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.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Computer Basics learning material

I recently posted a message about a new National Unit entitled Computer Basics that I hope, in time, will become the new Introduction to Computers for the 21st Century. The unit specification was recently published on the SQA website.

I got notification today that the e-learning material to support this new Unit is complete. In fact, we haven't checked it yet, but on the basis that 100 pairs of eyes are better than two (Hilary's) please feel free to preview the draft material, and let Hilary know if you spot any errors or omissions.

We are also in the process of producing an assessment support pack for this Unit, so any centre that offers it should have little or no preparation.

Although the title of the Unit is uninspiring, I think the contents are interesting, spanning a range of fundamental online and offline skills, and featuring the latest technologies (such as smartphones and netbooks). It is designed to be a modern, general purpose, introduction to the world of contemporary computing.

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

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Updated portfolio

I updated the portfolio diagram this morning to reflect a number of new or revised awards. You might want to print and keep this diagram. You can download a PDF version here.

As you will see from the diagram, we are going through a period of huge change. Computing never stands still, but even by our standards this is an exceptionally busy time. Of particular note are the new HNDs (including the brand new HND Computer Science), the revisions to PC Passport, and the new National Unit entitled Computer Basics.

Behind each of these qualification titles there are a range of support materials, such as assessment support packs and, sometimes, teaching and learning materials. You can find out more about what's available by contacting Hilary for non-advanced awards (up to and including SCQF Level 6) or contacting Caroline for advanced awards (SCQF Level 7 up).

I hope you consider offering some of the new or revised qualifications since we think that they are up-to-date and include some exciting contents.


The DIVA project forged links with a number of IT vendors and organisations, one of which is the British Computer Society (BCS). SQA and BCS recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to cement our relationship. The MoU signals both parties' intentions to help each other in a variety of ways.

Since then, I've had a couple of meetings with BCS people to  turn these good intentions into concrete actions that will benefit the users of SQA awards. We already have a number of exciting ideas that we plan to develop in the coming months. Look out for more news on this blog.

SQA has been a leader in the way it links its qualifications to industry standards, and the SQA/BCS relationship typifies the way that we seek to work with UK and international partners to make our awards as relevant as possible to learners.

Contact me directly if you want to know more about the SQA/BCS partnership.