications by 30 June 2011.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Commenting on SQA awards

I learnt today of a new SQA service, which permits you to comment on SQA qualifications. The online form permits you to comment on qualifications and/or support materials (including assessments).

If the comment relates to qualification development or maintenance, I would ensure that it is considered by the appropriate Qualification Support Team. So please take the time to provide feedback.

I've added the link to the list of "Useful links" in the side-bar.