Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Agenda for Heads of Computing event

We're currently working on the agenda for the Heads of Computing event, which is taking place at the end of January. It's shaping up well with talks about cyber security, the Wood Report, and the future of assessment, as well as the bread-and-butter stuff about qualifications and support materials.

You can sign-up for the event here.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

External verification reports

One of the jobs of the Senior External Verifier (SEV) is to write an annual report on each verification group (VG) in their area. I've been reading the annual reports for my groups recently. My main verification groups are: 288 Information Technology, 357 Computer Science and 358 Information Technology.

The reports made good reading. They were very positive, with lots of improvements compared to previous years. Long standing issues, such as the lack of "red ink" on candidates' written work, have been (largely) addressed in centres. David also noted a big increase in the use of e-assessment in centres, and improved internal verification procedures. His reports also covered Graded Units and improvements were noted here too.

I normally write down action points after reading the reports but this year I had none, which is indicative of the improvements that have taken place. David will be presenting his findings at the forthcoming Heads of Computing event. Coming on top of the recent Aspect report on Computing, it would appear that there has been real improvements in teaching and assessment in colleges.

One of the things discussed at the recent EV annual update meeting was that centres weren't sure what units were in each of the Verification Groups. SQA has been working on a solution to this, but in the meantime you might find this spreadsheet helpful since it lists all of the units in each group.

You can download the complete spreadsheet here.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Lead Person Network

I've mentioned previously that we had almost established the lead person network (LPN) for colleges, well I'm pleased to say that the network is now complete. We now have a Computing contact person for each college.

The SQA Computing team has been using online mailing lists and online groups for a long time, but the recent re-organisation of colleges in Scotland meant that these groups were out of date, so we have been working on getting a lead person for each of the new regional colleges. That task is now complete.

Here is a FAQ about the lead person network.

Please contact Liz if you want more information or find out who the lead person is for your college.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Computing at School

I attended the annual Computing at School Scotland event on Saturday, held at Napier University. Computing at School is a UK-wide organisation that aims to promote the teaching of Computing in schools. It is supported by BCS, Microsoft and Google.

Saturday's event was the usual interesting mix of talks and workshops. The keynote was given by Elizabeth Montgomery (HMIe) about the importance of computer science to the UK economy. A couple of the workshops related directly to SQA, including one on verification, presented by Ray Simpson, who is the Implementation Manager for CfE Computing Science.

Computing is one of the vocational subjects that is popular in schools. Qualifications such as Internet Safety, PC Passport and Computer Games Development have large uptakes in the school sector. Digital Passport is also proving to be of interest to many schools.

The recent Education Working for All report emphasised the importance of vocational qualifications in schools (up to and including HNCs) and I hope to take this forward in the coming months.

Contact Liz for more information about vocational qualifications for schools.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Heads of Computing Annual Event 2015

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.

The annual event will take place on Friday 30th January 2015 at 1000 hours (Registration from 0930 hours) in the Stirling Highland Hotel, Spittal Street, Stirling FK8 1DU.

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 30th January 2015.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

HNC/D Computer Games Development review has commenced

SQA was the first awarding body in the UK to offer qualifications in computer games when we introduced the HNC/D Computer Games Development in 2005. We revised that award in 2009, and it is now due to be reviewed again.

I met with Gill Flockart, of Dundee & Angus College, this afternoon to discuss the possible changes required to the existing award. Gill is going to scope the likely changes. She will consult widely during the scoping process to discover what's good and what's not so good about the current award.

Gill will complete the scoping exercise by March 2015, after which we will get down to making the necessary changes to the qualification. The revised qualification will be available to centres from session 2016/17.

Contact Caroline for more information about this project.

PC Passport and NPA Digital Literacy reviews

Both PC Passport and NPA Digital Literacy are being reviewed during the current year. In fact, PC Passport was meant to be reviewed last year but, instead, we forked the development to create Digital Passport. We now want to turn our attention back to PC Passport.

I intend to organise two "pre-QDT" meetings to discuss how to take each of these developments forward. These meetings would be wide-ranging discussions on what, if any, changes need to be made to these awards. They are "pre-QDT" because, if the recommended changes are small (such as simply updating the support materials rather than changing the contents of the qualifications), there would be no need for a QDT.

I'm hoping to conduct these meetings before Christmas. I've used the new lead person network to ask for college representatives but I am aware that these awards are also offered in schools and training centres. So please contact Liz if you want to be involved in these meetings.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Lead person network now established

We've just about got a lead person for each new college. We have lead contacts for 17 of the 19 Scottish colleges, and we hope to have a "complete set" in the near future. I've created a private group for the lead people so that we can easily communicate and share information.

This lead person network will not replace the usual channels of communications, such as this blog and my annual update letters, but it does provide me with a quick and easy way of communicating with the new colleges.

I have encouraged the lead contacts to cascade information to their colleagues, which should simply be a case of them forwarding the various e-mails that they will receive via the online group.

Please contact Liz if you want to know more about the lead contact network or find out who your lead contact is.

Friday, 14 November 2014

NPA Digital Literacy

As you may know, this award is due to be reviewed this year. The current award was introduced in 2007.

I plan to convene a meeting of centres, with an interest in this award, in the coming weeks to decide the best way to progress this development. There are a number of options including leaving it as it is (but updating its contents) and bringing it into the Digital Passport family of awards.

Please contact Liz if you are interested in being part of this development.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Christmas lectures on cyber security

There are a series of Christmas lectures on cyber security coming up in various places around Scotland. I attended last year's event in Glasgow, which was great fun, so I can highly recommend it. Tickets are available now. The events are organised by Martin Beaton of SICSA.

SQA is currently considering the development of a number of qualifications in this area. Contact Liz for more information about our plans.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Heads of Computing event

The annual Heads of Computing event will take place on Friday, 30 January in either Stirling or Edinburgh. I haven't worked out a detailed agenda yet, and we're not sure about the venue at this time, but please add that date to your diary. These events have been running for around 20 years now, and they are always well received.

The event will follow the usual format, beginning with a keynote speaker and including updates about what's been developed, what we're currently developing, and what we plan to develop in the future. As an ex-Head myself, I try to make sure that the event is a good use of your time.

Look out for more information in the near future. Don't forget to add the date to your diary.

Lead person

I've mentioned previously that I am trying to identify a lead person from each college to act as the main point of contact between my team and each college. This person will be a subject specialist. Around half the colleges have now responded. I've asked Liz to contact the other colleges to get a name. So, if your college hasn't responded yet, except a call from Liz.

Once I have a designated person for each college, they will be invited to join a (private) online group, which will be used for communications and information sharing.

The lead person network will not replace the usual means of communication between SQA and colleges (which includes this blog) but this small group of college contacts will provide me with a simple way to liaise the colleges. I will be sure to emphasise to the lead contacts that they should cascade information within their college.

Contact Liz for more information.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Digital Passport

I recently updated the FAQ for this new qualification.

We are pilotting this award during the current session. A number of schools, colleges, training providers and third sector organisations have joined the pilot. It's not too late to participate. The pilot runs from August 2014 to June 2015, and you can join (or leave) at any time.

The component units are available (to all centres) now but only designated centres can offer the group award. You can find out more by reading the FAQ.

Contact Liz if you want to know more.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Updated portfolio

I updated my qualification portfolio diagram this morning. There are one or two minor changes (corrections) but no additions.

It's worth noting the qualifications in bold (these are new and you may not be aware of them) and the qualifications in italics (these are currently being revised). Here are the awards that we are presently revising:
  • NPA Digital Literacy (SCQF Level 3)
  • PC Passport (SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6)
  • HNC/D Interative Media
  • HNC/D Information Technology
  • HNC/D Computer Games Development.
That's a a large development workload in any year but this year has been particularly difficult due to staff changes. The NPA Digital Literacy and HNC/D IT developments haven't commenced yet when, in a normal year, they would have.

Please contact me if you want to be involved in any of these developments.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Big Data

As you know, we've been developing a couple of Higher National Units in the area of big data for a few months. They are:

  • Big Data (SCQF Level 7)
  • Data Science (SCQF Level 8).

They're almost complete now. The Big Data unit is complete, and is currently going through vetting, so I would be interested in your comments on it.

Both units will be available to centres from January. The Level 7 unit will be added to HNC Computing, and the Level 8 unit will be added to some HND awards (to be decided). It's likely that awards in other sectors will use the Level 7 unit too.

Big data has been described as the "new oil" and it looks like there will be lots of jobs in this area in the coming years.

Contact Caroline for more information about these new units or check out the E-Skills website for more information about jobs in this field.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Annual meeting of External Verifiers

The External Verifiers (EVs) for my subject area met on Saturday for their annual update meeting. The Senior EV (David Drennan) leads the event. The meeting took place in the SQA offices in Glasgow.

There have been a few changes to the team. For one thing, there are now more women on the team than men, which is a first for the Computing EV team. When I was an EV in the 1990's, if I remember correctly, there wasn't a single woman on the team.

There is a standing item on the agenda for a qualification update, which me and my team deliver. That provides an opportunity to tell the EVs what's changed, what's changing, and what will change in the future. There was nothing in the update that hasn't already been posted on this blog.

The EV job is interesting and fantastic CPD for lecturers. Not only do you get the observe the standards in centres across Scotland but there are opportunities to visit some of our international centres. A few member of the team are going to China shortly. Contact Appointment Management if you want to know more about the role or to apply to become an EV.

Monday, 27 October 2014

HNC/D Interactive Media

The QDT for HNC/D Interactive Media met on Saturday to make some key decisions about the revised award. The development is being led by Fiona Murnin.

The first decision we made was the title. The revised awards will be called:
  1. HNC Digital Design & Web Development
  2. HND Web Development
  3. HND Digital Development.
The HNC will be common to both HNDs. One of the HNDs will focus on web development; the other will be more general and focus on digital platforms.

We also discussed employment opportunities, progression paths, professional recognition and vendor accreditation. It was a productive meeting that gave a lot of ideas to Fiona.

You can see the evolving Group Award Specification below.

Contact Fiona if you want more information about this development.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Welcome to Liz

I recently wrote about Helen, who is replacing Hilary, but I want to introduce Liz Sinclair.

Helen can't join my team until the end of November so I needed help during the period between now and then, given that Hilary has moved onto her new post. So Liz will, temporarily, provide cover until Helen can join me.

I won't update my team diagram until Helen joins us.

Liz has taken over Hilary's portfolio so, essentially, e-mail Liz in place of Hilary for any of the subjects in the above diagram. Liz is an experienced QO who has been with SQA since 2005 and I'm sure that she will be able to help.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Review of HNC/D Computer Games Development

As part of SQA's regular review process, the HNC/D Computer Games Development is due to be reviewed this year. SQA was the first awarding body in the UK to introduce qualifications in this area. The awards have proven to be popular, with over 1000 pupils in Scottish schools doing the NPA award.

When we're pretty sure that a qualification needs an update, we immediately commence a full review. When we're not so sure, we begin by "scoping" the changes needed. Given the pretty positive feedback I've had about this award, we're going to scope it this year.

We're looking for someone to carry out the scoping. This involves the completion of a pro forma that explores the strengths and weaknesses of the current award, and outlines the likely changes needed. The person would consult with centres that currently offer the award, as well as employer and professional representatives.

Please contact Caroline if you are interested in carrying out this work or want to find out more. Ideally, you will have experience of delivering the qualification. I hope to commence the scoping in November and the person would be required for around one day per week.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Respect Me

I don't normally promote third parties, or third party events, on this blog since you come here for qualification news, but I'll make an exception for this event.

RespectMe's annual conference takes place on 18 November and it sounds very worthwhile, with workshops on bullying, cyberbullying, and homophobia. More information here.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Michael Young seminar

I attended a lecture by Michael Young on Friday afternoon as part of SQA's series of research seminars. Michael is a professor at the University of London and has recently written a book about the role of knowledge in schools.

The theme of Michael's lecture was knowledge, and its importance in today's world. He stressed the importance of conceptual knowledge over "context based knowledge". Conceptual knowledge, he said, was "generalisable"; context based knowledge was "particular" to a specific set of circumstances. He used the term "powerful knowledge" to describe conceptual knowledge that "emancipates" and permits the learner to "think the unthinkable". Michael contrasted conceptual knowledge with dogma. He said: "If you only have skills then you are just another machine".

I enjoyed his talk. It was challenging and thought provoking. It has made me think about the role of knowledge in vocational qualifications.

SQA's research seminars are for SQA staff, and invited guests, to keep staff up-to-date with the latest thinking on education, learning and assessment.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Welcome to Helen

I recently wrote about the vacant Qualifications Officer post in my team due to Hilary's recent appointment as Digital Literacy Manager.

I'm pleased to let you know that Helen Zhang has been appointed to the position. Helen currently works as a QO in another team, but this post is for a longer (fixed term) period. Helen will formally join my team on 27 November.

Helen has worked for SQA since 2010, in various positions including our international team, so is an experienced member of staff. I'm sure that you'll all get to know her over the next couple of years.

Hilary asked me to finish this post with a message. Don't contact Hilary for more information. :-) Please contact me.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Aspect report on Computing

I've mentioned previously the recently published Aspect report [PDF] on Computing in colleges. I've now had a proper read of the final report.

Section 9 lists a number of actions that various agencies should carry out. There are none directly addressed to SQA (the curriculum got a pretty clean bill of health) but there are some that, I think, SQA can play an important role. These are:

  • the role of Mathematics within Computing programmes
  • the achievement rates in the subject area
  • employer involvement in programmes.
The report also mentions vendor links (in Section 2 rather than a recommendation) and this is something, too, that I plan to look at.

I intend to liaise with the HMIE who wrote the report (Sheila Page) to discuss how SQA can help. I think that the first recommendation (the role of Maths within Computing) is something, in particular, that SQA can assist with. Look out for future posts about this.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Local options within HN awards

Around this time last year, I wrote about local options within HN awards. I also raised local options in my last two update letters.

Local options permit colleges to customise (to a certain extent) HN awards to meet local demands. For example, a college with a large software development company nearby may want to add more programming units to an award.

We used to change frameworks on an ad hoc basis but the number of requests increased to the extent that I changed the procedure so that the QST considers each request, and we update the frameworks annually (for the start of term). However, you don't need to wait a year to find out if your request is successful. The QST can consider your request pretty quickly and you will get a response within a week or two (normally). But the framework will only change once per year.

Computing is one of the few subjects still to offer local options. Most have dropped this feature. I think it's a good idea but it was becoming time consuming to constantly change frameworks. This new procedure seems to work well.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about local options within HN awards.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

HNC/D Interactive Media

I recently appointed Fiona Murnin as lead developer for the review of HNC/D Interactive Media. Fiona is Course Leader at New College Lanarkshire, and also serves as an External Verifier for SQA.

Me and Caroline met with Fiona yesterday afternoon to discuss the role of the lead developer and also to create a project plan to revise the existing award. The lead developer is a vital role that encompasses several important tasks, including the writing of the Group Award Specification (which includes the qualification structure) and also leading the QDT at the validation event.

Fiona's first job is to write the rationale and aims of the award. We plan on doing this in a novel way. Instead of writing aims, frameworks and other information separately, we plan on completing the appropriate sections of the Group Award Specification directly. That will save us piecing it all together at the end.

The Group Award Specification has been shared online, so you can see how it is progressing at any time.

Fiona will gradually populate the document over the coming months. Feel free to use the comment facility to let us know what you think of it. She will be consulting with stakeholders in the coming months so look out for information about that in the near future.

We hope to have the revised awards (HNC and HND) available to centres from January 2016. Contact Caroline for more information about the development or contact Fiona for specific information about the revised qualification.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Lead person for new colleges

A couple of months ago, I posted that I planned to create a list of contacts for the new regional colleges. I also mentioned it in the update letters that have recently been sent to centres.

In those letters I ask for each college to nominate a person to be the lead contact for the college. This person would be the subject contact (for vocational Computing awards) and would be used to cascade subject-related information to their colleagues.

Prior to regionalisation we maintained a list of college contacts and this worked well for contacting centres. But due to the many changes that have taken place in the sector, this list is out of date. The new college lead person for Computing doesn't have to be the most senior person in the college. It can be anyone who is willing to be the first point of contact for me and my team, and be willing to share information with their fellow lecturers.

I would appreciate if you would contact me directly if wish to serve as your college lead person. I just need a name at this time, after which I will take it from there. Of course, you should consult with colleaguees before volunteering.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Changing how we communicate

I recently posted a message about my annual update letters. In that post I stated that my annual update letters would be sent (via e-mail) to your SQA Co-ordinator for onward distribution to relevant staff. I learned today that that's not the way things are done any more.

SQA Co-ordinators in centres were getting swamped with information, and asked for more to be put into the weekly Centre News, which contains a wide range of SQA-related information about qualifications and events. This week's Centre News can be viewed here. There are links to my letters at the foot of that page and there are instructions about how to subscribe on the right hand panel.

The update letters will also appear on the respective subject pages, either here for NC/NPA awards or here for HN/PDA awards.

I appreciate that the new way of sending information like my update letters is less direct than the previous method (you have to go looking rather than it coming to you) but the old method was causing information overload. It's really another reason to read this blog. There's nothing in the update letters that hasn't been discussed on this blog -- and it arrives here a lot faster than my once-a-year letter. So please bookmark this URL or, better still, add the RSS feed to your favourite reader app. I use Feedly on my PC and smartphone. Or you can follow us on Twitter.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Update letters

I asked the admin team to send out two update letters on Friday: one for non-advanced awards and one for advanced awards. They contain important information about changes to vocational Computing awards.

The non-advanced letter includes information about new National Units, new group awards (such as NPA Digital Passport) and changes to existing awards (such as PC Passport).

The advanced letter includes information new Higher National Units and details about new and revised awards at SCQF Levels 7 and 8.

There's nothing in either letter that readers of this blog will not already know but for those who don't regularly read this blog they contain vital information about changes to qualifications, including important dates.

The letters will be sent to centres on Thursday, as part of SQA's normal (electronic) weekly update (via your SQA Co-ordinator), so look out for them shortly after that.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Aspect report for Computing

I've previously mentioned the Aspect report for Computing. The final version was published this morning. The report can be downloaded here [PDF]. I haven't had time to read this version but I was privvy to a late draft version, which was much more positive than the previous report (2009).

These subject-based Aspect reports are important. They provide an objective measure of teaching, learning and acheivement in a subject context. So, there is a lot to be taken from them. From SQA's perspective, I will go through the report to see what we can do to address the issues that are identified. One springs to mind immediately. The first recommendation is "to establish clearly the place of mathematics in computing programmes" and that is something that SQA can contribute to. I'm sure that we will be able to help in lots of ways.

I think that the sector will be pleased with the report. It makes much better reading than the previous one, and highlights many of the improvements that have taken place since then. Everyone with an interest in computing in Scottish colleges should read this report.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Digital evidence

SQA's vision is to "digitally transform" over the coming years, and we are currently looking for examples of good practice within centres. We're specifically looking for examples of where you have used digital approaches to the generation of evidence. For example, you may have used a blog to record learner activity and used that as evidence for a unit. We'd like to know the name of the qualification, the nature of the assessment, and how you (digitally) went about it. Please contact me if you have any examples.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Sector Panel

The Sector Panel for Computing met today. The Panel meets once per year and its purpose is to provide guidance about external developments. The members include representatives of schools, colleges, universities, training providers, employers, national organisations and professional bodies.

There was a good attendance today and a busy agenda, which included a discussion about the recently published report entited "Education Working for All" and soon to be published Aspect report on Computing. We were particularly fortunate to have HMIE Sheila Page attend the meeting to give members a preview of the forthcoming Aspect report (which will be published this Friday).

The Panel is not a talk-shop. We agreed on a number of actions today that we will take forward over the coming months. One of these actions will be to explore subject areas that are not well covered by the current portfolio of awards, such as software testing and data security.

We would like to increase the school and employers representation on the Panel so please contact Caroline if you are interested in participating.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Review of HNC/D Interactive Media

As you may know, we are currently revising HNC/D Interactive Media. The Qualification Design Team (QDT) met for the first time on Friday. The QDT is responsible for all aspects of the development. I chair the group. The QDT has representatives of various Scottish colleges (including City of Glasgow, Fife, Ayrshire and New College).

It was a positive and productive meeting. There was a lot of agreement about the changes that need to be made. And one in particular - that the focus should be on web development. In fact, a title change to HNC/D Web Development is a possibility. But no-one wanted major changes. The current course was dated but still popular "with great job prospects" as one of the members pointed out. So, it will be a clear evolution from what we have.

We're looking for more representation from universities and employers so if you know anyone who could help please let Caroline know.

We're not sure about timescales for this development but it's like to be available to centres from January 2016. Contact Caroline for more information about the development or to join the team.

Friday, 12 September 2014

NC Computing with Digital Media

I received notification yesterday that the Group Award Specifications for the National Certificate in Computing with Digital Media are now available on the SQA website. The Specifications can be found on the non-advanced Computing page or you can access them individually at these links:
  1. NC Computing (Level 4)
  2. NC Computing (Level 5)
  3. NC Computing (Level 6).
The support materials for these awards are available on SQA Secure.

Please note the change in title. The previous award was called Digital Media Computing. This one is called Computing with Digital Media. But, I suspect, it might simply be called Computing in practice.

My apologies for the lateness in publishing these documents. I know some of you are offering these awards this year and have had to contact Hilary directly for this information. Please contact Hilary if you require any help or assistance with these awards.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Operational plan

The team's operational plan is our work plan for the year. It defines what we aim to do during the current financial year (April to March). There are two ways for a development to get onto the plan: one way is for the qualification to be due a review (normally every five years); the other way is when a business case has been made and approved. The starting point for many new developments is the ideas capture form.

My current operational plan has a number of developments on it. These include:
  • review of NPA Digital Literacy
  • review of PC Passport
  • review of HNC/D Computer Games Development
  • review of HNC/D Interactive Media
  • review of HNC/D Information Technology.
There are a number of smaller developments too, such as the new big data units.

We're at various stages in these developments but most are at relatively early stages (some have not commenced). We're always looking for people to get involved, so please contact Hilary if you are interested in the Digital Literacy or PC Passport reviews or contact Caroline for the HN developments.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Popularity of awards

Around this time of the year, I get the annual statistics for my subject area. I received the data for 2013/14 today. It always makes interesting reading. It's fascinating to see what's actually popular in centres.

It takes me a little while to do a detailed analysis of my area but a quick glance reveals that the single most popular award is (new) HNC Computing. But the entire HN family of awards is growing in popularity, particularly HND in Software Development. That's a big change from 10 years ago, when numbers were declining.

A stand-out statistic is the uptake of the NPA in Computer Games Development, which is hugely popular in Scottish schools and colleges. That's particularly pleasing since, when we devised it, it was a bit of a gamble since, some thought, that the interest in computer games was a fad. The feedback from the centres is that learners really enjoy the course and learns vital skills (including coding).You can find out more about NPA in Computer Games Development by contacting Hilary.

The entire subject area is growing in popularity mainly, I suspect, because of the great job opportunities and the increased focus on coding as a life skill. Don't forget to download the entire qualification porfolio.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Big Data HN Unit

Some time ago I explained that we were developing a new Higher National Unit on big data. The Unit isn't finished yet, but it's a long way along the road so it seems like a good time to get your feedback. Here is the current version of the Unit.

I wanted to develop this Unit is a non-standard way, through collaboration with the wider community. Using this link you can comment on, or edit, the specification. Please feel free to comment or edit as you see fit.

I hope to have the Unit published by the end of September.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Qualification Officer vacancy

Hilary is about to begin a secondment as SQA's Digital Literacy Engagement Manager, to push forward SQA digital literacy agenda. As many of you will know, she has been heavily involved in this area for the last year, particularly through her work with Digital Passport.

As a result of Hilary's secondment, we are looking for someone to replace her as Qualifications Officer for the next couple of years. The post would focus on non-advanced qualifications such as NPAs and NCs. It's an interesting job and, we like to think, we're a friendly and supportive team. You can find out more about the job here. Or contact me directly if you want to know more.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Getting involved with SQA

One of SQA's strengths is that we work closely with the education community in Scotland (and elsewhere). That means that we involve teachers, lecturers, trainers and others in every aspect of our work including the development, maintenance and quality control of our awards. The team use this blog (and Twitter) to let you know about opportunities to get involved -- and many of you do. But we're always looking for new blood so don't be backward in coming forward.

At this time of the year I am asked to select External Verifiers (EVs) for the coming session. I will be looking at the new applications that we've received in the last year to see if I can use any of the volunteers. It's not too late to express your interest in becoming an EV. Simply send an e-mail to to find out more. External Verifiers are important to SQA and the role is fantastic CPD for the EVs themselves.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Welcome back

Most Scottish schools and colleges return from their summer holidays this week. Welcome back.

I updated the team diagram today to include minor changes that have occurred over the last few months. There are no significant changes but, nonetheless, you may want to download and print this diagram.

Please use this information when you contact SQA. Contacting the right person means that you will get a quick response.

We look forward to working with you again this coming academic session. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter if you don't do so already. We post job opportunities and other information on Twitter so it's a quick and simple way of keeping up-to-date with qualification changes.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Digital Passport FAQ

Now that the component units have been published and the group award has been validated, it seems a good time to update the FAQ for Digital Passport.

This is a major update to the FAQ (for example, it includes links to the published units) but there will be on-going minor updates as the qualification evolves. I won't keep posting messages every time the FAQ is changed. It is available online, where you will always find the latest version.

As you will see from the FAQ, the units are available (now) to any centre but the group award can only be delivered by approved centres during the pilot phase (August 2014 to July 2015). It's not too late to join the pilot. Contact Hilary if you want to know more.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Updated qualification portfolio

I updated the vocational Computing qualification diagram today. This version incorporates the latest changes to the portfolio of awards.

It includes the new Digital Passport award(s), the recently revised NC qualification(s), and the new workplace qualification in Information Security. I wasn't sure whether to label HND Computer Science as a new award but since many centres will be offering it for the first time next year, in spite of it being developed last year, I decided to think of it as a new award. As you will see from the diagram, a number of qualifications are currently being reviewed, including HND Interactive Media and PC Passport.

It's a big portfolio. There are over 90 group awards available to centres, covering everything from the very basic (such as Computer Basics at SCQF Level 3) to the very advanced (such as HND Software Development at SCQF Level 8).

Please contact Hilary (for non-advanced awards) or contact Caroline (for advanced awards) if you want to know more about existing qualifications or get involved in developments.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Core skills in Digital Passport

The National Units within Digital Passport were recently published. They were published before they were audited for core skills.

I got notification yesterday of the results of the audit. I'm pleased to report that the Units within Digital Passport carry the ICT and Problem Solving core skills (at each level). The unit specifications will be updated accordingly in the next few weeks (but the unit codes will not change). Digital Passport develops all five core skills but these two will be automatically certificated for anyone who completes the award.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Digital Passport in the news

The day I stopped for annual leave, the Times Educational Supplement (Scotland) carried a prominent article about Digital Passport. I was pleased with Julia's article, which seemed to be a fair summary of the strengths and (potential) weaknesses of the new award.

Overall, it was positive and emphasised the originality of the new qualification. The team behind it worked hard to ensure that it captured up-to-date digital literacy skills, and I do think that it is unique in what is covers. One of the criticisms of the qualification in the article is that it mustn't be "too closely linked to a narrow set of skills". That was a major objective of the development team -- to ensure that the qualification embraced high order knowledge and skills that could be transferred to new technologies as they come along.

The units are available now. The group award is available to pilot centres. Contact Hilary for more information about Digital Passport.

Friday, 18 July 2014

National Units in Digital Passport now available

The National Units that are included in the forthcoming Digital Passport award have now been published on the SQA website. They can be downloaded from the usual place by searching on their titles or they can be directly downloaded from these links (all PDFs).
These Units are available to all Scottish schools and colleges from 1 August. Other types of centre may require approval to offer them. It's great to see them published at last. It's taken a long time to produce them because they cover such new territory but, I hope, that they are worth the wait.

Contact Hilary for more information about the units or the award.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

National Occupational Standards for Big Data

I attended a focus group meeting yesterday afternoon, at Ibrox Stadium, which was organised by E-Skills UK to discuss new National Occupational Standards relating to big data.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the job roles and skills that are involved in this new area. Representatives of JP Morgan, RBS, NHS and other Scottish employers attended.

One of the key questions was: are there intermediate level jobs in this area? It's well known that there is a demand for data scientists. What is less clear is if there is a requirement for mid-level data analysts. The consensus was that there is. We discussed the skill sets involved in these roles. E-Skills hopes to have the new NOS available by October.

SQA is developing new HN Units in this area. Our focus is broader than workplace skills, and includes a high educational component (such as the social implications of big data). These new Units will be available to centres from September. Contact Caroline for further information. You can preview the units now.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Regional college contacts

I recently mentioned that I planned to create a list of regional college contacts for Computing. With all the changes to colleges over the last few years, the team's contact list is now out of date and doesn't reflect the changed college structures.

So I plan to identify a person from each regional college to be the "contact person" for the college. We would use this list of names to disseminate information to centres. The designated person would cascade the information within his/her regional college to their colleagues involved in delivering Computing qualifications.

This list would not replace the existing forms of communication. So, for example, update letters would continue to be sent to SQA Co-ordinators, and this blog would continue to provide information to anyone who reads it. But the list would be helpful to ensure that information can be disseminated quickly, perhaps in advance of a letter to centres.

We'll use our existing mailing list to ask you to identify one person from your regional college to serve as the lead contact. It's entirely up to each college to decide who this person should be. I've created a form to capture this information.

Once you've decided who you want to represent your regional college, I would appreciate if that information was added to the sheet.

Contact Caroline if you have any queries about the list.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Summer holidays

I had planned to post this message before the schools and colleges stopped for the Summer. I still miss my long Summer holidays (I enjoyed 22 years of them) but, on the plus side, it's a good time for me to catch up with things since the office is relatively quiet for the next few weeks. And it's nice to take my own holidays when it's cheaper and quieter.

Me and my team will be busy over the Summer. We are organising the pilot of Digital Passport (and developing support materials for that award), commencing the review of PC Passport, producing assessents for the revised NC Computing with Digital Media award, finalising a new CBQ in Information Security, getting the review of HNC/D Interactive Media off the ground, deciding what to do with HNC/D Information Technology, finalising new HN Units on big data, and considering some new qualifications in the area of cyber security.

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter. Even if you're enjoying the beach, it won't take long to check the team's tweets. And we'll be sure to advertise opportunities to work with us on Twitter.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

National Certificate launch event

We held the launch event for the updated National Certificate in Computing with Digital Media yesterday at the Stirling Management Centre in Stirling University. There was an excellent attendance with 46 people there, including many from schools.

The purpose of the event was to explain the changes to the current award (NC Digital Media Computing) and to outline how we will support centres when they move over to the new award. The contents of the new qualification appeared to be well received. We've added units on social media, academic skills and introduced a project in each of the three levels. We've also tried to introduce greater variety from level to level, which was a criticism of the old qualification.

The updated qualification (at SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6) will be available to all centres from 1 August 2014. Many centres expressed an interest in running a hybrid qualification next year, comprising the old award with some of the new units added. The existing qualification will go into lapsing from 1 August 2015.

Contact Hilary for more information.

Digital Passport information event

We held an information event yesterday for the new Digital Passport qualification. The event was held in Stirling. Nineteen centres attended.

It's taken a long time to get to this stage so it was a pleasure to move on from qualification development to explaining what's in the qualification. My presentation covered the contents of the new award in some detail.

Digital Passport is a digital literacy award and, we think, its contents are pretty innovative, covering such diverse topics as big data, e-safety, social presence, network neutrality and critical thinking. It has a particular focus on "digital citizenship" and the role of digital technology in modern societies. Many of the audience were from schools and I pointed out the "good fit" between Digital Passport and the recent report on vocational education in schools.

We are piloting Digital Passport next year so that we can trial support materials, and give centres an opportunity to deliver some of the challenging material inside the qualification. Please contact Hilary if you want to know more about the pilot or get involved.

Digital Passport will be officially launched (to all centres) in Spring 2015 and available for delivery (by all centres) from August 2015. In the meantime, you can download the FAQ here.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Annual Computing Conference

The College Development Network held their Annual Computing Conference yesterday in Stirling, organised by Gerry Dougan. There was an excellent turn-out, on a beautiful day in a lovely location. The focus of this year's event was teaching and learning.

It commenced, appropriately, with HMIe Sheila Page giving feedback on the forthcoming Aspect report on Computing in colleges (due September).

Sheila's comments were generally positive, and made it clear that improvements had been made since the previous report (in 2009) that was "hard hitting" as she put it. Sheila reported that the sector was "buoyant", with excellent job prospects, and a shortage of skills in many areas (particularly programming). She also emphasised that Computing was also becoming a "social enabler", needed by everyone to participate in contemporary society.

More specifically, she reported on improvements in teaching and learning, team working, and learner interaction. Less positively, colleges needed to work more closely with employers and some learning was "too passive". But the overall picture was good. Sheila made a particular point about the role of mathematics within Computing qualifications and suggested that this needed to be looked at.

A number of colleges gave presentations on best practice. The case studies were excellent. I was pleased to see Computing qualifications at the heart of many of the examples, such as New College Lanarkshire's innovative MA programme with The Royal Bank of Scotland that involved an HND.

I gave a presentation on SQA qualifications in Computing, particularly the new ones such as Digital Passport and NC Computing.

It seemed to be well received. I reminded the audience about the forthcoming launch events for Digital Passport and NC Computing, which will be held (in Stirlng) next Tuesday.

I was pleased the see the focus of the event return to teaching and learning, and thought that it was an excellent day.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Regional college contact

The last few years has seen huge changes in the college sector, with many merging into "regional colleges". From my subject's perspective, this has meant that Computing Departments have combined across several centres, often into a faculty structure along with other subjects.

I like to think that me and my team are pretty well known in centres but I am less familiar with these new combined course teams. So, during the new session, commencing August, I hope to work my way around each of the regional colleges.

I also intend to identify a regional college contact (for Computing), a single person who I can communicate with when I want to liaise with a regional college about a Computing-related issue. This won't replace my normal channels of communication (which include this blog, Twitter, QSTs, Sector Panel, and regular update letters) but gives me a named person for each new college. I'll progress this in the coming months.

Central verification of Graded Units

Central verification of the Graded Units for HNC Computing and HNC Interactive Media is taking place today (and yesterday). Half a dozen verifiers, led by the Senior External Verifier, are in the Glasgow office to look over 29 question papers (and scripts) submitted by 24 centres.

It's going well. The team has made good progress and, although they've come across one or two issues, their general view is that centres have done a good job.

They pointed out to me that we have only published two exemplars and that it would be a good idea to have more -- ideally four more but at least two more. I've asked the Senior EV to formally request this so that I can seek funding for it. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

SQA leaflet

SQA has produced a new leaflet on vocational Computing qualifications. It can be downloaded here [PDF]. Alternatively, you can use my portfolio diagram.

Digital Passport information event

I've previously written about the pilot of Digital Passport next year. So far, we've had a great response, with almost 30 centres expressing an interest in getting involved.

Hilary is currently organising an information event for these centres, when we will explain in more detail what's in the qualification and how the pilot will work. The event will take place on Tuesday, 24 June in Stirling.

I recently updated the qualification FAQ, which now includes a link to the draft units. The FAQ should answer most of your questions about this new award.

The units will be finalised in the next few days (the current versions are almost final versions) and will be published on the SQA website on 1 August. The qualification itself will be available to centres from the same date. Only pilot centres will be able to offer the award next year.

It's not too late to get involved in the pilot (or at least find out more). Contact Hilary if you want more information about the award or join us at the information event.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Education Working For All

The final report from the Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce was published last week and I recently took time out to read it. The report is called Education Working For All [PDF], was commissioned by the Scottish Goverment, and was written by Sir Ian Wood.

The background to the report is the (almost) one in five young people who are unemployed in Scotland - three times higher than the adult unemployment rate. The report focuses on the majority of young people who don't go to university and into the professions.

It has 39 specific recommendations but its essence is that Scotland must raise the status of vocational education. This will involve not only a change in perception by "parents, teachers, lecturers, employers and the media" but also greater priority to vocational pathways in schools. Among the recommendations (in fact, the first recommendation) is that the senior phase in schools should deliver vocational qualifications alongside academic qualifications. It provides examples of schools offering National and Higher National Certificates in partnership with regional colleges.

Computing is one of the subjects already pretty popular in schools. Awards such as the NPA in Computer Games Development are taken by thousands of pupils alongside more traditional courses. But there is more we could do. The idea of school pupils undertaking and HNC Computing is exciting and one that I hope to progress in the coming months.

Contact Hilary for more information about vocational Computing qualifications or download the portfolio diagram.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Diploma for Information Security Professionals (CBQ)

We are looking for writers and vetters to produce Assessment Support packs for new competence based qualifications in Information Security at SCQF levels 6 and 8.  The assessments will be required for knowledge and understanding as well as practical tasks.  Support material for 8 Units at each level is needed by September this year. There may be existing material for HN Units that could be re-purposed for this work.

If you are interested, or would like more information, please contact

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

HNC/D Interactive Media and HNC/D Information Technology

I've previously mentioned my operational plan for the coming year (April 2014-March 2015). There are two HN developments in the plan.

The HNC/D Interactive Media is due to be reviewed this year. We will be forming a Qualification Development Team (QDT) in the near future to take this forward. We've already got some volunteers but it's not too late to get involved. Contact Caroline if you want to know more or join the QDT.

The other development is a little more complicated. The HNC/D Information Technology is (over) due a review but the uptake is low and I've received suggestions for alternative qualifications to replace it. These suggestions include a new HNC/D Business Technology. I've separately received a suggestion to create a new HNC/D award in the are of cyber security. So, I plan to have a meeting with all the interested parties to decide a way forward. Once I'm clear about what to do, I will form a QDT to develop one or more of these awards (or a combination of them). Contact Caroline if you want to be involved in this meeting.

I am speaking at the forthcoming Annual Computing, ICT and Digital Media Conference when I will provide more information about both of these projects.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Alternative assessments for HN courses

A team of writers and vetters has been working on devising "alternative assessments" over the last few months. The assessments have been designed to provide a "university experience" to college students by combining the assessment of a number of outcomes into an examination or project.

The team has devised six "Alternative Assessment Approach Support Packs" (AAASPs). Here is a summary of what each one covers.

For example, the HND Networking examination covers all of the knowledge and understanding in two complete units.

We recently wrote to centres to invite you to participate in the pilot of these assessments next year. I'm delighted to report that Computing got a great response - better than any other subject area. Only designated pilot centres will be permitted to use the alternative assessments but it's not too late to volunteer. Please e-mail if you want to know more or volunteer to get involved.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Qualification Support Team

The Qualification Support Team (QST) for Computing met today in the SQA offices in Glasgow. Thirteen people attended today's meeting. Members are drawn from colleges, schools and training providers.

The role of the QST is to "effect on-going improvements to group awards and exemplify national standards". In plain English, that means the QST monitors qualifications and suggests improvements.

A key role is to consider proposals from centres to change awards. Over the course of a year, we get many suggestions for adding, removing or altering awards and units, and the QST considers each one. If it is accepted, my team implements the change. Another key role is to suggest new support materials that are needed by centres. So we spent some time today considering what is needed by centres to help them deliver SQA awards.

The QST is not a talk-shop. Today we agreed a number of changes to units and awards that we will implement before the start of next session. Please contact Hilary if you want to know more about the work of the QST or volunteer to join it. We're particularly looking for school and workplace members. The QST meets annually, with online communications between meetings.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Digital Literacy Framework

I recently mentioned SQA's Digital Literacy Competency Framework, which we have been using as the basis of the new Digital Passport awards. I asked for feedback, and one of the comments that I took to heart was that it's not a competency framework (more a list of knowledge and skills). So it's been retitled Digital Literacy Framework (DLF). It's also been updated (a little).

It's interesting to see how the "traditional" view of digital literacy (as computer literacy) is shrinking while the more contemporary view of it (as a mix of online skills, behaviours and attitudes required by "digital citizens") is growing. I think that reflects our times. The important thing to know isn't how to post a status update on Facebook (which is trivial) but what that means in terms of your social presence (and, potentially, your safety). People need to know about the opportunities and threats posed by big data more than they need to know how to design a database.

The Framework will continue to evolve. The latest version is available here.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Digital Passport pilot

I wrote to centres last week to invite you to participate in the pilot of Digital Passport. We've had a good response so far with 14 centres already coming forward.

We've also had a lot of questions from centres about such things as: "What involved in the pilot?" and "What support materials are available?". Pilot centres will be used to trial the qualification. In return, we will provide tailored help and support. A big part of the pilot will be to test the contents of the qualification and try out the support materials. We're currently developing assessments and plan to produce teaching and learning material in the near future.

Pilot centres can offer all the levels or one level -- or even one unit. Please contact Hilary if you want to know more about the pilot or volunteer to be involved. Or you can check the qualification FAQ to find out more about the award.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Cloud-based unit development

I've previously mentioned that we're producing a couple of new HN Units in the area of big data. These are:

  • Big Data (SCQF Level 7)
  • Data Science (SCQF Level 8).

The Big Data unit will be generic (but suitable for HNC Computing) and the Data Science unit will be more suited to STEM subjects (such as HND Computer Science).

I'm taking a non-standard approach to the development of these units. I plan to use the cloud (in this case, Microsoft's OneDrive) to produce them. The idea is to assemble the units in the cloud by collaboratively writing them stage by stage. The collaborators will be the writer, the vetter, and the validator.

The normal approach is to complete various forms and send versions of the units by e-mail. This works but takes time and it can be hard to monitor progress. The cloud approach promises transparency and, of course, progress is self-evident. It also permits you to see how the units are coming along, instead of the "big bang" approach whereby you don't see them until they are published.

You can see the current state of the units here. Only the Big Data unit has been started but both units will begin to take shape over the coming days and weeks.

It will be interesting to see if this approach works. Both units will be available from August.

Cyber security

I attended a meeting last night about the skills gap in cyber security, held in the Scottish Government offices in Glasgow. The event was organised by Martin Beaton of Sicsa. It was one of a number of events around Scotland to discuss what can be done to improve the "supply pipeline" of young people entering university to study information security. At present, too few people are undertaking degrees in this area to satisfy the demand from employers.

We had an interesting discussion about what could be done to stimulate interest. One of the suggestions was to develop qualifications and/or badges in this area. So there is a possibility that SQA may develop National Progression Awards in Cyber Security. The teachers present certainly thought that something like that would be very popular in schools.

There were other ideas too. One of the barriers to schools doing more in this area is lack of teacher expertise in data security and it was recognised that training was needed.

It was a good meeting with lots of positive suggestions. Martin will continue the "road show" in other locations around Scotland. I'll let you know what comes out of it.

Monday, 12 May 2014

PC Passport and Digital Passport

A letter is on its way to schools and colleges about PC Passport and Digital Passport.

Readers of this blog will know that the PC Passport review forked into two separate developments some time ago. One development will make minor revisions to PC Passport and the other development will introduce a new suite of awards entitled Digital Passport. The letter confirms that information but also invites centres to come forward to pilot the new award.

Pilotting Digital Passport will allow SQA to trial the award, and the associated support materials, with a select group of centres. This means that we can support these centres throughout the pilot period, and the pilot centres can help SQA by providing feedback. There's more information in the letter so please download it and read it if you want to know more.

The letter will arrive in schools and colleges this week but you can contact Hilary now if you want to express your interest in participating in the pilot. We're looking for some schools, colleges and training providers to volunteer.

We're excited by Digital Passport. We think it's an innovative award with many unique features. So I hope you consider coming forward for the pilot.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Qualification Support Team

The Qualification Support Team (QST) for vocational Computing qualifications meets annually and the next meeting is coming up on 28 May.

The QST, as the name infers, is responsible for supporting qualifications. The members are drawn from colleges, schools and training providers. A key responsibility is to advise SQA about the materials needed to support new or existing awards. The meetings provide an opportunity for you to tell us what you need.

Another important job for the QST is to consider proposed changes to qualifications. During the year we receive many suggestions for changes (such as the addition of an optional unit to a qualification) and this body considers a number of such ideas. If the QST accepts a suggested change then my team impliment that change.

So, the QST is an important forum for many reasons. It gives practitioners a voice about the kinds of support you need and what qualifications look like. Contact Hilary if you want to know more about QSTs or want to volunteer to become a member.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Big data

I've received a few enquiries from centres about SQA qualifications in the area of big data. A centre proposed a new PDA in this field and I am taking that forward with the representative through SQA's normal procedures (which commences with an Ideas Capture Form).

We also plan to develop a couple of generic Higher National Units in this area. These will be called Big Data (at SCQF Level 7) and Data Science (at SCQF Level 8). The Big Data unit would be very generic and suitable for a wide range of Higher National awards, including HNC Computing, but the Data Science unit would be more specialised and suitable for STEM awards (such as HND Computer Science).

The Units will be ready for June. I'll keep you posted about the proposed PDA. Contact Caroline for more information or to see draft versions of the units as they are developed.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Curriculum for Excellence event for universities and colleges

I received an invitation this morning to attend an event for university and college staff, who teach HE awards, which seeks to explain the changes that will be introduced in schools as a result of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). The event will take place on 15 May and will explain the changes in learning and assessment that are taking place and how these changes will effect the students who will be coming to universities and colleges in the future. Although the event covers all STEM subjects, the afternoon workshop is specific to Computing Science.

It sounds like a good event. Your SQA Co-ordinator should have received an e-mail about it, with details of the programme, but you can find out more by contacting or book directly here.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Guide to Assessment

SQA has recently updated and republished its long-established Guide to Assessment [PDF]. The 2014 edition has revised the Guide to bring it up-to-date with the latest advice and definitions. The Guide contains information and advice about:

  • purpose of assessment
  • principles of assessment
  • ensuring validity
  • methods of assessment
  • types of questioning
  • authentication.

Although there is some theory in it (such as the principles of assessment), it also contains practical advice about such things as the stages in developing an assessment and how to authenticate students' work.

I think that it's essential reading for teachers, lecturers, External Verifiers and anyone else involved in the assessment process.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Social Media Group

I previously mentioned that I gave a presentation at a recent internal event about my team's use of social media. After that, I was asked to lead a Short Life Working Group ("Social Media Group") to discuss how best qualification teams can use social media to be more open and transparent. The hope is that a number of qualification teams will start to use social media to engage with stakeholders.

Social media can be great for keeping you up-to-date with general developments (this blog is an example of that) or let you know how a specific development is coming along (such as the HN Review blog) or just to make sure everyone has an opportunity to see what opportunities are available (such as my recent announcement).

SQA wants to encourage openness and transparency so look out for more qualification teams using social media in the near future.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Unit writing

I've spent a lot of time involved in the unit writing process over the last few weeks. Two developments have produced a number of new or revised units: the NC Review and the Digital Passport development.

The Digital Passport units have been particularly challenging. This is because the award is so new -and its contents reflect this. For example, the units on Network Literacy will be first national qualifications in this area from any awarding body in the world. While it's exciting to be part of any world-first project, it also takes a lot of time to try to get it right.

Unit specifications are fairly technical documents, written for professional practitioners, and they come with their own rules and etiquettes. The Guide for Writers defines the rules and provides advice:

Whenever we're looking for people to write units we'll advertise the opportunities in the usual way.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Digital Literacy Competency Framework

We've been developing a Digital Literacy Competency Framework (DLCF) for some time. This framework defines the knowledge, skills and behaviours expected from someone who is considered digitally literate.

We've used this framework to develop the new Digital Passport award, and it will be the basis of future digital literacy awards. Unlike similar frameworks, the DLCF defines not only knowledge and skills but also the attitudes and behaviours that the modern citizen needs. It's also very up-to-date, including such things as "attention literacy" - the mindfulness that is needed to overcome the distractions of the modern age.

We think that the Framework is a pretty unique mix of knowledge, skills and behaviours -- but it's still evolving so let us know, in the comment section, if you think that we've left anything out.

Contact Hilary if you want to know more about the DLCF or our digital literacy awards.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Enhancements to HN Qualifications

The information event for this project took place today in Jury's Inn in Glasgow. There was an excellent turnout.

The purpose of today's event was to let centres know about the project, and also to ask for volunteers to get involved in the pilot.

I've mentioned this initiative several times before. Computing is one of four subject areas chosen to "enhance" our HN qualifications to make them better suited for articulation with university. We did this by devising alternative assessments that try to look more like university assessments. We devised four alternative assessments: one project for HNC Computing and three exams for various HNDs. This document lists the alternative assessments.

These assessments combine the individual unit assessments into one large assessment. For example, the Networking exam covers two entire units. I was pleased to see that Computing has managed to combine more outcomes into our assessments than any other subject area.

We're currently looking for pilot centres to get involved in this project. These centres would deliver the new assessments either in place of, or alongside, the current assessments. We would ask pilot centres to provide us with some feedback on their experience of using these assessments (via an online survey). The pilot will run from 2014 to 2016. Only centres that sign-up for the pilot will be permitted to use these alternative assessments, so it's vital that your centres does so if you want to be involved.

I was delighted that eight centres expressed their interest in being involved in the pilot at today's meeting. But anyone can still volunteer. Please e-mail to express your interest or ask any questions about this project.

Monday, 17 March 2014


We met with the SOLAR team this afternoon. SOLAR is SQA's online assessment system. The purpose of today's meeting was to discuss the the current and future support of Computing qualifications by SOLAR.

SOLAR has been been providing e-assessments for Computing awards for almost ten years now (2005). In fact, Computing has more SOLAR assessments than any other subject. The assessments mostly take the form of online objective tests but more recently it has included other forms of on-screen testing. Most colleges, and many schools, now use SOLAR on a regular basis.

The purpose of today's meeting was to review the current use of SOLAR and think about what new awards need to be added. The use of SOLAR (for Computing) by centres is mixed. Some awards are heavily used, such as the HN Computing qualifications (old and new), and some awards are not so popular, such as the NC awards. We also discussed the new awards that are coming down the pipeline -- particularly Digital Passport, which we intend to support in various ways - including SOLAR.

Please contact if you want to know more about this service or find out what qualifications are supported. There are dozens of Computing units covered by hundreds of assessments.

Working with us

One of the less positive results from our annual satisfaction survey relates to opportunities to work with SQA. A lot of respondents reported that they were unaware of how they can participate in SQA work, such as membership of committees, writing units or developing support materials.

Working with SQA is not only great CPD but many of the jobs attract a fee. We have tried to make these opportunities as transparent as possible (through this blog, e-mail lists, etc.) but the survey's results would appear to show that we need to try harder. We also try to "cast the net wide" and get a lot of people involved (rather than using the same people all of the time). Of course, we need people to volunteer before we can do that.

To address both of these issues (improve transparency and increase the number of volunteers) we will "advertise" every opportunity on Twitter. So, if you don't already do so, please follow the team on Twitter. We chose this platform because, we think, it's the one that you are most likely to use since it comes pre-installed on most smartphones and can be accessed on all sorts of devices. So, if you want to know what opportunities are available, please follow the team.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

NC Computing FAQ

I mentioned previously that we intended to create a FAQ for all new or revised qualifications. Our first FAQ was for the new Digital Passport award.

We have just completed the FAQ for the revised NC Digital Media Computing awards.

Please remember that these FAQs are temporary - to cover the period between the validation event and the award(s) becoming available to centres. Thereafter, this information (and more) will be provided via the SQA website.

If your question about the revised NCs isn't answered by the FAQ, please contact Hilary.