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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 hnenhancementpilot@sqa.org.uk 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.