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.