Friday, 20 December 2013

Digital Passport

As you most likely know, we've been revising PC Passport for a while. Quite early in that development, the QDT realised that we wanted to change a great deal about the award so that it embraced lots of modern knowledge and skills. As a result, we made an early decision to create two awards: an entirely new one and one based on the current award. The development effectively split into two, and we've been working on the new award for most of the time.

The new award will be called Digital Passport. It will be a National Progression Award (NPA) at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6, and consist of three units (at all Levels):

  1. Information Literacy
  2. Network Literacy
  3. Social Media Literacy

The qualification will be hierarchical (like the original PC Passport award) so that you can teach multi-levels in the same classroom.

We think that this new award is the most up-to-date digital literacy award in the UK. It will deliver essential digital skills for 21st Century citizens. It was designed to embrace the essential skills that various government reports have highlighted. We hope that it will become as popular as PC Passport in its heyday.

We haven't forgotton about PC Passport. We've been working on updating this to modernise its contents. But the changes will be minimal and a clear evolution of the current award, so that if you currently teach PC Passport it will be straight-forward to move over to the new one.

The validation event for Digital Passport takes place in January, with the corresponding event for PC Passport later in the year. We hope to have both awards available to centres from 2014-15.

I'll be writing to centres early in the New Year with more details but in the meantime contact Hilary for more information.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas Cyber Security lecture

I attended a Christmas lecture on information (cyber) security at Glasgow University yesterday afternoon. It was organised by SISCA. Around 1000 local school pupils attended the three sessions in Glasgow, with more to follow in other locations later this week. It's great to see so many young people interested in this aspect of computer science.

The event was presented like the BBC's Christmas Lectures, with interesting presentations and lots of interaction with the audience. Topics covered included: encryption, password creation, security threats (such as spoofing) and advice on how to protect yourself. It was great fun - but fun with a serious educational purpose.

Martin Beaton organised the event and highlighted the current demand for skills in this area and the on-going shortage of people to fill the vacant positions.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

HND Computer Science

I've written previously about my informal review of the HND Computer Science. This new qualification was first introduced in August of this year as part of the HN Review and has proven to be surprisingly popular in centres. We're proud to be the first (and only) awarding body in the UK to offer a Higher National Qualification in this area.

The reason for the "mini-review" was that I had received anecdotal evidence that, although popular, the title and contents of the award weren't a great match. So I dedicated a little time each week to talking to individuals and groups about this qualification. In that time I think I've discussed it with a pretty large and representative cross-section of stakeholders. And it's clear that there is a consensus about a few things.

The title and qualification are liked. Overwhelmingly. So there is no question of the title changing. But there is also a clear view that the contents aren't quite right. The obvious things that are missing are mathematics and more "hard core" computer science, such as algorithms and data structures. As someone said: "There's no enough science in it to call it Computer Science".

The question is how we go about making changes to the award to make it a better fit. There are a number of options ranging from producing guidance to changing the award itself.  I'll be taking this forward internally and keep you posted.

But the changes will not be rushed and will not be huge (if there are any changes at all to the award itself). The current award is popular, and has sufficient options to orient the award in a number of ways. No-one wanted huge changes. Whatever comes out will be a clear evolution of what's there now.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about HND Computer Science.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Heads of Computing Event

In the recent HN Update letter to centres, you were informed that we were in the process of discussing plans for the forthcoming meeting of Heads of Computing.

This years event will take place a little later than usual on Friday 31st January 2014 at 1000 hours (Registration from 0930 hours) in the Menzies Hotel, 27 Washington Street, Glasgow G3 8AZ.

The event will cover current and future curricular developments as well as a number of spotlight items of interest to the field.

Places are limited and will be based on a first come first served basis with each delegate allocated a maximum of 2 places which is built into the online registration.
If you are interested in coming along to this event then please register online by clicking HERE.
We look forward to seeing you on the 31st January.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Scottish Colleges Computing Consortium

I was invited to attend a meeting of the Scottish Colleges Computing Consortium (SC3) this morning, which was held at the City of Glasgow College. The group is convened by Cameron Walker of Aberdeen College. I was invited to speak about two things: the new way of accrediting vendor awards within HN qualifications, and the new HND Computer Science.

There was unanimity about the value of vendor awards within vocational Computing qualifications but some debate about how best to do this. The current (pilot) system involves direct accreditation of vendor qualifications within SQA awards but this, according to centres, has had mixed success. We're currently carrying out a review of this new way of recognising vendor qualifications and I promised to represent the CS3's views when I was asked for my input. Several constructive suggestions were proposed at the meeting about how to address this problem.

As regular readers will know, I am currently carrying out a "mini-review" of the new HND Computer Science and I wanted to know what the SC3's views were on the new award. They pretty much chimed with what everyone else has been telling me -- the new award is liked (and popular with students) but there needs to be a better match between the title and the contents.

Contact Cameron for more information about SC3. Contact me about the review of HND Computer Science.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Bridging the Skills Gap

I attended an event on Friday, organised by Iain Shand of Glasgow Clyde College, about the current skills gap and how best to prepare students to fill the gap. The event was held at the Microsoft offices in Edinbugh, and was well attended with 18 colleges represented.

The keynote was given by Polly Purvis, of Scotland IS, who set the tone for the day. Polly pointed out that 45,000 new IT jobs will be created in Scotland in the next five years; that the rate of growth of IT jobs will be fives times the average job rate; and that only 18.5% of the current IT workforce is made up of women. She also highlighted the areas of acute shortage, which include: programming, data security, IT project management, and IT sales/marketing. Polly also commented on the "digital economy" and the need for a digitally skilled workforce - in all sectors.

Many of the other speakers, myself included, echoed these views. For my own part, I explained what SQA was trying to do to fill the skills gap, with initiatives like DIVA, regular updates to qualifications (including the introduction of new ones such as HND Computer Science), and engagement with employers through the Sector Panel.

I returned to Polly's theme of the importance of digital skills and took the opportunity to announce a new suite of awards entitled Digital Passport. These new NPA awards (at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6) are designed to address digital literacy skills. I described it as the "most advanced digital literacy qualification in the UK", which, I believe, it will be when it is launched early next year alongside the refreshed PC Passport qualifications. More information will follow.

Contact me if you want to know more about DIVA, contact Caroline if you want to know more about the updated HN awards, or contact Hilary for more information about Digital Passport.

Friday, 22 November 2013

CUSP meeting

I've mentioned the CUSP group before. There was another meeting last Friday (I've been meaning to post a message since then) that I attended. The meeting was held at Caledonian University. The prime goal of the group is to promote and ease articulation from college to university so members were very interested in the alternative assessments that I am developing for the new HN awards. I gave a presentation on this topic, which seemed to be well received.

The new assessments are a good fit for this group since the aims coincide -- smoothing progression from college to university. The alternative assessments are designed to do exactly that since they aim to mirror the sorts of assessments that students face at university. There will be a number of "university-type" assessments covering a range of new awards.

We'll be looking for pilot centres early next year and, given the positive response of CUSP members, I'm hopeful that there will be no shortage of volunteers. Look out for more information in the New Year.

Contact me if you want to know more about the alternative assessments for Computing.

Monday, 11 November 2013

PC Passport and NC Digital Media Computing validation events

The dates for the validation events for NC Digital Media Computing and PC Passport have now been set. The PC Passport validation event will take place on Thursday, 23 January and the NC validation event will take place on Thursday, 30 January. I've posted several updates about these developments during the last few months.

The purpose of the validation event is for fresh pairs of eyes to look over the proposals. It's a meeting of peers in that the panel and the QDT both consist of practicing teachers and lecturers, as well as representatives of employers and national organisations.

Hilary is organising both events so please contact her if you are interested in serving on either (or both) validation panels.

Both awards will be available to centres from Spring 2014.

Verification Group meeting

I went along to Saturday's annual update meeting for External Verifiers. The Computing group is led by David Drennan, who is the Senior External Verifier.

It was a busy agenda, covering the new Quality Assurance Management Systems (QAMS), CPD, and David's annual report on centre performance. I traditionally give a qualification update at the meeting to let EVs know about what's been done and what's coming. This year's presentation (by both me and Caroline) included the new HND awards, the on-going reviews of NC Digital Media Computing and PC Passport, and our work plan for next year, which includes, among other things, reviews of a number of NPAs and the HNC/D Interactive Media.

I also explained the new Verification Groups. Readers of this blog will know that the subject area has been divided into three cognate groups: 288 Information Technology, 357 Computer Science, and 358 Digital Literacy. Each of the EVs has now been allocated to one or more of these new groups.

Please see my previous post if you're interested in becoming an External Verifier.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Centre satisfaction survey

I closed the centre satisfaction survey this morning. It's been open for 10 weeks. There were only 15 responses so it's hard to place too much faith in the results.

Overall, the results were good. In spite of the use of electronic communications, my annual update letters are still popular with centres (65% of respondents read them); unlike Twitter, which remains the least popular means of communication (7%). Not only were the update letter read - they were liked too (82%). So, it looks like I will be writing to centres for the foreseeable future. This blog split respondents down the middle - with 47% being very satisfied (the highest "very satisfied" rating of any information source) but also 47% being dissatisfied. Overall, 86% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the way the team communicates with centres.

You were also pretty happy with the range (93%) and quality (71%) of qualifications. However, the amount of assessment did not rate so highly (64% were satisfied). Support materials were liked, with the exception of the e-learning material (60% were not satisfied) and SOLAR (67% were not satisfied). So we need to work on them.

According to the results, you're aware of what we're doing (21% were not), happy with the speed of response (7% were not), felt that we dealt with you courtesously (no-one thought otherwise), but you were less sure about the opportunities to get involved with SQA (43%). Overall, only one in seven (14%) of respondents were dissatisfied with the service that the team provides.

The overall satisfaction rating (which includes everything) remains high -- only 14% were dissatisfied and no-one was "completely dissatisfied". So, I am pretty pleased with the results. There is room for improvement (such as our e-learning materials and we need to do more work on reducing assessment) but there were a lot of positives too. However, the size of the response prevents me from reading too much into the results.

Friday, 1 November 2013

HNC/D Computing - e-Material Development

Last year, as additional support for the new HNC Computing award, we produced e-materials for the following mandatory units:

  • Professionalism and Ethics in Computing
  • Developing Software: Introduction
  • Computer System Fundamentals
  • Troubleshooting Computing Problems
  • Team Working in Computing

This year we have managed to secure additional budget to produce e-materials for a further four units.  We have chosen to cover a single mandatory unit in each of the four new HND Computing awards (Software Development, Technical Support, Networking and Computer Science).  These e-materials will be based on the following units:

  • Software Development: Data Structures
  • Routing Technology
  • Network Server Operating Systems
  • Network Technology and Data Communications

These new materials will be available by February 2014.  Once finalised they will sit alongside the above batch of e-materials which can be accessed here

The new awards are heavily supported with both traditional ASPs, SOLAR assessments and e-Materials as previously mentioned in a recent blog posting.

If you have any queries relating to any of the support materials for the new HNC/D Computing awards, contact myself.

Last Chance - Centre Satisfaction Survey

The centre satisfaction has been open for a number of weeks now and we are looking to close this off so we can evaluate the responses in comparison to previous years.

Can I urge you to take a few minutes of your time to complete the survey if you have not already done so.  If you feel this would be more relevant to another colleague, then please forward on the survey link to them.

You can find the survey here.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Computer Science review

I commenced the (mini) review of HND Computer Science today, when I visited Napier University in Edinburgh and spoke to a couple of members of staff about this new award and how it articulates with their own degree courses.

The key questions I need to answer are:

  • do you support the existence of this qualification in principle?
  • does the title match the contents?
  • what changes, if any, need to be made?
  • what is essential to include in this award?
  • if Maths needs to be included, what sort of Maths?

It was a very useful meeting and I got clear answers to each of these questions.

I plan to speak to lots of different stakeholders over the coming weeks, after which I will compose a short report to summarise my findings. Once I've done that, we (SQA) will consider the best course of action.

Contact me directly if you want to know more about this review. Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the qualification.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

HN alternative assessments

I've previously mentioned the Qualification Review Team (QRT). The QRT was responsible for devising alternative assessments that could be used in place of the existing assessments to better reflect the assessments faced by students at university. The QRT for Computing met four times, after which SQA finalised the alternative assessments.

I am a member of the Project Board for this development, and the Board had its ninth meeting this morning. The purpose of the meeting was to get an update on how the project is going. We will be looking for pilot centres in the near future. These centres will trial the alternative assessments between August 2014 and June 2016. There will be a launch event (for pilot centres) early next year.

Developing these assessments has been a two stage process. The first part was creating the "assessment designs"; the second part is writing the actual Assessment Support Packs (ASPs). So far, we have produced assessment designs for:
  1. HNC Computing (a project)
  2. HND Computer Science (an exam)
  3. HND Computing: Networking (an exam)
  4. HND Computing: Software Development (an exam).
The alternative assessments combine the assessment for several outcomes. For example, the HND Networking exam covers 13 outcomes from various units in the second year of that programme. We hope that these bigger, more holistic assessments will give students a better idea of the types of assessments that will face them at university.

The next stage is to write the alternative ASPs. That should be relatively straight-forward given the level of specificity in the assessment designs (which, for example, define the duration, size and structure of the exam paper). I am looking for volunteers to do this so please don't hesitate to contact me if you are interested in finding out more.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Computing At School

I attended the second Computing At School (CAS) event on Saturday, which was held at the University of Glasgow. This year, unlike last year, I had the pleasure of not speaking.

It's great to attend events where the sole focus is teaching and learning. In my many conversations with the many educationalists who were there, the sole topic was how best to teach Computing. I attended all of the keynotes and many of the workshops. I particularly enjoyed the workshops about what pupils find difficult about Computing (by Sue Sentance) and the workshop about the flipped classroom (Charlie Love). Sue provided concrete examples of what works (paired progamming, debugging programs, and walkthroughs of code among them) and Charlie explained how the flipped classroom can work for Computing.

It was great to be part of such an enthusiastic group, who are already planning next year's event. You can find out more about CAS Scotland here.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

PC Passport review

As you will know, PC Passport is currently being reviewed. This important development commenced earlier this year and has been progressing well. The Qualification Development Team has been working hard to revise the qualification. The draft qualification is pretty well developed and we are now at the stage of finalising the units.

I met with the core development team earlier this week to look at the draft units to make final changes.

The recent focus on digital literacy has had an impact on the award. We took the decision to try to embed as many digital literacy skills within the revised award as we could. Sometimes this involved changing the title of a unit (for example, we now have a series of units called "Network Literacy" instead of "Online Skills") and sometimes it involved changing the contents of the units -- and sometimes both. That's the nature of qualification development -- it's fluid. But I am sure that we are right to try to embed these new skills.

There is also a big focus in the revised award on social media (there is a series of units called "Social Media") and information skills (there is a series of units called "Information Literacy", which was previously "ICT Skills"). The end result, I hope, is an up-to-date, exciting qualification that delivers essential knowledge and skills.

We plan to have the revised qualification completed by early 2014 (the validation is planned for January) and available to centres from March 2014. I am hoping that you will find the new award as modern and exciting as we think it is.

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

Friday, 18 October 2013

Support materials for the new HN awards

The new HN awards are the best supported Computing qualifications that SQA has ever produced. In fact, they may be the best supported qualifications of any kind that SQA has ever produced.There are Assessment Support Packs (ASPs), online assessments and e-learning material available to support the new awards.

So far, 58 ASPs have been produced (and available) with another five on the way. These cover all of the mandatory units in all of the awards plus many of the optional units. Twenty-one of the units are supported with e-assessments available via SOLAR, and this figure will increase over time. And there is e-learning material (for teaching and learning) for the mandatory units within the HNC -- again, with more coming in the near future.

The list of support material is growing all of the time. You can download the latest list here.

We'll keep this list up-to-date so don't forget to check it from time to time. Please contact Caroline if you have any queries about support materials or contact SOLAR directly if you have a query about online testing.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Reviewing Computer Science

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I planned to review the new HND Computer Science. It's not really a review. I plan to talk to a few people over the coming weeks about their opinions of the new award.

The recently completed HN Review updated four awards, and created one new one - the HND Computer Science. Some of you will remember that it was originally intended to be a generic HND in Computing but during the development and validation process became what it is now. Some people have commented that the title and the contents don't quite match. So I plan to talk to few people (school teachers, college lecturers and university admissions among them) about this. I will do this over the next couple of months.

If you have any views on this don't hesitate to let me know. I'd welcome e-mails or phone calls (or face to face discussions) about this.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Centre satisfaction survey

I opened this year's centre satisfaction survey a few weeks ago and, so far, there has been a very low response. I use the survey to figure out what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong but a very low response means that I can't really use the data for anything. So, please, if you haven't done so already, can you spend a few minutes completing the online survey?

The team started the survey in 2011 (when there was a large response). Although there was a drop in responses last year, there was still a reasonably large number of respondents -- enough for me to use the results to try to change things. But, as you know, if you don't get a reasonable response rate then the results become no more than the opinions of a few individuals (the current results are good, but so low they become meaningless).

I intend to close the survey soon (irrrespective of response rate) so please take a few minutes to complete it.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Digital Literacy for Life

SQA is a supporting a new initiative from the BCS to promote digital literacy skills. Their Digital Literacy for Life (DLfL) programme aims to encourage schools to deliver digital literacy across the curricula and also to inform employers about the value of the "digitally literate empoyee". A new website to support this initiative was launched this week.

SQA is actively supporting the BCS. I am a member of the Education Committee and will try to ensure that Scottish centres benefit from the programme. I recently commented on the growing importance of digital literacy skills, and how SQA was reviewing its portfolio to ensure that it encompasses the required knowledge and skills.

Digital literacy is about more than basic IT skills (which are an important part of it). It includes a number of literacies and cognitive skills such as critical thinking, information literacy, network literacy and social media literacy. It's becoming so important that it's been referred to as "the fourth literacy" after reading, writing and counting.

I've recently completed an audit of my portfolio to check for digital literacy knowledge and skills -- and some updating is necessary. Watch this space for more information. In the meantime, don't hesitate to contact me if you want to know more about digital literacy qualifications.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Plans for 2014/15

I've been asked to start to think about my plans for next year. Each year me and my team create an operational plan, which defines what it is we are planning to develop during the year. For example, this year's operational plan includes the reviews of PC Passport and NC Digital Media Computing.

SQA carries out "quinquenial" (5 yearly) reviews of all its awards, and these will automatically be added to my plan, but if you have any suggestions for new qualifications please let us know. I've mentioned previously how to do this -- and it's very simple: complete an ideas capture form and we will take it from there.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Digital literacy

The term "digital literacy" isn't new but it's one I am hearing more and more with each passing month. As you may know, The Royal Society recommended that digital literacy be recognised as one (of three) strands to the subject of Computing. There has been a number of recent reports about the need to improve the digital literacy skills of UK (and global) citizens. SQA responded to The Royal Society report by creating a cognate group for Digital Literacy.

Digital literacy is really a collection of literacies including, but not limited to, information literacy, network literacy and social media literacy. It has been described as "the essential skills for 21st Century citizenship". I am currently looking at my portfolio of awards, which includes an NPA in Digital Literacy that was created in 2007, to check if it is up-to-date. We're certainly more aware now of the key skills that need to be included in awards that can call themselves "digital literacy qualifications" and the current reviews (such as the review of PC Passport) will ensure that these knowledge and skills are "baked-in".

Contact me directly if you want to know more about digital literacy.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

HN update letter

I sent an NC update letter to centres last month and yesterday I completed a similar letter for HN awards, which will be sent to colleges later this week. Readers of this blog can get it now.

The letter contains important information about such things as Graded Units and local options within HN awards. You may want to download it. There's nothing in the letter that readers of this blog don't know but you may want to share it with colleagues.

Both the NC and HN letters ask you to complete the centre satisfaction survey and follow the team on Twitter if you don't do so already.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Verification Group changes

I was informed today that the three new/revised Verification Groups (VGs) had now been created. They are:

288 Information Technology
357 Computer Science
358 Digital Literacy.

I've previously explained the rationale behind these changes.

This change will have operational implications for centres (in the sense that verification visits will now be based around these three groups) but, more importantly, it has philosophical implications. It defines a particular view of the subject ("Computing") with three parts. The first part, Digital Literacy, is foundational, encompassing key knowledge and skills required to work and play in the 21st Century, including the skills needed for participation in modern society. The second part, Information Technology, is more advanced and covers specialist knowledge and skills required for working in the computing industry or supporting users. The third part, Computer Science, encompasses the theory and practice of the science of computing, including computer programming.

I recently assigned qualifications to each of these groups. My portfolio spans all three groups, but particularly IT and, to a lesser extent, Digital Literacy. I also recently renamed the Sector Panel to "Computing", rather than "Computing & IT".

This change is about more than nomenclature. It clarifies what we mean by "Computing" and will aid our thinking about the subject area. SQA is pleased to be the first UK awarding body to fully adopt the recommendations in the Royal Society's report [PDF] (relating to subject names).

Visiting centres

I received a request this morning from a college to visit the centre to discuss Computing awards. I was delighted to accept.

I've mentioned previously that me and my team are available to visit your centre. I've enjoyed my previous visits. We're happy to visit you to discuss qualification developments or help you deliver SQA awards, so please don't hesitate to ask me or Caroline or Hilary. It's not only good for you (I hope) but it's good for us to see the end point of our work (the delivery of SQA qualifications in centres).

Monday, 9 September 2013

SQA and social media

Qualifications Development staff within SQA take a day out each year to look at best practice, internally and externally, to ensure that each of the qualification teams are aware of these practices and consider applying them to their own work.

I was invited to describe my team's use of social media to communicate with centres. As many of you will know, we've been using these tools since 2004 and, over time, I think this blog and some of the other tools (particularly our use of e-groups) have been successful. I pointed out the downsides too -- the time it can take to maintain something like this blog; the double work involved since you still have to send letters to centres; and the fact that not every teacher likes to use social media. I described my team's use of social media as "a qualified success".

Like most organisations, SQA is looking at ways of using social media to be more transparent and work more closely with stakeholders. I think some of the other teams liked Twitter since this takes much less time to maintain than a full blown blog and can send out short messages very qucikly so look out for some new Twitter accounts from other qualification teams in the near future. And don't forget to follow this team on Twitter if you don't already.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

HND Computer Science

The recently completed HN Review not only updated existing HNC and HND awards but also introduced a new qualification entitled HND Computer Science. Anecdotal evidence seems to point to this new award being very popular in centres (more so than I anticipated). We're delighted to be the only awarding body in the UK with this unique HND.

Initial feedback from centres has been positive but some people have commented that the contents of the award don't quite match the title. For example, mathematics is not mandatory within this HND when it is within most Computer Science degrees.

So, I plan to talk to a few people over the next month or two, including representatives of colleges and universities - old and new, to get their views on what, if anything, needs to be changed. But we're not talking radical change. In fact, there may be no change at all since the framework is already sufficiently flexible to provide a highly scientific programme if that's what you want. There is guidance in the Group Award Specification [PDF] to illustrate routes through the award that match specific course objectives.

You can find out more about the HND Computer Science here or contact Caroline if you have a specific query.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Introducing the new Nationals

This video, about the new school qualifications, was recently released on the SQA channel on Youtube. It's an excellent introduction to the new qualifications.

You can find more videos here.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Sector Panel meeting

The Sector Panel for Computing & IT met today. The Panel meets once per year to provide advice and support to me and my team about strategic developments in the sector. There was an excellent attendance today, with 18 people attending, representing schools, colleges, universities, training providers, employers, IT vendors, and professional bodies.

We have recently expanded the membership of the Panel to try to get more diverse views, and today's meeting certainly achieved that goal. There was lively debate around a number of issues such as employment trends, CPD needs of Computing teachers, e-learning, digital literacy, and Modern Apprenticeships, among many other topics.

We had a particularly interesting discussion about CPD for teachers in colleges. The new HN awards are state-of-the-art in terms of their contents and several college representatives reported problems ensuring that teachers were able to deliver the new units. One of the actions I will take forward is to report this concern to those agencies with special responsibility for CPD in the college sector.

We also had a good conversation about Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) compared with "open solutions" to e-learning that utilise social meda.

It was good to hear the employer representatives so up-beat about the demand for Computing staff now and in the future. A number of recent reports have commented on the shortage of skilled IT staff. It was also heartening to hear college representatives report huge demand for places on their Computing courses.

Chris Morrow of E-Skills UK is a member of the Panel and told the meeting that he is leaving E-Skills in September. Chris has been a good friend of SQA over the years and will be missed.

The Sector Panel is not a talk shop. After every meeting we create an "action list" that we work through to ensure that the Panel makes a real contribution to the sector.

I plan to change the name of the Panel from "Computing and Information Technology" to just "Computing" to reflect the change in terminology that I have previously described.

We're always looking for new members of the Panel so please contact Caroline if you would like to know more about its work and consider joining it. Although the Panel only physically meets once per year, we use social media to keep in touch throughout the year so it's a great way of finding out what's going on in the sector and contributing to the work of SQA.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Defining the subject

I've mentioned before that SQA was in the process of re-organising Verification Groups (VGs) as a result of a report from the Royal Society about the past and future of the subject area. That report made a strong recommendation that Computing should be viewed as three distinct, but linked, subject areas: Digital Literacy, Information Technology and Computer Science. It also recommended that awarding bodies across the UK adopt this taxonomy.

SQA was happy to follow that advice. The first tangible change is this re-organisation of VGs, which I have been working on over the summer and is almost now complete. The new groups have been created and we are in the process of assigning EVs to each group. I used the following definitions to help me create the groups and assign qualifications (download here).

This is about more than just a change of name. The Report made it clear that seeing the subject area in this way (as having three branches) is fundamental and will have important implications for every aspect of the subject. From SQA's perspective, it's a useful way of considering curriculum development and categorising the portfolio of awards. I'm sure colleges and schools and other providers of computer education and training will find it equally helpful.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Team diagram

Since I was updating the portflio diagram, I thought that it would be a good idea to also update the team digram.

This is another cut-out-and-keep document since it provides important information about who you should contact along with their contact information. You can download it here. You will get a much faster reply if you use this diagram to contact the right person.

Updated portfolio

I updated the portfolio diagram today. This diagram summarises the portfolio of vocational Computing awards, ranging from stand-alone National Units at SCQF Level 3 to Professional Development Awards at SCQF Level 8.

The diagram also illustrates the recently created/revised awards (such as the new HND Computer Science) and the awards currently being reviewed (such as PC Passport).

You may want to download and print this diagram to aid your future planning. The "Useful links" box on the right provides links to web pages where you can find out more about any of these awards.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Satisfaction survey is open

The centre satisfaction survey for 2013 (session 2012/13) is now open.

We've been doing an annual survey for a couple of years now and we use the results to try to improve the service that we provoide to centres. Although we don't share the results publically, we do carefully consider them and try to identify our strengths and weaknesses, so that we can try to keep doing the good things and improve the not-so-good things.

The survey only takes five minutes and your time would be appreciated. You will find the survey at this URL:

Thanks in anticipation.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Welcome back

Welcome back for another year. I won't pretend I don't miss my long summer holidays (which I enjoyed for 22 years) but there is the consolation of being able to choose when I take my holidays.

The big challenge this year is the introduction of the new HN awards. We recently validated a new HNC and four new HNDs, including a brand new HND in Computer Science, and lots of you will be involved in delivering one or more of these new qualifications this year. It's an exciting prospect. The new awards are very up-to-date and, I think, have many improvements over the old awards -- not least of which is the 50% reduction in assessment. But I appreciate the challenge in delivering lots of new things in a short period of time. Don't hesitate to contact me if you need any help or support. There is a range of things I can do to help - from organising a development visit to personally visiting your centre. There are lots of support materials available for these new awards (more than we have ever previously provided). Contact Caroline if you want to know what's available.

Look out for two things in the near future. Our annual satisfaction survey is about to be issued (when I ask you what you think of the service we provide) and I am currently working on the annual update letters (one for NC, one for HN, and one for SVQ). I hope to get these finished in the next couple of weeks. Readers of this blog won't learn anything from the letters (it's all been posted here in the past) but for those who don't these letters provide a useful update on developments such as the on-going review of PC Passport.

In the meantime, don't hesitate to contact Hilary for anything related to non-advanced awards (National Units, NPAs and NCs) and SVQs, or contact Caroline for advanced awards.

Vendor Survey

Last week I blogged the link to a vendor survey that we have compiled to gain some feedback from centres who are offering vendor certifications alongside SQA qualifications.

Please take a few moments to complete the survey if you have not yet done so.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Local options within HN awards

Our HN awards have had something called "local options" for a long time. This allows centres to effectively add any units they like to the awards (although the number of credits is capped). These were originally conceived to help centres customise the awards to their specific local circumstances. For example, a particular college with a large local employer may have a very good reason to add an "unusual" unit to their specific HN award.

Computing is now one of the few subject areas to continue to offer local options. Their use has declined for various reasons including the adminstrative overhead of constantly updating frameworks, and it sometimes being used to provide credit for units that really don't fit the rationale of the awards at all.

I will clarify the rationale and procedure for using local options in my forthcoming update letter, which should be sent to centres in the next few weeks. We will continue to offer it but tighten the procedure to ensure that the awards continue to meet the purposes for which they were designed.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Annual team meeting

I've mentioned previously that the team take time out once per year to reflect on the past year and consider the coming year. We normally do this around summer time since it is quieter for us at this time of the year. We had our annual meeting yesterday.

In the past we have come up with some good ideas at these meetings. For example, we decided to use Twitter a few years ago and more recently we agreed to do an annual satisfaction survey of centres. One of the decisions to come out of yesterday's meeting was that we will try to use LinkedIn when we ask for volunteers to work with us. Look out for more information about this in the coming weeks.

We also agreed to try to use Google Hangouts to reduce time spent at meetings. I promised to take that forward internally.

We spent some time devising the centre satisfaction survey for 2013 and, again, look out for more information about this in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Vendor Survey

We have compiled a survey to gain feedback from centres who are offering both SQA qualifications and vendor courses so that we can monitor how they are being delivered and to promote awareness of the new approach to vendor within HNC/D Computing awards.

This survey is not exclusive to HN awards.  This is open to all SQA approved centres (FE, HE, Training Providers etc) who are delivering SQA qualifications (HNC/HNC, PDA, NC, NPA, SVQ, CBQ) in conjunction with vendor courses.

I would appreciate if you could take a few minutes to complete the survey at the URL below:

Friday, 12 July 2013

New verification groups

I've mentioned on a couple of occasions the Royal Society report on Computing in schools. One of the key recommendations from that report was to do with naming the subject. I subsequently stated, after internal and external consultation, that SQA would adopt the nomenclature.

So, today, I instigated changing the names of the verification groups to follow the advice in the Report. There are currently two Computing verification groups:
  • 357 Computing
  • 358 Information Systems.
This will become three groups:
  • xxx Computer Science
  • xxx Digital Literacy
  • xxx Information Technology.
Once these new groups have been established, I will assign units to each group and then assign External Verifiers to each group.

The new nomenclature is clearer and better reflects the reality of the industry. It separates computer science from the other areas and makes a distinction between ICT skills (now "digital literacy") and technical skills (now "information technology"). I think that that's a better fit for my portfolio of awards.

Please contact me if you want more information about these changes.

Academic skills

You might have noticed that we plan to formally introduce "academic skills" into HN programmes through the Alternative Assessment project. The QDT for the NC Review also wants to do this for the revised NC awards, which are under development. We plan to make an "Academic Skills" unit mandatory at SCQF Level 6 and an option at SCQF Level 5.

The sort of things that would appear in these units include:
  • referencing
  • structured writing
  • researching
  • plagiarism
  • study skills
  • selecting sources
  • learning styles
  • study skills
  • time management.
It would be interesting to know your views on this and what skills should be included in these units. Either use the comment facility or contact Hilary directly.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Milestone reached

The team recently reached a milestone in its use of social media. Our Twitter account now has more than 500 followers. It's taken a while to get there (we started to use Twitter in 2009) but it has slowly evolved into an important communication channel for the team.

We don't use Twitter for vanity. You won't find our opinions on it or advice about how best to teach. But we do use it to share important information about the work of the team. This might be news about new qualifications or news about new support materials that will help you in your professional practice. The attraction of using social media is its inherent transparency and fairness (anyone can find out what's happening and get involved).

We have plans to use it more. As well as important announcements, which would normally be blogged here and shared via Twitter, Twitter is also great for small snippets of information that are too small to warrant a blog post but ideal for tweeting. In future, we plan to tweet more information about developments, opportunities to work with SQA, and other relevant information. So, if you don't already, please join the more than 500 people who currently follow the team on Twitter.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Unit writing training

Both the NC Review and the PC Passport Review are going well, and we have reached the stage, in both developments, when we need to get down to unit writing. So the QDT members, for both reviews, met on Friday for some training.

We have now carried out consultation for the awards, developed frameworks, and assigned unit writers and vetters to the component units, and we want to use the summer to write the unit specifications, so it was vital to get the training done before too much of the summer passes.

The event went well. I pointed out that unit writing is neither a science nor an art -- there are some rules to follow but there is also a creative element that goes into a good unit specification. Ultimately, the writer's role is to set a national standard, and help teachers and lecturers understand and deliver a national curriculum.

We hope to have the draft units completed by the end of September, when we will share them with you. In the meantime, please contact Hilary if you want to know more about either development.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Summer work

The Summer time is relatively quiet in SQA since we receive far fewer enquiries from teachers and lecturers at this time of the year. This means that we can use the time to catch up with outstanding work and push on with on-going projects. Right now we are working on a number of projects including:

  • PC Passport review
  • NC Digital Media Computing review
  • E-Commerce units
  • HNC/D assessment exemplars
  • HNC/D support materials
  • HN Alternative Assessments
  • HNC/D international awards
  • SVQ/CBQ awards
  • vendor-related work.
I also plan to write my annual update letters to centres over the summer. So it's a busy time but a lot less pressured than a few months ago. You can find out more about most of these projects by reading this blog or contact me if you want more information about any aspect of the work of the team.

Friday, 21 June 2013

PC Passport review

I've noted previously that PC Passport is currently being reviewed. The Qualification Development Team (QDT) met yesterday for its second meeting. The lead developer is Frank Frame of Bannerman High School.

We've made a lot of progress in a short time. We have now consulted on the draft framework. Over 200 people completed an online survey and we also carried out a number of face to face interviews. There was overwhelming support for our proposals so we're pretty confident that we are heading in the right direction.

The aims of the review are to modernise and simplify the structure and contents of the existing award. The draft structure (at all three Levels) is:

  1. ICT Skills
  2. Online Skills
  3. Social Media.

This simple structure, I think, conceals an innovative and exciting qualification that will deliver key 21st Century skills.

The next stage is to get down to writing the units. We will do this over the summer months. The award is expected to be validated in December and available to centres from Spring 2014.

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

Thursday, 20 June 2013

HND Computing launch event

The launch event for the new and revised HNDs took place yesterday at Jury's Inn in Glasgow. We launched the following awards:
  • HND Computing: Networking (revised award)
  • HND Computing: Software Development (revised award)
  • HND Computing: Technical Support (revised award)
  • HND Computer Science (new award).
There was a great turnout, with over 50 people attending. Launch events are something of a celebration; a culmination of a great deal of hard work by a lot of people. I pointed out that 17 colleges were involved in this development, so it was a huge collective effort.

I was the Master of Ceremonies for the day. My presentation outlined the purpose of the day and also some of the key messages.

The key part of the day was the presentations by the Qualification Leaders, each of whom discussed the contents and key features of their qualifications. I also took the opportunity to highlight some related developments, such as the HN alternative assessment project, which has been written about many times on this blog.

The event seemed to be well received. Please complete the (short) event evaluation survey if you attended, so that we can improve future events.

These awards are available now. You can download the Group Award Specifications here. Please contact Caroline if you want a copy of any of the presentations or have any questions about these qualifications.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

College Development Network

Colleges Scotland has held an annual staff development event for Computing lecturers for several years, and I have presented at most of them. I attended yesterday's event at the City of Glasgow College, when I presented an update on SQA developments.

It gave me an opportunity to update people on the various changes that have taken place over the last 12 months. And there have been lots. I discussed the PC Passport review, the NC Review and, of course, the HN Review, which has recently finished. My workshop was well attended and the presentation seemed to be well received. The proposed changes seemed to be liked by attendees, which was encouraging. I reminded everyone that the official launch event for the new HNDs takes place tomorrow, and that there was still time to register.

I took the opportunity to listen to the presentations that took place throughout the day. I was particularly interested in one given by Greg Michaelson, of Heriot Watt University, who spoke about articulation between college and university. David Renton, of Reid Kerr College, also gave a fascinating talk about TouchDevelop, a new tool to generate computer games.

Monday, 10 June 2013

NC review

The Qualification Development Team (QDT) for NC Digital Media Computing met on Friday, for its third meeting. We last met in April. The purpose of this meeting was to look at the draft frameworks in the light of the consultation that we recently carried out.

The updated awards have a new working title: "NC Computing". Many of you will recognise that from the days before the current NC awards. It's not been decided to rename them but that's the title we are currently using. Before we make any decisions, of course, we will consult with stakeholders.

The draft frameworks (at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6) were well received during the consultation so we felt confident enough to make some decisions at the meetings. We are much clearer now about how the awards are shaping up. We will share the revised frameworks once they're ready. The proposed frameworks, in my view, are a nice mix of the old and the new. We are using plenty of existing units but we are also revised and writing some new units.

The next stage is to progress to unit writing. We hope to do this over the summer months. I hope to have the new and revised units completed by the end of October, to permit us to go forward for validation by year-end.

It's not too late to get involved in this development, either as a member of the QDT or unit writer. Contact Hilary if you want to get involved or know more about progress.

NCs in Computer Games at SCQF level 6

Web pages have now been set up on SQA website for the National Certificates at SCQF level 6 in

Computer Games: Creative Development

and Computer Games: Software Development

The Group Award Specification (previously called the Arrangements document) covers both awards and contains useful information if you are planning to offer them from August 2013.

The following Assessment Support Packs for new Units in these awards have been recently published and are available on SQA secure site from your centre's SQA coordinator:

H1ND 12 Artificial Intelligence for Games
H2X1 12 Computer Gameplay
H2CD 12 Computer Games: Programming
FN8P 11 Gameplay
H1NC 12 Mathematics for Computer Games

If you need any further help or information regarding these new qualifications please contact Hilary Weir

Friday, 7 June 2013

Group Award Specifications for HND Computing Awards

The Group Award Specifications (previously called Arrangements Documents) are now available for download on the SQA website.

To access GG7D 16 - HND Computer Science click here

To access GG7E 16 - HND Computing: Software Development click here

To access GG7F 16 - HND Computing: Technical Support click here

To access GG7F 16 - HND Computing: Networking click here

My previous blog entry gave some information on the support materials that are either in the process of being developed or are available for download via the SQA secure website (access through your centre coordinator).

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Qualification Review Team meeting

The Qualification Review Team (QRT) for Computing met this morning for the fourth time. As previously noted, the aim of the QRT is to devise alternative assessments that are better suited to students who plan to go on to university.

The purpose of today's meeting was to look over the draft assessment designs. Two members of the QRT were tasked with producing detailed designs for the alternative assessments. These designs were not actual assessments but they do define what such an assessment would look like. We reviewed the following alternative assessment designs:

  • project for HNC students
  • examination for HND students.

The purpose of the project is to combine the practical outcomes of a number of (mandatory) units within the HNC award to produce an assignment similar to that used at university. The QRT also produced designs for a number of examinations:

  1. HND Computing: Networking
  2. HND Computing: Software Development
  3. HND Computer Science.

These exams will assess the knowledge and understanding in a number of units within the second year of these awards. The aim is to produce larger, better integrated assessments, which look and feel more like those students will face at university.

These designs are not instruments of assessment. But they do define, precisely, what an instrument would look like (number of questions, pass marks, types of questions, etc.) so it shouldn't be too difficult to progress to the next stage and actually write the assessments.

We hope to have the designs finalised by next month (July), Assessment Support Packs (ASPs) commissioned by August and ready for October, and the whole thing (designs, ASPs, and guidance) completed by December, so that centres can begin to use the new material from January 2014.

There will be one other output from this project. We've been working on a list of "academic competences" that universities would like college students to possess (such as study skills and examination skills) and we've been compiling a list of these that we can use to audit the awards to help colleges identify them and ensure they are highlighted to students.

We'll be asking centres to come forward to pilot the alternative assessment later this year. Contact me if you want to know more about this project.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

New HND awards

I recently wrote a letter to update centres about the new and revised HND awards. The letter is on its way to centres now.

It contains important information about award codes and the approval process for centres. You can download it here.

The letter formally introduces the new HND in Computer Science, which is available to centres now. It also provides further details about the forthcoming launch event, which will be held on 19 June. There is still time to register.

The letter is the culmination of a great deal of hard work, which has been carried out over a long period (more than two years). But, I think, it's been worth it. The new and revised awards are pretty much state-of-the-art when it comes to contents, and we have also achieved a huge (50%) reduction in assessment. Hopefully, they will stand the test of time for the foreseeable future.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the new and revised HNDs.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Social media channels

This blog recently passed the 100,000 views milestone. In fact, it has had a lot more than 100,000 views since it was started in 2004 but the counter was reset a few years ago during one of the site's re-designs. The site gets around 100 hits a day (for example, it had 2800 visits in April) so it has become an important communication channel between SQA and centres.

We use two other social media tools to communicate with centres. We've been using Twitter for a while (and have almost 500 followers now) where we post smaller, more regular updates. More recently, we started to use a Google+ community, which is slowly building up membership. This new service provides forum facilities, which permits teachers and lecturers (and SQA staff) to help each other.

I appreciate how busy you are, and that it can take time to check these services, but your smartphone can help. For example, you can bookmark this blog or, better still, add the RSS feed to your favourite reader app. There's a dedicated Twitter app for almost every smartphone to help you follow us via that service. And there's also a Google+ app for most phones (for the new community).

The next goal is to get 500 followers on Twitter (we currently have 483) so, if you don't already, please follow us there. You won't be bombarded with updates, but you will receive important information the second it's available.

Friday, 24 May 2013

HNC/D Computing Launch Event

We are officially launching the following HNC/D Computing awards on Wednesday 19th June 2013 at 1000-1530 hours in the Jury's Inn, 80 Jamaica Street, Glasgow:

HNC Computing (GE3F 15)
HND Computer Science (GG7D 16)
HND Computing: Networking (GG7C 16)
HND Computing: Software Development (GG7E 16)
HND Computing: Technical Support (GG7F 16)

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.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Working with the British Computer Society

The British Computer Society (BCS) is one of a number of national and international IT bodies that SQA works with. Readers of this blog will know that we recently formalised our relationship with BCS through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). An MoU is a high level agreement so we have to turn that into real action.

That process began yesterday, when me and my team attended a BCS event in Glasgow, and continued this morning with a private meeting in the SQA offices in Glasgow. At the public meeting both parties (BCS and SQA) signalled our intention to work together; at this morning's meeting we got down to what that really means.

There are a number of potential areas of development, including joint promotion and joint development of qualifications. Today's meeting was very productive. One of the concrete outcomes was that all students who undertake the new HN awards will be eligible for Student Membership of the BCS. We also agreed to serve on one another's committees. The BCS already has representation on the Sector Panel but we agreed further collaborations like that.

It's early days in our relationship but look out for more news about SQA/BCS initiatives on this blog in the coming months.

Contact me if you want to know more about how SQA and BCS collaborations.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Teaching JAVA Programming Free Learning Materials from Oracle Academy

This will be of interest to schools and colleges -

The Oracle Academy is pleased to announce that the Getting Started with Java Using Alice Workshop, V2, which supports Alice 3.1.60 and higher, is now available from the website.

Use the following steps to access the materials:
Paste the URL listed below to quickly display the workshop materials.
Use the following steps to download all of the workshop materials:
From the Oracle Academy collections page, open the Workshop Resources folder.2. Download the zip file of the entire workshop. Exercise patience while downloading.

#CampusParty Campus Party Europe

I met Martyn Wallace from 02 recently and he highlighted this big educational engagement event in London.

I did highlight this would be week most Colleges in Scotland will be busy with induction - but this is an event that many students particularly transitioning from HNC - HND should be interested in . I think some teaching staff will be interested too.

As long as they don't mind sleeping in a tent inside the 02 Arena in London

See details below

SAVE THE DATE ** Campus Party Europe, 2nd – 6th September 2013, London ** SAVE THE DATE

The world’s biggest digital entertainment festival comes to the UK

This year the Telefonica UK will play host to Campus Party Europe - a week-long, 24-hours-a-day celebration of the latest in digital technology.

Campus Party Europe will give young digital enthusiasts the opportunity to hone their digital skills; give budding entrepreneurs the chance to turn their ideas into reality; and help businesses find the talent they need to grow. 

The festival will also feature some of the world’s most inspirational science and technology communicators. Speakers at previous events include Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web; Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple; and astronaut Neil Armstrong. We’ll be announcing this year’s line-up of speakers soon.

For many ‘Campuseros’, the festival will be a key part of their journey into the world of work.  To ensure your students don’t miss out on this unique opportunity, we would be grateful if you could alert them and your colleagues to the date and location of Campus Party 2013 at your earliest convenience. Similarly, if your University signs up as a partner your students will get 20% discount. 

Please check out the website for more information:

For any questions please respond to

Campus Party Team

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Group Award Codes - HND Computing

I am currently operationalising the following HND Computing awards and awaiting the Group Award Codes for each of these:

  1. HND Computer Science
  2. HND Computing: Networking
  3. HND Computing: Software Development
  4. HND Computing: Technical Support

As soon as the award codes are received and added to the Group Award Specifications (formally Arrangements Document) these will be published to the website and a link will be posted on the blog to each of the documents.

In the meantime, if you have any queries relating to these awards, please contact me direct.

Support Materials for HNC/D Computing

The new HNC/D Computing awards are heavily support by a number of Assessment Support Packs (ASPs) as well as e-Learning materials for the mandatory units within the HNC Computing award.

Over the last year we have developed a large number of packs that cover a selection of mandatory and optional units in the revised HNC/D awards.  The following ASPs are our Phase 1 developments - published ASPs are available on the SQA secure website (access via your SQA centre co-ordinator):

Computer Hardware: Hardware Installation and Maintenance (Published)
Computer Networking: Fundamentals (Published)
Computer Networking: Practical (Under Development)
Computer Systems Fundamentals (Published)
Computing: Graded Unit 1 (Exam) - Version 1 (Published)
Computing: Graded Unit 1 (Exam) – Version 2 (Published)
Computing: Introduction to Project Management (Published)
Computing: PC Hardware and Operating Systems Essentials (Published)
Computing: PC Hardware and Operating Systems Support (Published)
Configuring a Desktop Operating System (Published)
Convergence Technologies (Under Development)
Databases: Introduction (Awaiting Publication)
Developing Mobile Web Based Applications: An Introduction (Published)
Developing Software: Introduction (Published)
Handling Information as a Resource (Under Development)
Human Computer Interaction (Published)
Intrusion Prevention Systems (Under Development)
Mail Server Management (Under Development)
Managing a Web Server SCQF 7 (Under Development)
Managing a Web Server SCQF 8 (Under Development)
Mobile Technology (Published)
Network Concepts (Published)
Open Source Operating Systems: Basic Server Administration (Awaiting Publication)
Open Source Operating Systems: Introduction to Command Line Administration (Published)
Professionalism and Ethics in Computing (Published)
Relational Database Management Systems (Under Development)
Software Development Programming Foundations (Under Development)
Software Development: Data Structures (Published)
Software Development: Developing Small Scale Standalone Applications (Published)
Software Development: Developing Websites for Multiplatform Use (Under Development)
Software Development: Object Oriented Programming (Published)
Software Development: Systems Foundation (Published)
Systems Development: Object Oriented Analysis & Design (Published)
Team Working in Computing (Published)
Technical Support: Supporting Users – Hardware (Published)
Technical Support: Supporting Users – Software (Published)
Troubleshooting a Desktop Operating System (Published)
Troubleshooting Computing Problems (Published)

In addition to the above, we have contracted writers/vetters for a 2nd batch of ASPs (Phase 2) which have started development now.  Most of these Units are part of our International frameworks but many cross-over into the revised HND Computing awards which will give us a larger pool of support materials to support the awards.   All of the packs below will be available by September 2013 with some arriving in June/July:

Client Operating Systems
Cloud Computing
Computer Forensics: Fundamentals
Computer Networks: Building Local Area Networks
Database Design Fundamentals
HND Computing: Networking Graded Unit 2 (Project)
HND Computing: Software Dev. Graded Unit 2 (Project)
HND Computing: Technical Support: Graded Unit 2 (Project)
HND Computer Science Graded Unit 2 (Project)
Internetworking Technology
Network Server Operating Systems
Network Technology & Data Communications
Networking Technology
Providing Technical Support to Users
Routing Technology
Scripting for Interactivity
Security Concepts
Self Describing Data (XML)
Server Administration
Software Development: Rapid Application Development & Prototyping
SQL: Introduction
Switching Technology
Web Development: Producing a Data Driven Website

Please contact your SQA centre co-ordinator for access to any of the published materials listed above.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

PC Passport review 2013 - survey

As you may know a Qualification Design Team has been set up to carry out a revision of PC Passport at SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6.

The QDT has proposed a new structure and Outcomes for the new awards and we are in the process of consulting with practitioners and stakeholders in the sector to find out what they think of the proposals.

If you wish to have a say in how the new qualifications are shaped please help by completing the survey:

Some members of the QDT will also be carrying out telephone interviews.  If you are willing to be interviewed about PC Passport and its replacement please e-mail me in the first instance.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Review of the National Certificate

As readers will know, we are currently reviewing the National Certificate in Digital Media Computing at Levels 4, 5 and 6. We recently selected Lead Developers (LDs) for each Level and there was a meeting today involving the LDs and the SQA team.

The Lead Developers are:

Liz Allum of Cathkin HS for Level 4
David Renton of Reid Kerr College for Level 5
Gillian Dobry of Adam Smith College for Level 6.

Today's meeting was a brain-storming session, when we discussed the ideas that came from the first meeting of the QDT and tried to turn these ideas into a qualification structure. It was a good meeting. We discussed many things including:

  • the title of the award
  • the mandatory and optional split
  • the inclusion of the new National Courses in Computing Science
  • the inclusion of PC Passport (or its successor)
  • core skills
  • the inclusion of a project unit in all of the awards.
  • the role of programming.

There was a lot of agreement about these things, and some good ideas came out of the meeting. For example, we discussed embedding [the new] PC Passport into the awards; we also discussed including the new National Courses within structure; and the possibility of including a project in all three awards. We intend to use NC Computing as a working title for the new awards.

The LDs were asked to turn these ideas into frameworks, which we will share with the wider QDT (and then all stakeholders) once they have been firmed-up.

Please use the comment facility if you want to provide feedback to the team, or contact Hilary directly if you want to know more about this development.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Qualifications Support Team

The Qualifications Support Team (QST) for this area met this morning. This was the first time that we combined the teams for both non-advanced and advanced, having previously organised separate meetings. We did this because of the overlap between topics, which often span the advanced/non-advanced divide. It seemed to work well. Fifteen people attended the meeting. There were representatives of colleges, schools and training providers.

QSTs are there to support qualifications. This includes recommending support materials to develop or advising on changes to qualifications. We have one face-to-face meeting per year but we also keep in touch, and make decisions, between meetings via an e-group.

One of the key functions of the QST is to consider proposals from centres for changes to units or awards, and the meeting today consider four such proposals. In the majority of cases, we approved the suggested changes.

QSTs illustrate how SQA works with centres to continually monitor and improve awards. We are looking for more members from the school and training sectors so please contact Hilary if you are interested in serving on this committee. Or complete a comment form if you want to suggest changes to awards or propose new support materials.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Computer forensics

We're always looking for good ideas for new awards, and some time ago a centre proposed a qualification in the area of computer forensics. This topic already features in the new HND awards (there are units in forensics and hacking), but this proposal was for a separate qualification.

As a result, we are considering creating a PDA in Digital Forensics, which would be a small(ish) award at SCQF Level 7 or 8. This qualification would focus on this specialist area and compliment our existing suite of PDAs.

I have already had discussions with special interest groups, such as the police who were supportive of the idea, but Jacquie Campbell, a Business Development Manager, would be interested to know if there is interest from centres so please let Jacquie know if your centre would be interested in offering an award like this.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Renaming the subject

Some time ago, I mentioned a report [PDF] from the Royal Society of Engineering, entitled Shut Down or Restart?, about computing in schools, which made a number of recommendations about the subject.

It's first recommendation related to terminology. The report criticised the vague and inconsistent use of terms such as "ICT" and "digital skills" and recommended that the subject was divided into three areas:

1. Computer Science
2. Digital Literacy
3. Information Technology.

Computer science covers the more rigorous, academic and theoretical part of the subject, including topics such as software development and computer architecture.

Digital literacy covers the basic computing skills required to use computers and function in the modern world, and includes such things as office skills, using the Internet, and digital photography.

Information technology is the more practical, application focussed, informatics, social side of the subject, including topics such as project planning, designing information systems, information skills, and the social implications of the subject.

I said at the time of the publication of the report that I planned to adopt this terminology in my own portfolio, and this process began a few weeks ago when I met with people from the Assessment Standards team to look at renaming the External Verification groups in my area. This process has now commenced.

But the terminology will affect more than Verification Groups since I plan to use it for all future developments.