Friday, 25 November 2011

Second visit to JISC conference

I haven't managed to return to the JISC conference since Tuesday morning, but I caught the final keynote presentation this afternoon, which was given by Ewan McIntosh, whose blog is well known.

Ewan spoke about the eight challenges for educators. These included the use of jargon and how to design the curriculum. It was another wide ranging and interesting talk. I was particularly interested in his comments about our failure to really encourage life long learning (he pointed out that only 1% of adults in the UK have a PhD). He also questioned HE's real desire to change since so much of the present system suits the sector.

The entire conference was delivered through Blackboard. The keynotes were all delivered by video. Blackboard supports a range of tools to permit the audience to interact with the speaker, such as online voting, so there was a lot of interaction -- more interaction than you normally get at a "real" conference. I enjoyed the sessions that I attended every bit as much as I would have if I had been there in person. In fact, being online has advantages in that you can immediately check out things, such as references that a speaker provides.

Online learning has fantastic potential for continued professional development.

PDA in Website Design - Now Available

The PDA in Website Design at SCQF Level 7 is now available to centres.

The award consists of three single credits all at SCQF Level 7. The Units are:

FW5C 34 Website Design: Planning and Design
FW5D 34 Website Design: Multimedia Content Creation
FW5E 34 Website Design: Development Technologies

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

The Arrangements Document can be downloaded from there SQA website here.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

vmware - Towards a Cacade centre

Over the last few months we have been in discussion with VMWare and we are delighted that they are going to become a DIVA Partner . We expect to get a communication out to Colleges before Christmas
to College Principal and Heads of Computing to consider working with SQA and VMWare as a national cascade centre.

 In partnership we hope to

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

Innovating in E-Learning 2011

I am attending a JISC conference this week, entitled Innovating in E-Learning. It's an online conference, which is ideal since this is a busy week for me and I could not have attended a "real" conference due to work commitments. But an online conference allows me to pop-in to the conference when I have time.

I "attended" today's keynote presentation by David Puttnam entitled "Towards a digital pedagogy". Through the miracle of technology, his presentation is already online. It was a wide ranging, interesting talk, which covered globalisation and the effect of digital technology on learning. He made the observation that a surgeon from 1911 would be completely lost in the 21st Century operating theatre but the school teacher would be familiar with the 21st Century classroom: "Technology has not been permitted to make an impact". He asked "Why are we making such heavy weather of transforming learning?". He also said that "we should not simply digitise current practice" but use technology in new and innovative ways. He emphasised the importance of continued professional development for teachers. He concluded by stating that "The 1960's approach to teaching and learning cannot be sustained".

I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more about pedagogy, and some fundamental questions were not addressed -- such as "Is technology simply a tool or does it fundamentally change pedagogy?". But it was very interesting to listen to someone with such a interesting background and commitment to education.

The conference continues until Friday.

Linux Professional Institute (LPI) Training Opportunity

In June 2011 our first batch of Linux trainees enjoyed a week of staff development from Forth Valley College. Here are some happy smiling faces from the Scottish Further Education Computing Sector. The group of 12 included lecturers from across Scotland.

We are delighted that there is now another opportunity to build Linux expertise and capacity across the sector. The Linux awards like those of other DIVA partners are going through SCQF credit and levelling and will where needed sit inside HNC and HND Awards.

 Forth Valley College, in conjunction with LPI (Linux Professional Institute) are running a CPD opportunity for staff wishing to deliver the LPI-1 qualification within their own Centre. The training will be offered on 13th– 17th February. The course is free to any FE College. All courses run at Forth Valley College, Falkirk Campus . The 5 day training course will prepare participants for the Linux Professional Institute examinations LPI- 101 and LPI- 102 which when successfully achieved give LPIC-1 certification. For more information please contact Tony Dyer on 01324 403158 or e-mail

To book a place please contact Gillian Culbert

Monday, 21 November 2011

HN review

When we undertake a major development we sometimes create a separate blog for it, to save this blog from becoming "poluted" with a single development. So, around a year ago, we created a blog for the HN Review, which is a large project that aims to update five popular HN awards in the Computing area. The HN Review blog, we hope, has permitted ordinary lecturers to keep up-to-date with those developments so that they are fully aware of what is coming next year.

I updated that blog this afternoon and thought it might be a good time to remind readers of this blog about its existence. I won't repeat here what I wrote there since you can check the HN blog if you are interested in how things are coming along. Suffice to say, things are progressing OK, with the usual speed-bumps along the way!

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the new HN awards.

Heads of Computing Event - Last Call

The Heads of Computing Event will take place on Friday 2nd December 2011 in the Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow.

We have limited places left so if you have not yet registered and plan to come along please click on the following URL:

Look forward to seeing you then.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Validity theory

I attended one of SQA's occasional research seminars on Friday afternoon about the validity of assessment. It was presented by Paul Newton of Cambridge Assessment, part of Cambridge University.

Paul's talk was entitled: "Controversy surrounding modern validity theory". The validity of an assessment is a measure of its appropriateness. For example, assessing driving skills (solely) through a writing test would not be very valid.

The "controversy" relates to arguments surrounding classical validity theory versus modern validity theory. Classical theory focuses purely on the appropriateness of the test for its intended purpose; modern theory extends this to include all possible uses of the test. For example, a Higher question paper might be appropriate for its intended purpose (to measure students' knowledge of the associated curriculum) but not valid for some of its actual purposes (such as selection for university). Classical assessment theory would consider this examination valid (it's OK for what it was designed for), whereas modern theory would not (it's not OK for what it is used for).

It was a complex but interesting lecture. Classical validity theory creates lots of different types of validity (such as content validity, construct validity and predictive validity) whereas modern theory only has one (construct validity) but requires this to be tested for all possible uses. At the end of the presentation, my sympathies lay with classical validity theory since the complexities of measuring all of the possible effects of a test were too great.

These research seminars are presented by experts in the subject area, and are intended to keep SQA staff up-to-date with the latest developments in assessment and qualification design.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Putting Learners at the Centre

There was an internal SQA meeting this morning to discuss the implications for SQA of the recently published pre-legislative report on post-16 education in Scotland. Putting Learners at the Centre, published by the Scottish Government in September, covers key areas for post-compulsory education in Scotland, particularly issues relating to improved efficiency and articulation between college and university.

"Regionalism" is a key theme in the report, whereby groups of colleges and universities can work together, in a local region, to make efficiency savings and improve the service to learners. The other key theme is articulation between college and university. The report notes the successes in this area that have already been achieved, such as strong links between many HNC/D  programmes and degree courses, but makes clear that more could be done to strengthen these links and make them more successful.

We had an interesting conversation around three questions:
  1. Do we have the right qualifications to meet the needs of employers, learners and the economy?
  2. How can we improve progression and articulation between our qualifications and degrees?
  3. How can we work more closely with employers?
We've worked hard over the years to forge links between HN awards in Computing and associated degree programmes and, as a result, Computing is one of the subjects with the strongest articulation links between colleges and universities. The current HN Review aims for strengthen these links. It is the main reason that we elected an examination for the Graded Unit in the HNC, rather than a project. This report emphasises the importance of these links.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Sector Panel meeting

The Sector Panel for Computing & IT met today in the SQA offices in Glasgow. The Panel meets twice per year. The basic job of a Sector Panel is to provide advice to the SQA team about external developments to ensure that the qualification portfolio is relevant to the needs of stakeholders. Members include representatives of colleges (such as Forth Valley College), employers (such as Microsoft) and national agencies (such as Education Scotland). I was pleased to introduce two new members tday - a representative of the British Computer Society and a representative of Skills Development Scotland.

We had a busy agenda, which included the HN Review, the update to Internet Safety, and the progress with the new NPAs in Mobile Technology.

Members were impressed with how the new HNs are shaping up. The draft frameworks include lots of new units, such as Computer Forensics, Online Collaboration, Mobile Technology and Cloud Computing, which should make the new awards very up-to-date.

Two members of the Panel had produced a report on how best to measure performance, and they reported on their findings today. Measuring success is not simply a case of working out what percentage of the intake actually achieve an HNC or HND in a given year. Many students leave courses early or return to complete a course they started some years before, so it was interesting to discuss how best to measure the "true" success rates. One of the presenters noted that the number of students doing HN awards in Computing had remained largely stable, in spite of significant falls in number of students studying Computing at university and, to a lesser extent, schools.

The discussions will continue on the online forum for Panel members. The next meeting will take place in Spring 2012.

We're looking for new members so please contact Caroline if you are interested in serving on the Panel.

Friday, 4 November 2011

NC Computer Games Development QDT meeting

The QDT for the new National Certificate in Computer Games Development at SCQF Level 6 met this morning in the SQA offices in Glasgow. This was the second meeting of the team. There was a good turn-out, with 10 members attending, representing colleges, schools, and industry.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the existing awards and to begin the debate about the nature of the new award. There are a number of existing qualifications in this area and it's important that this new award "fits" with what's already there. So we had a good look inside the existing NPAs, NC and HNC in this area.

My presentation focused on the process of creating new qualifications and the timescales that we are working to.
We aim to have the new qualification available to centres from May next year, when we will conduct a launch event to showcase all of the games-based awards available to centres.

The QDT had interesting discussions about a wide range of issues, such as the balance between mandatory and optional units, the core skills that should be covered, and how this award fits with the philosophy of the Curriculum for Excellence. One thing everyone agreed about was the importance of qualifications like this for making learning engaging and productive.

Our next step is to select a Lead Developer, which we hope to do in the next week or so. This person plays a key role in driving the development forward. I'll keep you posted about this.

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

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Internet Safety update

I met with Ted Hastings yesterday afternoon to discuss progress with the review of the Internet Safety qualification. Ted had been at a meeting in the morning in Edinburgh with various agencies with an interest in this area, including the Scottish Government and Education Scotland.

I was pleased to hear that his proposed changes to the existing qualification were well received. Over the last couple of months, Ted has been consulting widely on the contents of the updated unit.

So, we're now at the stage where we can confidently proceed with writing the revised unit. A draft version will be available by the end of this month, with a final version available to centres from January 2012. We will also update the support materials, which will include an assessment exemplar and online teaching materials, including a mobile phone version. These materials will be available to centres from March next year.

We plan to launch the revised qualification at Safer Internet Day 2012, which will be 2 February next year.

Contact Caroline for more information about our Internet Safety award.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Updated team chart

I recently updated the qualification portfolio diagram, and today I updated the team chart to show which Qualifications Officer (QO) is responsible for what awards.

You should download and print this diagram, and use it when you contact SQA.