Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Information event for "PIloting Enhancements to HN Qualifications" pilot

I've written about the HN Alternative Assessent project many times. We're now at the stage of the project when we want to publicise it and invite centres to get involved.

There will be an information event on Tuesday, 18 March in Glasgow (venue to be decided). The purpose of the event will be to describe the "enhancements" we've made to each qualification and invite centres to become involved in a pilot programme, which will run from 2014 to 2016. These pilot centres would be asked to deliver the alternative assessments.

SQA wrote to college principals last week to invite nominations to the event so your Principal should have this information if you are interested in getting involved. I should add that only pilot centres will be permitted to offer the alternative assessments so you have to come forward if you want to be involved. I hope that several colleges want to offer the alternative assessments for the HN Computing awards.

Please e-mail for more information.

Heads of Computing event feedback

We asked you to complete an event evaluation survey for the recent Heads of Computing event. We closed the survey this morning and we now have the results.

The overall satisfaction rating for the event was 93%. The organisation of the event was very positively evaluated, and the agenda, format and duration of the day were liked. On a less positive note, the location was less well liked and the directions to the room were criticised. But, overall, the event appears to have been a success.

We added a couple of questions about next year's event and, as a result of this feedback, we propose to run the event in January (your most popular choice) in Stirling (a suggestion from a respondent). We also asked what you wanted us to discuss, and the overwhelming majority want qualification development, e-assessment and support materials to figure prominently. We introduced a "keynote" talk last year and this, too, is a popular part of the agenda, which we will continue next year.

Contact Caroline if you have any queries about this event (either the one past or next year's).

Monday, 24 February 2014

Digital Passport FAQ

We often get enquiries about new awards (such as "When will it be available?" and "Can my centre offer it?") so we decided to create a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for all new (or significantly changed) awards. Our first FAQ is about Digital Passport.

You can download a PDF version of it here. I hope that it's of some use to you.

We will produce a FAQ for all future developments so look out for them in future. The next one will be for the revised NC awards. Let me know (via the comment facility) if there are any questions omitted from the FAQ that you would like answered.

Updated subject definitions

As readers will know, we recently made changes to the External Verification Groups. This was done in response to a Royal Society report that made recommendations about naming the subject area. The new Verification Groups are:
  • 288 Information Technology
  • 357 Computer Science
  • 358 Digital Literacy
While the overall subject area remains "Computing", it is now sub-divided into these sub-groups. We recently updated the definitions that SQA uses for the cognate groups.

This is more than a cosmetic change. For one thing, it will effect External Verification but, perhaps more importantly, it helps us to view the subject area differently from an academic perspective. It also highlights the growing importance of digital literacy and computer science.

These definitions will be maintained here so that you can check the most up-to-date version. Contact me if you have any comments or suggestions about this document or contact Allison Paterson if you have any questions about External Verification.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Vocational qualifications in schools

Computing is one of the subject areas with a significant number of vocational qualifications in Scottish schools, which have traditionally offered National Units and some vocational group awards. For example, during the present session, over 1000 pupils are currently undertaking the NPA in Computer Games Development.

I was invited to talk to a group of Aberdeenshire teachers in Kemnay Academy yesterday, who wanted to know more about the vocational qualications available to schools. They particularly wanted to know more about the suite of NPAs available to schools and colleges.

So I gave a presentation on vocational qualifications in general and the Computing ones in particular. I highlighted some specific awards, such as the new National Units called Computer Basics and the forthcoming award entitled NPA Digital Passport. I pointed out some of the advantages of vocational qualifications: the large choice, the range of subjects covered, the more flexible assessment, and the materials available to support them.

Around 20 teachers were present and, I think, they were genuinely interested in how their schools could compliment the "standard" provision with some vocational awards. If you want to know more about why your centre might want to consider offering vocational awards, look through the presentation or contact Hilary directly.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Computing Aspect report

I attended the College Development Network, in Stirling, yesterday to get early feedback on the findings of the Computing Aspect Report. Sheila Page, HMIE, spoke at the recent Heads of Computing event to give informal feedback on her findings during the recent inspection of Computing in colleges. Representatives of several colleges attended yesterday's event.

The college inspections were carried out by two HMIEs, including Sheila, and five Associate Assessors, and consisted of two visits to six colleges. It involved classroom observations, discussions with college managers, and analysis of Performance Indicators (PIs).

Although Sheila emphasised that this was interim, not final, feedback, it sounded positive, and certainly more positive than the previous report, in 2009, which was critical of teaching and learning in colleges. So it looks like some significant improvements have taken place since then. She was particularly complimentary about resources, the balance between theory and practical learning, and the commitment of learners. However, some things, such as the way teaching was presented "had headroom for improvement", using active learning and project work. But much progress seems to have been made since 2009.

Sheila wanted our feedback on her findings. There was pretty much unanimous view that CPD remains a problem in a subject area, as one attendee put it, "with a unique need for on-going CPD due to the rate of change in the subject area". I asked about assessment practice in colleges (the previous report alluded to "teaching to the test") and Sheila agreed to give this some consideration for inclusion in the final report.

There will be lessons, too, for me and my team since the final report will discuss qualifications and the curriculum. I look forward to reading it. The report will be finalised by June and published in September.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

PC Passport and Digital Passport

The team has had a few queries recently about PC Passport. As regular readers will know, we set out to revise PC Passport some time ago but decided, very early in the development, that we would fork the development and produce two awards: a new one called Digital Passport and a revised version of PC Passport. Both awards (PC Passport and Digital Passport) are part of our Passport family of awards, which we hope to develop further in the coming years.

Most of our efforts, so far, have went into creating the new Digital Passport. It was validated a couple of weeks ago (with conditions). We hope to have the award finalised and available to centres by the end of April.

We haven't forgotten about PC Passport, which remains hugely popular in schools and colleges. The current version will be refreshed to bring it fully up-to-date with current developments in the PC field. But there won't be huge changes so you can rest assured that the revised version will be familar to you. We expect the refreshed PC Passport to be available to centres later this year (but not before the start of the new session).

Contact Hilary for further information on either qualification.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Feedback on Computing Aspect report

I mentioned the subject-based Aspect report on Computing in my summary of the recent Heads of Computing event. Sheila Page gave some initial (oral) feedback on her findings (which sounded positive). The College Development Network has organised an event (this coming Monday) when Sheila will give more extensive feedback on what will be in the latest report. It sounds like an interesting (and important) day for everyone involved in delivering Computing in Scottish colleges. You can find out more, and register, here.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Heads of Computing presentations

I promised to share the presentations from the recent Heads of Computing event. A zip file, containing them all, can be downloaded here or individual presentations can be downloaded here.

We also provided delegates with an updated portfolio diagram, which shows the range of vocational Computing awards available from SQA.

It can be downloaded here.

If you attended the event, we would be grateful if you would spend a few minutes completing the event survey so that we can gauge your satisfaction with it. The survey can be found here.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Heads of Computing event

The Heads of Computing event was held in the Menzies Hotel in Glasgow on Friday. This annual event has taken place for the last ten years, and has proven to be popular with college staff. It's an important event for the SQA team since it gives us an opportunity to meet key stakeholders face-to-face and hear, at first hand, their views about the service that we provide. There was an excellent attendance with over 50 people attending, representing almost every college in Scotland.

The agenda was varied. Martyn Ware, Head of Assessment in SQA, gave the keynote, which was entitled: "The future is already here". It was thought provoking and well received. Martyn emphasised SQA's "commitment to modernising assessment" and our desire to "encourage digital evidence". He also highlighted the growing popularity of SOLAR.

This talk was followed by Sheila Page (HMIE) who gave preliminary feedback on the current subject-based Aspect report on Computing. Sheila had good news. She reported that there had been "improvements in teaching and learning" since the last report (2009).

There were two particulalry important presentations about two major developments taking place right now. Frank Frame updated attendees on the forthcoming Digital Passport suite of awards. Frank emphasised the importance of digital literacy skills, and described how Digital Passport aims to deliver these vital skills.

David Renton introduced the revised National Certificate awards, which have just been validated. He highlighted some of the improved features of the updated awards, such as the inclusion of projects and greater focus on academic skills at the higher levels. Both Digital Passport and the revised NC awards seemed the be genuinely well received by the audience.

The event appeared to go well. The people that I spoke to all seemed to have enjoyed it and got something from it. We formally evaluate this event (using an online survey) so all participants will be contacted in the near future to ask for the views about the event. We'll also send a link to the presentations that were used on the day. In the meantime, please contact Hilary if you have any queries about this event or contact Caroline if you want to know about next year's event.

Monday, 3 February 2014

National Certificate Digital Media Computing validation

The validation event for the revised NC Digital Media Computing was held last Thursday. This development started around a year ago, so we have been pretty quick to bring it to validation.

The validation panel consisted of representatives of colleges, schools, employers and special interest groups (such as E-Skills UK and SkillSet). It was a large, experienced and representative group of people. The panel was convened by Lorraine Johnson of Ayrshire College. The QDT was represented by the three lead developers (there was one for each level) and, of course, me and Hilary.

It was a full day event because we had to consider three levels (SCQF 4, 5 and 6). The panel scrutinised the proposals very carefully. The outcome was that the award was validated with conditions and recommendations. The QDT felt that the suggested changes will all improve the award. One of the conditions related to the name of the award. The QDT was asked to consider one of two options: NC Computing with Digital Media or NC Computing.

So, we (the QDT) must now work on the conditions and recommendations, with the objective of getting the conditions lifted by the end of March. We're confident that we can do that, and have the award available to centres from May. I'll keep you updated on progress via this blog but contact Hilary if you want to discuss the changes in more detail or see a preview of the revised award(s).