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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), Box.net (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.