Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Review of the year

This seems a good time to look over the last 12 months.

The main project has been the HN Review, which culminated in a recent validation. There is still some work to be done, but these new awards are on schedule to be available to centres from next session. Some centres offered the new HNC this year, while some others introduced some of the new units into their existing HNC programme. By all accounts, the new units are popular with centres.

I started the year with an appeal for members for our committees. And we're still looking for volunteers so please come forward if you are interested. January also saw the publication of the Royal Society's report on computing in schools, which made interesting reading. February saw an announcement about new e-commerce units and the a review of the HN Graded Units. March saw the commencement of the HN 2.0 project. In April, I announced new teaching materials for the Computer Games awards, and new Mobile Technology awards. I spent most of May in Australia but managed to visit Clydebank College. In June I served on the validation panel for the new non-advanced awards in Mobile Technology, chaired a Sector Panel meeting, and presented at the annual Scotland's Colleges event.

The second half of the year saw us pass 400 followers on Twitter, and I presented a paper at the Computer Assisted Assessment Conference in Southampton. August began with a visit to James Watt College, followed by a presentation at the E-Assessment Scotland Conference. But the most important development that month was the formation of a Qualification Review Team for Computing, which will try to improve articulation from college to university. September began with an appeal for you to consider becoming an External Verifier. There were Qualification Support Team meetings in the middle of the month, and the validation for the new NC in Computer Games Development at SCQF Level 6 took place later in the month. We opened the annual satisfaction survey in October, and I sent update letters to centres later than month. I also announced that we were about to commence a review of NC Digital Media Computing and PC Passport. November began with me giving a presentation about vocational Computing awards at the inaugural conference of Computing at School, followed by a visit to Cardonald College to attend an ITPCS meeting. We also held the annual Heads of Computing event later that month, which was very well attended and seemed to go well. The year ended with the validation event for the new HNDs. I also managed to visit Forth Valley College. Finally, we closed the satisfaction survey, which, at first sight, provided interesting results.

So, it's been a busy and productive year for the team, and 2013 promises to be just as busy.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Satisfaction survey results

I recently wrote that I would say more about the satisfaction survey once I had had time to digest it. I've now had a look at the results.

The key findings were:

  • Most people (93%) were satisfied with the overall quality of communications between the team and centres.
  • E-mail is the most popular means of communication.
  • This blog is becoming an important communication channel (83% of respondents had used it in the last year).
  • There was overwhelming satisfaction with the range of qualifications (98%).
  • A third of respondents felt there was still too much assessment.
  • One in three respondents were unhappy about the quality of e-learning materials.
  • Almost one in three respondents were dissatisfied with SOLAR.
  • Almost everyone (98%) thought the team were polite and most (90%) thought we dealt with queries quickly.
  • Almost a half of respondents thought the way we selected people could be improved.
  • One in five respondents expressed some dissatisfaction with the overall service that we provided.
So there are some good things and some things we need to work on. I will meet with my team in the New Year to discuss the results and see what we can do to improve the weak points.

Visit to Forth Valley College

I visited Forth Valley College yesterday to help the centre with a curricular issue. The college offers a number of vocational Computing qualifications, but focus on Computer Games at non-advanced level and Software Development at advanced level. The centre wanted some advice about their NC Computer Games Development award, which I was happy to give.

I was also given a tour of the college's science and computing facilities, and I was introduced to a class of their NC Games students, who were busy in one of the computing labs.

The centre offers NPAs and NCs in Computer Games Development. Fiona Jackson, who leads these awards, told me about the high demand for the programmes and the high quality and enthusiasm of the students who do them.

Me and my team like to visit centres, time permitting, whenever we can so please don't hesitate to request a visit if we can help you in any way. Please contact Hilary for more information about SQA's Computer Games qualifications.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Second meeting of the Qualification Review Team

As I noted previously, Computing is one of four subjects that has received funding to improve articulation between college and university. The Qualification Review Team (QRT), which will take this forward, met for the second time this morning. The Team consists of representatives of Scottish colleges and universities. As convenor of the QRT, I was particularly pleased to welcome Duncan Smeed, of the University of Strathclyde, to his first meeting.

At the previous meeting members brainstormed a number of possible ideas that could be taken forward. Today we focused on two specific areas: (1) assessment; and (2) additional units. Interestingly, Duncan confirmed what we thought: that college students often have problems with "academic skills" and examinations at university.

Regarding assessment, members liked the idea of creating larger, integrative assessments that better match those used at university. For example, an examination in the second year of the HND programme could cover the knowledge and understanding contained within a number of units. It was also proposed that we could do something similar in first year (the HNC year) for practical skills. These alternative assessments would not replace the existing stand-alone assessments but could be optionally used for students who plan to progress to university.

We discussed how best to incorporate "academic skills" such as referencing, research skills, and critical thinking. There was a lively debate about the pros and cons of a separate unit to cover these skills against embedding them into existing units. The "embedders" won the debate. But this would be evidenced by some kind of formal profiling to ensure learners had actually acquired these skills.

We also discussed the maths skills needed for progression to university but concluded that the existing frameworks had sufficient options to cover this.

Once we have firmed up on our ideas we will be inviting all colleges to become involved in the pilot, which will run from August 2013 to June 2015, and try out the new approaches. It should be noted that only pilot centres will be able to offer the alternative assessments.

The next stage is to create the alternative assessments and skills profiles. We will be taking this forward (via this group) in the coming months.

Contact me if you want to know more about the work of the QRT for Computing.

HND validations

Those of you who follow the HN Review blog will know the outcome of the recent validation event for the revised HNDs in Computing. In short, the awards were validated with conditions. Quite a lot of conditions asctually, but nothing that the Qualification Development Team can't deal with.

The big change was a new name for the proposed HND Computing, which will now be called HND Computer Science, to better match developments in the school sector. So, the new HNDs will be called:
  1. HND Computing: Technical Support
  1. HND Computing: Networking
  1. HND Computing: Software Development
  1. HND Computer Science.
We hope to have these new awards available to centres from Spring 2013. Contact Caroline for more information.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Satisfaction survey is closed

I closed the centre satisfaction survey this morning. It's been open for a couple of months now so we are unlikely to get many more responses. We got a total of 57 responses, which is comparable to last year (55), and much better than it was a couple of weeks ago (when it had around 35 responses).

Thanks very much for taking the time to complete the survey. Although I don't share the results, we use it within the team to identify strengths and weaknesses, so that we know what we do well and know what we need to improve.

I will post something about the results once I've had a chance to assimilate them. At first glance, they look similar to last year's results, perhaps not as good, but I will need to have a proper look before saying much more.

Look out for a future post about the results. Contact me directly if you want to discuss the service the team provides.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Presentations from Heads of Computing event

I noticed, this morning, that the presentations from the recent Heads of Computing event are now available online. You can access them here.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Final chance to complete the satisfaction survey

So far we've had 44 responses to the satisfaction survey, which is lower than a year ago (when we got 55 responses). I plan to close the survey soon so please take a few minutes to complete it if you haven't done so already.

We use the results to review our performance and identify things that we can improve so it's important we get a good response or the results can be skewed. You can complete the survey here. It will take you no longer than five minutes. Thanks in anticipation.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Review of NC Digital Media Computing and PC Passport

I recently posted a message to let you know that we were planning to review the NC in Digital Media Computing and PC Passport. Both of these awards are due their "quinquennial" reviews.

We recently asked for volunteers for the Qualification Development Teams (QDTs), and we got a good response. Hilary and me met this afternoon to select members.

We try to be as fair as possible when selecting people to work with us. We use a combination of criteria such as experience (we try to mix experience with "new blood"), gender (we try to get the right mix of men and women), sector (college or school), location (a good geographical spread) and age (we try to mix the young and not-so-young), among other considerations. It's always difficult to decide not to use someone, especially someone who we know and respect, but we have to try to be fair and inclusive, and that sometimes means turning down an offer from an experienced, dedicated professional.

I think that we finished up with two teams with a good mix of experience, age, expertise, gender and location, representing both the college and school sectors. One thing we are short of is industry/employer representation so it would be great to get some volunteers from that area.

We keep the membership of QDTs under constant review so it's never too late to get involved. Please contact Hilary for more information about this project.

We hope to have the updated awards available to centres from August 2014.

Revisions to Graded Units

I have posted a couple of messages about our plans to revise a few Graded Units (GUs) to improve the consistency between them. Me and Caroline met with David Drennan, the Senior EV, this morning to take this forward.

We agreed to revise the following GUs:

  • FP25 35 Interactive Media: Graded Unit 2
  • F8VG 34 Computer Games: Graded Unit 1
  • F8VH 35 Computer Games: Graded Unit 2.

We hope to have the revised versions available to centres from March.

David will also check that the new GUs, coming as part of the HN Review, are consistent with the existing units. Once the revised units are available, we will also produce assessment exemplars, which we hope will be available from August 2013.

Contact David for more information about this project. Or contact Caroline for more information about Graded Units and the associated ASPs.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Heads of Computing event

This year's Heads of Computing event took place on Friday at Caledonian University in Glasgow. This annual conference is an important date in the team's calendar since it's part of the way we work with colleges, and provides an opportunity to meet with teachers and lecturers.

The event was fully booked and there was an excellent turnout on the day. Most of the attendees were promoted staff from colleges, although some school teachers also attended.

The reason for having the event at this time of the year is to help centres with their planning for next year. I've been advised that this is the time of the year when colleges think about the courses they will offer next year, and a lot of the time at the event is spent discussing new qualifications that centres may want to offer. In fact, the agenda covered a wide range of topics including the Curriculum for Excellence, the new awards in Mobile Technology, and the on-going HN Review. This year, for the first time, we opened the event with a keynote speaker. Polly Purvis, from ScotlandIS, spoke about trends in computing, which seemed to be very well received. So much so that I plan to include a keynote every year.

The event has evolved from what it used to be, and the title ("Heads of Computing event") probably does not represent the people who actually attend so I will be thinking about a better title for next year's event. Perhaps "Vocational Computer Education Conference" is better (if longer). Feel free to use the comment facility if you have any ideas for a title.

The event seemed to go well but I'll let you be the judge of that since everyone who attended will be asked to complete a short questionnaire about the event. But you get a sense for how things go and this seemed to go very well.

The Heads of Computing event is part of the overall engagement strategy with colleges and schools, along with the Sector Panel, QSTs, QDTs and other committees and working groups. Please contact me if you want to know more about working with SQA.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Getting ready for the Heads of Computing event

I've posted a few times about the forthcoming Heads of Computing event, which takes place this Friday. The responsibility for organising these events falls on Caroline's shoulders, and it has kept her very busy for the last few weeks (along with other tasks).

We've had a fantastic response, and all of the available places (75) are now taken. This year's agenda looks particularly interesting, and includes updates on Curriculum for Excellence, the HN Review, and the new mobile technology awards, among other interesting subjects. This year, for the first time, we will have a keynote talk to kick-off the event, which will hopefully become a regular part of the conference. Polly Purvis, of ScotlandIS, is giving this year's keynote.

If you have a place and can't attend, please de-register so that your place can be re-assigned to someone on the waiting list. You can join the waiting list by contacting Caroline.

ITPCS event

I've been out of the office a lot recently, so this is the first chance I've had to write about an event I attended last Friday.

Iain Shand invited me to Cardonald College to attend the annual IT Providers Consortium Scotland (ITPCS) meeting. The ITPCS provides support to centres that offer vendor qualifications, including a centralised system for ordering teaching materials and providing exams. A number of Scottish colleges are members.

There were several presentations from organisations that support the delivery of vendor awards in colleges, such as publishers. Many of these resources are free to members. Iain spoke about the new NPA in Professional Computer Fundamentals that is linked to Microsoft's Technology Associate qualification, which has recently been validated.

The inclusion of vendor awards inside SQA's vocational qualifications is a real enhancement, which make the qualifications more relevant and more valued by employers. The inclusion of this Microsoft award inside this new NPA is an excellent introduction to vendor qualifications for non-advanced students.

Contact Iain if you want to know more about the ITPCS. Contact Hilary if you want to know more about the NPA in Professional Computer Fundamentals.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

CfE Subject Implementation Event

I attended the first Subject Implementation Event for the new CfE courses yesterday, which was held at the Stirling Management Centre. The purpose of the event was the kick-start the delivery of the new CfE courses in Scottish schools. Around 100 teachers from central Scotland attended.

Derek Middleton, the Development Manager for CfE, introduced the event, and described the contents of the new courses in Computing Science available at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6 (called "National 4", "National 5" and "Higher" respectively). The courses at Levels 4, 5 and 6 have identical structures, consisting of two mandatory units:

  1. Software Design & Development
  2. Information System Design  & Development

There is also a Level 3 ("National 3") course with a similar, but not identical, structure (consisting of Building Digital Solutions and Information Solutions). The contents of the corresponding Advanced Higher course are currently out for discussion.

The assessment at Levels 3 and 4 is internal, with external assessment at Levels 5 and 6, including an examination. Assessment Support Packages (ASPs) will be available for all of these courses. We had the first opportunity to look at a sample ASP at yesterday's event.

The new courses will be offered in schools from August 2013, with the first examinations in 2014.

These new courses are important to colleges and universities, since students will be coming to college/university with some of these awards. The focus on computer science, rather than IT, is particularly significant for colleges that offer HNC/D Computing. For me and my team, we need to ensure our awards build on or compliment these school qualifications.

You can find out more about the new courses here or contact Derek if you have a specific question. Derek will be speaking at the forthcoming Heads of Computing event.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Internet Safety qualification

We recently revised the Internet Safety unit to bring it more up-to-date and to focus more on online threats (such as cyberbullying) and less on the technical aspects of online safety. The revised unit [PDF] has been available to centres since May. There is also a comprehensive set of e-learning material to support the updated unit, which can delivered via a smartphone. The assessment support pack is almost ready, and will be published in the next few weeks. Online assessment via SOLAR is available now.

We are also writing a delivery guide, which will give centres practical advice about how best to deliver the new unit. This will be published in January.

Contact Caroline for more information about this qualification. The updated website contains lots of useful information too.

Social networks

The team have been using social media, such as this blog, for a long time. It's been a great help to us for communicating and sharing  information with you.

We've tried to use social networks once or twice but this has never really worked. For example, we recently created an SQA Facebook account (using our SQA address) but this caused some confusion with our personal accounts, and hasn't worked as I hoped.

I would like to try Google Plus (G+). This service feels less like a walled garden than Facebook so it might get around some of the problems that we have ran into with that service.

The team already has a G+ account using our "" account. Each of us also has G+ accounts under our domain names (for example, my own one is "").

If you want to join this experiment, all you need is a Google account. You can use your standard e-mail address for this. Once you activate Google+ you can add us to your circles. You will want to add the general account ( plus our individual accounts (, and In return we will add you to our circles. I have created circles for "teachers", "lecturers", "writers", "consultants", "External Verifiers", etc.

Creating a Google Plus account is straight forward and begins with you visiting

Monday, 5 November 2012

Computing At School

I've been on annual leave for the past week, but on the Saturday after I stopped I attended the first meeting of the Computing At School (CAS) group, held in the Microsoft offices in Edinburgh. This new group is designed to promote the subject of Computing within Scottish schools. There was a fantastic turn-out at the event, with a long waiting list of people who could not be given a place.

The keynote was given by Muffy Calder, the Chief Scientific Officer for Scotland, who gave an interesting talk on the importance of computer science to Scotland and specifically about the concept of "computational thinking". The second keynote was given by Quintin Cutts, of Glasgow University, who spoke about "programming pedagogy", which explored the best way to teach programming skills. He argued, convincingly in my view, that we ask too much of students too soon and need to build their programming knowledge and skills more slowly.

The rest of the day was divided into a number of workshops and seminars, one of which was my own seminar about the vocational Computing awards available to schools. I was up against some stiff competition in my time slot so I was delighted that a large number of teachers chose to attend.

My talk promoted the range of vocational Computing qualifications available to Scottish schools, such as the awards in computer games, mobile technology and Internet safety.

It seemed to be well received. There appeared to be genuine interest in using these awards to broaden and enrich the school curriculum, alongside "traditional" qualifications.

It was a good day. There seems to be a lot of interest and support for this new group, including sponsorship from the likes of Google and Microsoft.

Contact Kate Farrell if you want to know more about Computing At School. Contact Hilary if you want to know more about vocational awards in schools.

Friday, 26 October 2012

CoderDoJo at the Scottish Parliament

I've written previously about CoderDoJo, an initiative to get young people interested in computer programming. I attended another session last night, this time held in the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh.

There was a fantastic turnout, with 27 kids in attendance, although only one girl. The classes are led by Craig Steele and are great fun. Last night Craig focused on HTML 5 programming. The kids seemed to enjoy it. The classes are a great way to get young people involved in coding.

The CoderDoJo scheme has grown significantly since it was first introduced, and is now popular in various countries throughout the world. You can follow CoderDoJo on Twitter.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Looking for Assessment Support Pack writers for new Computer Games Units

We need writers of the following packs to support forthcoming Computer Games Development awards at SCQF level 6. The Units are:
Computer Games: Creative Project (2 credit)

Computer Games: Software Development Project (2 credit)

H2CE 12 Computer Games: 2D Animation Skills

H2CF 12 Computer Games: 3D Modelling and Animation Skills

H1ND 12 Artificial Intelligence for Computer Games

Computer Games: Character Creation

Working in the Computer Games Industry

FN91 11 3D Modelling and Animation: An Introduction at SCQF level 5

Only Units with codes are available on the website at the moment, so if you are interested or would like some more information regarding what's involved please contact me.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Review of NC Digital Media Computing and PC Passport

I recently sent an update letter to centres to inform them, among other things, of a forthcoming review of two non-advanced qualifications: (1) National Certificate in Digital Media Computing; and (2) PC Passport.

The NC was first introduced in 2007, which was also the year that we last reviewed PC Passport. So both awards are now due their "quinquennial" reviews. SQA tries to review all of its awards every five years to ensure that they remain relevant and up-to-date.

The first task in any qualification development is to form a Qualification Development Team (QDT). So, we're looking for members! Joining the QDT (for either development) is a great way to influence the contents of the revised awards. We also ask QDT members to get involved in unit writing and producing assessment exemplars. Many of the tasks are paid.

Please contact Hilary if you are interested in joining either or both QDTs. The QDTs normally meet a few times but much of the communication is online so your time commitment is kept to a minimum.

Heads of Computing event

Our annual Heads of Computing event takes place this year on Friday 23 November at Glasgow Caledonian University. Me and my team had a planning meeting this morning.

The purpose of the event is to let you know about past, current and future developments relating to vocational Computing awards, and also to highlight specific developments. Although the event is intended for college-based Heads of Department, it is also relevant to other staff (including school teachers).

This year's event will include updates on some key developments such as the HN Review and the Curriculum for Excellence. Chris Morrow, from E-Skills UK, will provide an update on UK-wide developments. We are also hoping to line-up a speaker to give a keynote presentation.

We do so much of our communications electronically that a face-to-face meeting is nice, and provides a great networking opportunity. It also gives me and my team an opportunity to meet practitioners.

The event is always popular and we reserve places on a first-come-first-served basis so please register soon if you want to attend. You can register here. Or contact Caroline if you have any questions.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Annual EV training event

The annual training event for External Verifiers was held on Saturday in SQA's Glasgow offices. There are 12 EVs who take care of vocational Computing qualifications, led by David Drennan. EVs perform a vital role within SQA's quality assurance system. This team visits centres to ensure that national standards are being applied in every SQA centre.

The purpose of Saturday's event was twofold: to tell EVs about SQA's new approach to quality assurance, and to provide a subject-related update. The QA system is being changed. The new system will be phased in over the next two years. There are already a number of pilot centres involved. The new system is a refinement on the existing system but with many improvements. For example, there are now a range of options open to EVs when they experience problems in a centre, rather than the "hold" or "don't hold" options in the current system. The new system sounds much better.

I gave a qualification update during the afternoon. It's important that EVs are aware of qualification changes so I talked about recent changes (such as the new HNC Computing), on-going changes (such as the HN Review), and forthcoming changes (such as the review of PC Passport). There was nothing in my update that regular readers of this blog will not know about.

Being an EV is a fascinating job, and superb CPD for teachers. You can find out more here.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

New ICT curriculum in England and Wales

I attended an Inside Government conference in London yesterday. The title of the event was The New ICT Curriculum: Creating a 21st Century Skillset. Although the focus was England, much of the discussion was relevant to Scotland.

Earlier this year the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, announced changes to ICT in England, and talked about the wiki curriculum. This conference was really a progress-to-date on these developments.

Michael Gove announced that there would be new GCSEs in January. There are now four new GCSEs available to schools, with more to follow. These new qualifications focus on computer science rather than ICT. In fact, that was a recurring theme -- the need to deliver real computing skills, such as computer programming, rather than word processing and spreadsheets. Another theme was the need for course specifications to be less prescriptive, giving teachers and lecturers more freedom to decide what and how things should be taught. It was noted that there is a tension between curricular freedom and school/college inspections.

I've noted before that, in my view, the Scottish ICT curriculum has avoided many of the problems that exist in England and Wales. For example, we have continued with "pure" Computing courses, alongside ICT awards. My own portfolio is a mix of Computing and ICT; it includes "pure" qualifications, such as HND Software Development, and ICT qualifications, such as PC Passport. We have also traditionally taken a collaborative approach to qualification development. For example, the on-going HN Review involves over 20 Scottish colleges. Perhaps an area that we could learn from would be trying to be less prescriptive when we design awards.

The conference used the classification system first proposed by The Royal Society, categorising ICT courses as "computer science" or "information technology" or "digital literacy". SQA plans to adopt this terminology too.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Annual update letters to centres

I've been working on my annual update letters to centres for the last few days. There is one for non-advanced awards (such as NPAs) and one for advanced awards (such as HNCs). I arranged for them to be sent to centres this afternoon. They should arrive next week.

The update letters contain important information about changes to qualifications that have taken place over the last year, and also give early notification of future changes. For example, the NC/NPA letter includes information about new National Certificates in Computer Games Development, and notifies centres about forthcoming changes to PC Passport.

The HN/PDA letter provides an update on the HN Review and also contains information about other developments, such as the HN 2.0 project and the new e-commerce units.

There is nothing in the letters that readers of this blog will not know about, but we continue to send traditional letters because some teachers and lecturers prefer this format to more modern communications.

Both letters refer to the qualification portfolio diagram, which can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Heads of Computing Annual Event 2012

It's that time again!!  The Annual Heads of Computing Event 2012 will take place this year on Friday 23rd November 2012 at 1000 hours in Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow.

We are busy organising this event and hope to have a range of items for presentation and discussion.

To register, please click on the URL below: 

As places are limited, please ensure you book early to secure your registration.

A maximum of two places can be reserved by each registered delegate.

Look forward to seeing you then.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Satisfaction survey

Last year, the team launched a satisfaction survey to gauge the quality of service the team provides to stakeholders. I've been working on a new one for this year and it's now ready to be used. I would appreciate if you would take a few minutes to complete the survey.

Although I don't share the results (externally), the team does use the results to identify our strengths and weaknesses so that we can improve the service that we provide.

It's vital that we get a high response so please complete it.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Playing games in the classroom

Scotland's Colleges has supported the NPAs in Computer Games Development previously, and is now offering a new course for teachers who deliver one of the Computer Games qualifications. You can find out more and book here.

NC Computer Games Development (SCQF 6)

The validation event for the new NC in Computer Games Development (at SCQF Level 6) took place yesterday at Jury's Inn in Glasgow.

It's been a year since our first meeting and yesterday was the culmination of a lot of hard work by the Qualification Development Team. Some time ago, we decided to split the qualification into two: a creative award and a software development award. So, we actually validated two awards yesterday:

  1. NC Computer Games: Creative Development (SCQF Level 6)
  2. NC Computer Games: Software Development (SCQF Level 6).

The purpose of a validation event is to permit fresh eyes to scrutinise a proposed qualification. The validation panel was led by Fiona Rushton, of James Watt College, and the QDT was led by Frank Duffy of Motherwell College.

The outcome of the validation was that both awards were validated with conditions (technically, this is "not validated until conditions are met"). Although there were several conditions and recommendations, the team were delighted with the outcome.

We will address the conditions between now and December. The new awards will be available to centres from March 2013.

Please contact Hilary if you want more information about these new awards.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Qualification Review Team induction day

The Qualification Review Team (QRT) for Computing met today in Jury's Inn in Glasgow. Today was an induction day for the Computing and Social Science QRTs.

I have previously mentioned that QRTs have been created in four subject areas (Business, Computing, Social Science, and Engineering) to explore ways of making HN awards a better fit for articulating with degree courses.

The QRT for Computing has representatives from colleges throughout Scotland (such as City of Glasgow and Orkney colleges), and also representatives of universities (such as Strathclyde University and the Open University).

The main aim of today's induction meeting was to explain the purpose of the project to members and also to get their ideas about how we can improve articulation. We explored four aspects of the current HN awards in Computing:
  1. structure
  2. content
  3. assessment
  4. guidance.
It was a very productive meeting. We came up with a lot of ideas. Under structure, it was suggested that we think about how the full 15 credits could be used to facilitate articulation. Under content, there was support for new (optional) units in mathematics and study skills.  Under assessment, it was proposed that we created new integated assessments that combined the assessment for several units, better matching the assessment model used in universities. Under guidance, there was support for new guidance for learners and lecturers about how best to prepare for university.

The next task is for me to shortlist these ideas and come up with a list of enhancements that we can design and implement in the next few months, so that we can pilot these enhancements at the start of session 2013/14.

Contact me if you want more information about this development.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012


The DIVA project was started in 2004 to ensure that SQA vocational awards were compatible with the latest vendor skills. Since that time we have forged relationships with a wide range of vendors, including Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle, and Adobe.

We normally agreed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with each vendor. These define how SQA and the vendor will work together. In many cases this has meant that SQA qualifications embedded vendor qualifications. Readers of the HN Review blog will know that we recently introduced a new way of recognising vendor qualifications using SCQF, which was possibly a world first for this kind of mutual recognition.

The DIVA project has been ran by the New Ventures team, led by Joe Wilson. Me and my team met with Joe and his team to discuss the hand-over of DIVA from New Ventures to Qualifications Development (my area). This means that my team will take forward links with vendors in future (or, at least, those vendors that deliver computing skills). The hand-over will be phased over the period from now to Christmas.

Please contact me if you want to know more about the vocational Computing team's links with vendor qualifications.

Becoming an External Verifier

I often receive requests from teachers and lecturers about becoming an SQA External Verifier. I had a request today, which made me refresh my memory on the procedure.

An External Verifier (EV) is responsible for ensuring standards are maintained in SQA centres, and also to ensure that all centres apply the same national standards. You can find out more about the job here. Becoming an EV is fantastic continued professional development (CPD) for a teacher since it gives you an insight into national standards and local practices. EVs typically visit centres, normally Scottish schools or colleges, and check their assessment practices.

You can apply to become an EV by sending an e-mail to Appointee Management. After you apply, you would be considered for service when I carry out my annual EV selections, normally around Spring time each year. I try to freshen up my EV team by occasionally adding new blood to the team so don't be shy about applying if you are interested in carrying out this important national role.

The EV team is led by David Drennan who would be happy to answer your questions about the role.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Qualifications Support Teams

Qualifications Support Teams (QSTs) are used to support a suite of awards. In Computing, we have two QSTs -- one for non-advanced (NC/NPA/SVQ) awards and one for advanced (HN/PDA) awards. Both QSTs met today. The NC one met this morning and the HN one met this afternoon. This permitted some people to attend both meetings.

Most of the members of the QSTs are practitioners -- either college lecturers or school teachers. The Senior Verifier for Computing also serves (on both).

The main task for QSTs is to maintain qualifications. This might involve recommending new support materials or suggesting changes to existing qualifications. It's also the first group I consult with when qualifications are due to be reviewed. Some members of a QST go on to serve on Qualification Development Teams (QDTs).

A standing item at every meeting is to look at requests from centres. These requests might ask for new assessment materials or ask for changes to a unit specification. The QST will decide what to do with each request. This often results in me commissioning new material or revising a unit specification. We accept feedback from centres in one of two formats: either a standard comment form or a special form designed for QST feedback.

We are looking for new members for both QSTs so please contact Hilary (non-advanced) or contact Caroline (advanced) if you are interested in serving on the NC or HN one (respectively). It's a great way for you to get your voice heard and ensure SQA supports you in the way you want.

Friday, 7 September 2012

HN Review

As you know, there is a separate blog for the review of HN awards, and I normally try to keep posts about that development on that blog. But we're currently seeking stakeholder feedback on the qualifications so please visit the HN Review blog to find out more about how you can get involved. It's also a good place to find out how that project is coming along so don't forget to check it from time to time.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

NC Computer Games

As you know, we've been busy developing a new National Certificate at SCQF Level 6 in Computer Games Development to build on the existing Level 5 award.

We are hoping to validate this award next month but we need to get more feedback from stakeholders prior to the validation event. So, I would appreciate if you would complete an online survey: there is one for college lecturers and school teachers and another for employers.

Please contact Hilary if you want to know more about this project.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Qualification Review Teams

SQA has received money from the Scottish Funding Council to improve articulation from colleges to universities. We plan to form subject-based Qualification Review Teams (QRTs) to take this forward in each area. So, I will be leading the QRT for Computing. This QRT will look at ways of improving articulation from the new HND awards to degree courses.

We will look at various ways of doing this including, but not limited to, changing the structure of the awards, offering alternative assessment approaches, and providing guidance about teaching and learning. The structural changes would be limited to something like the addition of one, or more, units designed to improve progression (such as a a unit on study skills).

It's an important and exciting project. And we're looking for college representatives to join the QDT. Ideally, you would be a promoted member of staff, with current or previous experience of teaching HNC/D Computing, and an interest in, and knowledge of, articulation between college and university. If you fit some or all of those criteria and you are interested in joining the QDT, please contact Caroline. Your college will be paid for release, and your travel expenses will be paid (including overnight when necessary).

The first meeting takes place on Tuesday, 25 September.

Friday, 24 August 2012

E-Assessment Scotland Conference

I "attended" a webinar yesterday morning, as part of E-Assessment Scotland's online programme. It was an early start (8am) since it was also part of the Transforming Assessment project, which is run by a group of Australian universities (for whom it was 5pm). The webinar was entitled "Assessment and the Manifesto for Teaching Online". It was very interesting and challenged many educational orthodoxies, such as emphasising the dangers of plagiarism, which the Manifesto claims will alienate learners.

I gave a presentation in the afternoon. It was entitled "The Need for a Taxonomy to Facilitate E-Assessment" and, I hope, it was more interesting than it sounds. I was pleased at the "attendance" -- 28 people joined the webinar. It seemed to be well received.

Recordings of all of the presentations will be made available after the conference. The conference itself (the face to face event) takes place next Friday and you can still register.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Visit to James Watt College

I was invited to give a talk to the staff of James Watt, Reid Kerr and Clydebank Colleges yesterday as part of a "Curriculum Sharing Day". The event was hosted in James Watt College.

I've previously encouraged centres to invite me, or one of my team, to visit their centres, so I was delighted to take up the invitation. Scott Campbell, of James Watt College, asked me to talk about the current range of Computing awards, what's being developed for the future, and also trends in the subject.

There was a large turn-out, with around 50 staff from the three centres attending. I think the talk was well received.

It's good for me to get out and meet teachers and lecturers and, I think, it's good for you to hear what we've got to say. So please contact me if you would like me, or one of my team, to visit your centre. It's a great way to find out what's available, what's coming, and what's available to help you deliver SQA awards.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Review of National Certificates and PC Passport

SQA aims to review each qualification every five years, and this year the National Certificate in Digital Media Computing and PC Passport (a National Progression Award) are due to be reviewed. Hilary and me had a kick-off meeting this morning to commence these large and important projects.

The NC awards (at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6) are among the most popular non-advanced qualifications in Scottish colleges, and PC Passport is SQA's most popular vocational Computing qualification, and one of the most popular qualifications SQA has ever offered schools and colleges.

The first stage in any national development is the formation of the Qualification Development Team (QDT), and I will be writing to centres in the near future to ask for volunteers for the QDT for each development. SQA's collaborative model of curriculum development, whereby SQA awards are effectively developed by stakeholders with SQA providing the finance, qualification development expertise and project management, is unique within the UK. I also plan to e-mail centres to ask for volunteers for the QDTs so look out for this e-mail in your centre.

The review will bring both qualifications up-to-date, and reflect the changes in the technological landscape since they were developed. I hope to ensure that they capture all of the exiting developments that have taken place in the last few years, such as Web 2.0, cloud computing, and the shift from offline to online working.

The new awards available to centres from August 2013.

Contact Hilary if you want more information or want to volunteer for one (or both) of the QDTs.

Enhancing HN qualifications

I am a member of the Project Board for a new project  aiming to enhance HN awards to make them more appropriate for progression to degree courses. There was a board meeting yesterday afternoon when we discussed the project's tasks and timescales.

The project will explore four subject areas, one of which is Computing, to see how the existing awards can be improved to make the transition from college to university easier for students. We will look at the structure, contents, assessment and supporting guidance to see if some or all of these can be improved to support articulation.

The work in each subject area will be taken forward by a Qualification Review Team (QRT), led by the relevant Qualifications Manager, so I will be leading the QRT for Computing. We hope to have the first QRT meeting in September.

SQA will be formally writing to each college to ask for volunteers for the QRTs. I will also be including information on this development in my forthcoming HN update letter. In the meantime, contact Claire if you want more information.

Programming classes for kids

I attended a CoderDoJo event on Saturday morning, at the Science Centre in Glasgow. This initiative aims to encourage kids aged 10-16 to program. Twelve kids attended, aged between 10-14, all boys except for one girl.

It was great fun. The kids are set challenges and allowed to work on a software project of their choice. A range of software development environments are available including HTML, Scratch, Python and Javascript. Some kids had programmed before but some were completely new to the field. I think that they all enjoyed it.

The classes are free and held monthly. You can find out more via e-mail or follow CoderDoJo on Twitter. Unfortunately, SQA does not provide certification for this programme. ;-)

Monday, 13 August 2012

Welcome back

Most colleges restart today. If you are one of the many Computing lecturers or teachers returning to their desks today, welcome back. The team hope you have a good year.

I recently updated the vocational Computing portfolio diagram.

You might want to download and print this diagram and keep it handy for reference. While I have management responsibility for the awards, Caroline and Hilary have operational responsibility, and the portfolio is divided between them.

Basically, Hilary is the person to contact about NC, NPA and SVQ awards, and Caroline for HN and PDA qualifications (including vendor links). If you contact the right person, you will get a much quicker response. We're happy to receive phone calls or e-mails if you want to contact us. Download the team diagram if you want find out our contact details. Don't forget my offer to visit your centre if you would like to meet us face-to-face.

Don't forget to check this blog from time to time. You can make things simple for yourself by adding the RSS feed to you favourite newsreader, such as Google Reader, which you can then sync to your mobile phone using a dedicated app. Over the summer we reached 400 followers on Twitter and, if you don't already, you can follow us on that service. Lastly, we use an e-mail list that you can subscribe to if you prefer your qualification news delivered that way. Keeping up to date with what we're doing will help you deliver your current classes and also let you know what's coming in the future.

There are lots of support materials available for the Computing awards so make sure you use them to help you deliver your classes this year. Contact Hilary or Caroline for more information.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Edinburgh Interactive Conference

Me and my team try to attend Edinburgh Interactive Conference most years, given that it takes place at a relatively quiet time in the year. I attended the conference yesterday, and Hilary and Caroline will attend today and tomorrow. Attendees at the conference include representatives of Google (who also gave a presentation), Channel 4, Scottish Television and the UK Government.

The conference focuses on computer games. The keynote, by Seamus Blackley, who was the man behind the development of the Xbox, was good. Seamus' message to developers was simple: concentrate on the "fun" (quality of your software) and not the "junk" (the business models). That talk was the highlight of the day for me but the subsequent talks were also interesting. I particularly enjoyed the talk entitled: "Are computer games art?". The conference continues today and tomorrow.

SQA has led the way in the creation of games-related qualifications, and has a varied portfolio of awards, which now includes NPAs, NCs, HNCs and HNDs ranging from SCQF Levels 4-8. Contact Hilary for more information about NPAs and NCs in this area; contact Caroline for the HN awards.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

HN Graded Unit review

I previously mentioned that a couple of EVs, led by the Senior EV, were looking at the current HN Graded Units to check them for clarity and consistency. We did this because EVs were reporting some inconsistency in the way centres were dealing with such things as the re-assessment of candidate's projects.

So this small team of EVs audited all of the current HN Graded Units (GUs) to check them for advice relating to re-assessment, autonomous working, and stage progression (progressing from one stage in the project to the next).

We met this morning to look at the findings of the audit. While no major problems were discovered, and the EVs reported that centres were dealing with ambiguities when they came across them, inconsistencies were found. I agreed to revise some of the units to make them clearer. We plan to revise the following units:

  • FP25 35 Interactive Media: Graded Unit 2
  • F8VG 34 Computer Games: Graded Unit 1
  • F8VH 35 Computer Games: Graded Unit 2.

These units will be revised to clarify the marking scheme, and improve the clarity of advice regarding re-assessment and remediation. We hope to have the revised units published by January 2013.

The Graded Units within the current HNC/Ds in Computing were found to be clearer so these will not be revised, partly because they are about to be replaced by new Graded Units as part of the HN Review. These new units will be much clearer about such things as progression (from stage to stage), re-assessment (when students have to resubmit work) and remediation (when students need help from their teachers).

Contact David Drennan if you need advice about assessing GUs.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Twitter milestone

We got our 400th follower on Twitter today. We started to use Twitter three years ago so that's a reasonable following in a relatively short period of time. In fact, we decided to give Twitter a try after one of our annual team meetings, and it has clearly turned out to be worthwhile.

Of course, I would like more people to follow us, since it's a great way of keeping up to date with what we're doing, so, if you don't already, please follow the team via this link. I promise not to bombard you with trivia. We use Twitter for small updates (such as important news about new IT qualifications) but we don't over-use it.

You can access Twitter via your PC, tablet or smartphone, so it's an easy and convenient way to receive news about vocational Computing qualifications. I hope you choose to follow the team.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Summer work

The summertime is a good time for the team to catch up with all of the things that fall behind during term time. The Computing team, in common with all SQA staff, have standard holidays so we work through the summer, but the place is a lot quieter with many staff on holiday and most centres closed for the holidays. So it's a great time to catch up with unfinished work, and take stock of things.

Last week we had our annual team meeting, when we review the last year, consider the current year, and generally discuss what works and what doesn't. We plan to continue with the satisfaction survey that we started last year, which aims to measure your satisfaction with the service that we provide to centres. Look out for more news about this.

The team are working on a number of projects over the summer including, but not limited to, the HN Review, the e-commerce project, the review of Graded Units, the Computer Games development, and the HN 2.0 initiative.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Scotland's Colleges support for teachers

I met with Gerry Dougan of Scotland's Colleges yesterday to discuss the ways in which that organisation could support the new Computing qualifications, specifically the new HN awards.

The new HNC is already available, and the HNDs are not far behind. The feedback from centres has been overwhelmingly positive. The new courses are up-to-date and flexible. In fact, they are so up-to-date that several teachers have expressed concerns about their ability to deliver some of the topics within the new awards. While it's exciting to include units about Cloud Computing, Convergence Technologies and Computing Forensics, it can be hard for busy teachers to stay up-to-date with the latest knowledge and skills in an area that changes as much as this field.

Gerry appreciated the challenges facing the sector and agreed to discuss with his colleagues ways in which Scotland's Colleges can help Computing lecturers to update their knowledge and skills to make the most of the opportunities in the new awards.

Contact Gerry if you want to know more about the CPD available for college staff. Contact Caroline if you want to know more about what's in the new awards.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Computer Assisted Assessment Conference

I attended the CAA 2012 Conference this week. It is organised by Southampton University, and held in Southampton. This was the 15th annual event.

It was well attended, with representative from many UK universities, several awarding bodies and some international attendees, including a representative from an Australian university. A number of Scottish universities, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, were represented. In fact, the keynote talk was given by Steve Draper from Glasow University, who explored why technology had not transformed learning and assessment. In fact, this assertion (that technology had not transformed education in the way many people expected) was a theme throughout the conference.

I attended a number of presentations throughout the event. I particularly enjoyed one given by another Scottish academic, Nora Mogey of Edinburgh University, about the "stylic differences between types and handwritten examinations". Nora gave a fascinating talk about student perceptions about, and the actual impact of, typing examination answers rather than writing them. Another presentation I particularly enjoyed was from Sue Timmis of Surrey University who spoke about "the cutting edge of research into e-assessment".

My own paper on "The need for a taxonomy to facilitate e-assessment" was accepted (conference papers are peer reviewed before being accepted), and I gave a presentation on this topic, which seemed to be well received.
The thrust of my argument was that one of the things holding back the adoption of online assessment was the lack of standards -- the lack of an agreed vocabularly (taxonomy) being a case in point.

All of the papers presented at the conference are published in the conference proceedings, and I think that this year's publication will make intesting reading.

Computing is the best supported subject in SQA in terms of e-learning and e-assessment materials, and attendance at events like this always encourages me to be bolder in this regard, which is something that the HN 2.0 project plans to do.

Contact Caroline for a list of resources available for the HN awards.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

New E-Commerce units

A few months ago, I stated that we were looking at our e-commerce provision to ensure that it was up-to-date, since the Scottish Government had targetted e-commerce as a vital area for the Scottish economy.

Some of the existing units were pretty long in the tooth, and many of the latest developments in this area where missing, so we took the decision to write a series of new units, spanning SCQF Levels 6, 7 and 8. The units (at all three Levels) will be called E-Commerce: Principles & Practice. As the title infers, each unit will be a mix of knowledge and skills.

We are currently in the process of writing the units, which will be available to centres from December. The units will be offered stand-alone, and we may also create a PDA from them. It is likely that some or all of them will be added to some existing awards (such as the new HNC in Computing).

The project is being led by John Gordon, who many of you will know from his time as Director of MEDC. Contact John if you want more information about this development.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

HNC Computing Arrangements Document

The Arrangements document for the new HNC Computing (Group Award Code GF3E 15) has now been published and is available for download from the SQA website here

All units have also be published and are available for download via the HN Unit search facility on the SQA website.

A finish date of 31st July 2015 has been placed on the current HNC Computing award (G7GL 15) and this will be communicated to centres through our annual update letter (and social media channels) over the summer period.

Assessment Exemplars and e-Learning materials for the mandatory units in the HNC will be published and available for 1st August 2012.  An additional 38 assessment exemplar packs have been commissioned that cover many of the optional units within the HNC & HND awards.  These are currently being worked on and will be available to centres by the Autumn 2012.

HN 2.0 update

I previously mentioned the HN 2.0 project on this blog. The aim of the project is to explore how social media can be used within the new HNC in Computing for summative assessment purposes.

As part of the that project, we are carrying out a survey into the use of Web 2.0 by college staff. I would be grateful if you would take a few minutes to complete it. The findings from the survey, along with other work that the team is doing, will be put into a report that will be shared with centres.

Part of the team's work is to look at how assessment can be reduced by integrating separate assessment tasks into more holistic (and authentic) activities. We are currently exploring how Web 2.0 tools such as Blogger (for logging student work), (as a portfolio), and Evernote (to capture evidence) can be used for this purpose. A key part of this approach would be students' use of smartphones.

Contact Kenji Lamb, the project leader, for more information.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Industrial Advisory Board

I attended the Industrial Advisory Board for the School of Computing in the University of the West of Scotland yesterday afternoon. The Board has 54 members, of which over 30 attended yesterday's meeting. Although this size makes it a little difficult for individual members to make a contribution, it's a great achievement to have such a large, representative body to advise the university.

Like my own Sector Panel, the purpose of the IAB is to provide advice about the university's Computing courses. I am the SQA representative on the committee, and it is very helpful to see the range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes offered in the university. It's of great benefit to me when I work with QDTs to design HN awards that articulate with degrees.

I have previously mentioned the difficulties in engaging with employers, and committees such as this one and my own Sector Panel are one way of doing that. But it remains a problem, and one that I will be considering over the coming months.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Scotland's College annual event

Me and my team attended the annual Scotland's Colleges' event yesterday. It was held in their Stirling offices. The event was entitled Computing, IT & Digital Media Conferernce 2012. As always, the event was well organised and well attended, with around 50-60 people in attendance, most of whom were college lecturers from across Scotland.

The keynote talk was given by Quintin Cutts of Glasgow University, who spoke about the teaching of Computer Science. Quintin is involved in the Curriculum for Excellence, and gave a fascinating talk about how the teaching of computer programming in schools is likely to change.

I followed Quintin, and gave an update on recent SQA developments, with particular focus on the on-going HN Review. Part of my presentation described the range of new qualifications that have been developed during the last 12 months (such as Internet Safety, NC Computer Games, and HNC Computing). I also described the new way that SQA is going to recognise vendor qualifications inside Higher National awards. My presentation seemed to be well received.
There were a number of interesting workshops for delegates to choose from. I attended two: one from Google (about Google Apps for education) and one from Microsoft (about their range of certifications).

It was pleasing to see SQA qualifications figure so prominently throughout the event. For example, David Renton's (Reid Kerr College) talk on XNA4 explained how he used this technology to deliver the HNC in Computer Games Development.

Suzanne Scott's (Borders College) talk on interactive media was based around the HNC of the same name.

Please contact Gerry Dougan if you want to know more about Scotland's Colleges. Contact Hilary or contact Caroline if you want to know more about Computing qualifications at non-advanced or advanced level respectively.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Sector Panel meeting

The Sector Panel for Computing & IT met this morning. The main purpose of the Panel is to advise and guide me and my team. The Sector Panel meets twice per year.

The membership includes people from education, industry and professional/industry bodies. The current members are drawn from E-SKills UK, Skills Development Scotland, Scotland's Colleges, Microsoft, Education Scotland, British Computer Society, and Scotland IS. There are also a number of practicing teachers and lecturers on the Panel.

I always take the opportunity to update members about qualification developments that have taken place since the last meeting, so at today's meeting I discussed the new Mobile Technology awards, the Online Basics unit, Internet Safety, and the new NC in Computer Games Development (at SCQF Level 6), among other developments. I gave a separate presentation on the HN Review since I wanted specific feedback from the Panel on that important development.

A couple of particular issues came up. One was about engagement with employers, and the other was about the unit writing process. It's a long-standing problem in education how best to engage with employers. One of the recommendations from the recent HNC Computing validation was to improve consultation with employers. We had an interesting dicussion about this topic and agreed to revisit it at the next meeting. We also discussed how SQA goes about writing new units. The current model of employing a writer and vetter (and, sometimes, an EV) works reasonably well but it was felt that more people had to be involved in unit writing to improve their quality. We agreed to revisit this issue at the next meeting. If you have any comments on employer engagement or unit writing, please use the comment facility on this blog.

It was a good, productive meeting. We don't minute the meeting, but we do list the agreed actions, and there will be many concrete actions coming out of this one.

Please contact Caroline if you want to know more about the work of the Sector Panel or find out more about becoming a member.

Monday, 11 June 2012

New qualifications in Mobile Technology

I've previously mentioned a new suite of awards linked to mobile technology. This development is being led by Joe Spencer of SQA's NQGA team, although the original idea came from a Sector Panel meeting in 2010.

The validation event took place on Friday at Annielsand College. I served on the Panel as the SQA representative. The QDT was represented by Jim Kriegar (formerly Anniesland College, now retired) and Iain Shand (of Cardonald College). The full QDT included representatives of Stow, Carnegie, and Cumbernauld colleges.

Five qualifications were presented for validation:

  1. NPA in Mobile Technology (at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6)
  2. NC in Mobile Technology (at SCQF Level 5)
  3. NPA in Professional Computer Fundamentals (at SCQF Level 6).

The last award is linked to Microsoft's Technology Associate qualification.

All five awards were validated, subject to a few conditions and recommendations. One of the recommendations relates to the title of the vendor award, so the above name might be changed.

It was a good event, well organised by the host centre (Anniesland College), and carried out in a supportive spirit, with everyone trying to improve the proposals. All five awards should be available to centres from September, with the vendor linked NPA available sooner than that.

Once these qualifications are validated, they will make a valuable contribution to the portfolio of vocational Computing awards. I intend to incorporate some of the units into existing non-advanced qualifications, such as the NC in Digital Media Computing.

Contact Joe for more information about these new awards. Contact Hilary for more information about existing non-advanced qualifications.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Research seminar on qualifications

I attended one of the occasional SQA research seminars this afternoon. This one was entitled "Qualifications and the incentives to learn". It was presented by Ewart Keep of Cardiff University.

As always, it was a fascinating, evidence-based discussion. Ewart discussed the links between qualifications and income. He pointed out that achieving low level vocational qualifications had little impact on income, unless these led to progression to higher level qualifications. He made specific criticism of narrow vocational qualifications (those that only focussed on specific job roles) and contrasted these with European vocational awards that typically included language, maths, ICT, and other general skills. Ewart reported that research showed that high quality work experience was very important in vocational programmes that aimed to prepare people for employment.

It was a timely reminder to me that Computing vocational awards have to deliver more than just computing knowledge and skills, and that areas such as numeracy, communications, entrepreneurship,  and project management skills were also important.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

HNC and Facebook

I came back from holiday yesterday to two pieces of good news. The HNC in Computing was validated while I was away. It was almost there before I left, but it was great to see it put to bed. Don't forget to follow developments via the blog.

The other piece of good news was that SQA had lifted restrictions on staff use of social media while I was away. Like many educational bodies, SQA restricted the use of sites like Facebook and Youtube, but (nearly) all of the restrictions have now been removed.

Mike Russell, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, has spoken many times about the need for schools and colleges to loosen the controls on social media, so it's great to see SQA lead by example. Services such as Youtube have become fantastic educational resources, and now includes an SQA channel.

The Computing team have used social media for a long time now (this blog being an example) but the lifting of these restrictions gives us more opportunities to use social media to engage with teachers and lecturers and other stakeholders. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Computing and IT Conference (Scotland's Colleges Event)

Scotland's Colleges are organising and hosting this years Computing and IT Conference on Tuesday 19th June.  The conference is aimed at Computing, IT and Digital Media practicators and will be held at Scotland's Colleges premises at Castle Business Park in Stirling.

The purpose of the event is detailed below:

The challenges currently facing Computing, IT and Digital Media staff in Scotland’s Colleges are significant, with continual demands on staff to keep abreast of an evolving curriculum, emerging technologies and new subjects as well as addressing issues relating to retention, achievement and progression. The community has made significant efforts to address these challenges and continue to do so.

The following URL provides more information including links to the programme for the day, online booking and contact details.
Please note that this is not an SQA organised event so all queries in relation to this should be directed to the events co-ordinator (details available in the link above).