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.