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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.