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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

NPAs

We had a meeting this morning about National Progression Awards (NPAs).

My team are developing a large suite of NPAs (19 in total). There are currently seven available to centres (such as PC Passport and Digital Literacy) and another 11 under development (with one not yet started).

We had hoped to validate three before Christmas but this was delayed due to a last minute hitch (the industry representative on the validation panel was unable to attend). The three delayed awards are:

1. Still Images, Audio and Video (SCQF Levels 4 and 5)
2. Animation (SCQF Level 5).

We have re-arranged the validation event to mid-January.

The other awards are quite far along the development cycle and will be validated in February (three more) and March (the last three).

The NPA that is about to commence is called NPA in Social Software and includes a new unit from the suite of Digital Culture units.

I'm confident we'll have the full suite of NPAs available to centres by May of next year.

Contact Shirley if you want more information.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Evaluation of the Heads of Computing event

After every major event, I organise a survey to gauge attendees' satisfaction with the event.

I did a survey after the recent Heads of Computing event. Nineteen attendees (around 50%) completed the questionnaire. The results can be seen here.

Overall, the response was very good, with almost 80% of respondents considering the event "good" or "very good" and 95% expressing overall satisfaction with the event. But we'll look at the criticisms and try to address these next time.


Friday, 19 December 2008

Improved Internet Safety website... and Merry Xmas

Jacque's been working on the Internet Safety website, to bring it up to date. I checked it this morning and it's looking good. It now provides up-to-date information and support materials (including an updated FAQ) on this qualification. Contact Jacque for any queries relating to Internet Safety.

The team's Xmas party is today, and I know many centres stop for the holiday today, so it seems a good time for me and my team to wish everyone a good holiday. As always, its been great working with the Computing community this last year.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Heads of Computing event

We held our annual Heads of Computing event on Friday. Over 40 people attended the meeting and there was a busy agenda covering such topics as the new HND developments (Interactive Media and Computer Games Development), SOLAR, and the new IT National Occupational Standards.



Two topics seemed to be of particular interest: the report from the Senior External Verifier (David Drennan), who told the audience about the main issues he discovered while visiting centres, and the discussion about recruitment, retention and achievement given by Ron Dillin.

I felt the event went well but I'll be surveying the attendees to find out for sure. You can download the presentations using the link below.
Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

Save File: presentations.zip

Next Generation User Skills report

Some of you may have missed a report, commissioned by SQA, about the user skills required in the next five years. It can be downloaded here [PDF] and it makes interesting reading. We're in the process of hiring a consultant to review our qualifications to ensure that our portfolio matches these identified skills.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

SQA website

The SQA web team has been working hard over the last few months to improve the SQA website. Each subject now has its own home page and the (vocational) Computing one is full of useful information.

I checked the Computing home page this morning and found arrangements documents, FAQs, update letters and the whole host of other helpful documents there. We recently uploaded a report on Next Generation User Skills [PDF], which describes the IT skills that will be needed in 2013.

There are also dedicated pages on specific Computing qualifications, such as PC Passport and Internet Safety.

So, it's a page worth bookmarking.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Verifiers meeting

The verifiers for Computing met today in Glasgow as part of their on-going schedule of regular meetings.



These meetings are very useful for verifiers to meet each other and discuss field issues, and the Senior Verifier (David Drennan) uses it to keep his EV team up-to-date withe developments. I also took the opportunity to inform the EVs about what's going on in my team, including the new HNDs (Interactive Media and Computer Games Development), changes to the National Occupational Standards, and achievement problems with HNC/D Computing. Caroline spoke about the support materials for the HN awards related to Computing/IT.

Being an External Verifier is a great way to keep up-to-date with what's going on across Scotland so contact SQA if you want to be considered for this role.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Heads of Computing Event - Reminder.......

It's only 2 weeks until we hold the Heads of Computing Update event (Friday 12th December) so please if you have not yet registered and plan to come along, please do so now at the URL below to secure your place.

http://www.rsvpbook.com/event.php?462902

Friday, 21 November 2008

Internet Safety

We are in the process of creating a 'one stop shop' for Internet Safety. At present there are various materials to support this award but are in different locations. Our aim is to create a page on SQA's website to house all the related material, such as the:
  • Unit specification
  • Assessment Support Pack
  • Teaching and Learning materials
  • Delivery Guide
  • link to the e-assessment engine

I would hope that this new web page will be operational in a week or so and will advise you of the link at that time.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

HND Interactive Media - Validation Event Volunteers

I recently posted to the HND Interactive Media blog requesting volunteers for the forthcoming HND Interactive Media validation event being held late January 2009 (actual date to be confirmed).

Unfortunately I've had a poor response so if interested in volunteering for the representation areas listed in the blog post please get in touch.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

HN Graded Unit Exam Exemplars

I have received a few e-mails regarding the status on new Exam Exemplar materials for both Computing and IT.

We have not produced any new materials this year (2008/9) but have submitted a budget bid for 2009/10 exam exemplar development which we hope is successful.

The following verified materials are available now on the SQA secure website:

HNC Computing - Graded Unit 1 Exam Exemplar (DH36 34) - six versions
HNC Information Technology - Graded Unit 1 Exam Exemplar (DV6D 34) - six versions
HNC Interactive Media - Graded Unit 1 Exam Exemplar (F21G 34) - one version

Our Support Materials section are funding another three versions of the HNC Interactive Media Graded Unit Exemplar with an anticipated publishing date of April 2009.

If you are producing your own exam exemplar material for DH36 34 or DV6D 34 then please allow approximately 6 weeks from the date sent to us for prior-verification - all materials sent in for prior-verification should go to our Assessment Standards section.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Digital Culture Units - Consultation

We have in development a suite of Digital Culture Units at SCQF Levels 4 - 8.

These are now out for consultation until the end of November 2008. A blog has been created exclusively for this purpose and gives an excellent overview of each Unit as well as the draft specifications.

Please follow the URL below to access this Blog and please feel free to comment on the draft units using the comment facility:

http://digital-culture.info

Friday, 14 November 2008

Heads of Computing - Online Registration

Further to Bobby's blog post yesterday, if you are interested in coming along to the Heads of Computing event on Friday 12th November in Glasgow then please register online by clicking the URL below:

http://www.rsvpbook.com/event.php?462902

At this moment in time, the limit is 2 delegates per centre. A letter and agenda have been sent to our despatch section and should be posted to all FE Centres early next week.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Meeting for Heads of Computing

Caroline and I discussed plans today for the forthcoming meeting of Heads of Computing.

We're a little late in organising it (it's usually November each year) and I know that you do your plans for next year at this time so we were keen to hold it ASAP.

This year's event will take place on Friday, 12 December commencing at 10am and finishing at 3.30pm. It will be held in Marriott Hotel in Glasgow. It should be a good event, including an overview of current curricular developments and a number of spotlights on such things as the new HND Interactive Media, an update on the HND Computer Games Development, changes to the National Occupational Standards, and Ron Dillin is going to speak about performance indicators in Computing.

Caroline will write to every centre, providing a detailed agenda, in the near future. But, in the meantime, this is a date for your diary. An online registration site will be available soon.

Please contact Caroline for more information.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Planning for next year

The Computing team met this afternoon to discuss our plans for next year (FY 2009/10).

There are a number of on-going projects (such as the HND Computer Games project) and important new projects (such as the NOS review) that we have to support, but we are open to suggestions from you, if you want to propose projects that me and my team could support.

Feel free to add a comment to this post or e-mail me directly if you have ideas for new qualifications or specific support needs that you would like SQA to provide. We would welcome suggestions about qualifications, assessment packs, or teaching and learning resources.

HND Computer Games Development

The first meeting of the Qualification Development Team (QDT) for the HND Computer Games Development was held this morning.

There was a good attendance. This being the first meeting, we spent most of the time discussing the role of the QDT and the various tasks involved in developing a new qualification. But we also spent some time discussing the aims and objectives of the award, and the sorts of jobs that the course would lead to. These included games tester, game mod developer, and script writer. We agreed that freelance (self-employed) work would also be important. Of course, articulation with Higher Education would also be vital.



This project will not only develop an HND award but also review the existing HNC qualification so that there was a good fit between them.

I'm hoping that the new awards will be available to centres from January 2010. You can find out more about the project from Tony Gurney (the lead developer) or contact Caroline if you want to be involved in this development.

Friday, 7 November 2008

HN annual report

The HN annual report was made available on the SQA website today.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Leckie & Leckie - PC Passport (Intermediate)

Leckie & Leckie have now officially launched their new Intermediate PC Passport publication which can be purchased direct from their website.

I've listed below the two available publications:

PC Passport Course Notes with CD-ROM - Beginner Level 2nd Edition (ISBN: 9781843725916)

PC Passport Course Notes with CD-ROM - Intermediate Level 2nd Edition (ISBN:9781843725923)

To place an order, please click on the URL below:

http://www.leckieandleckie.co.uk/products/buy_online.asp

HNC Interactive Media Graded Unit - Assessment Writer Wanted

Further to an earlier post by Bobby regarding the the availability of funds to develop a further three Assessment Exemplar packs for the above Unit, we are now seeking a writer(s) to develop this material.

If interested, please contact me direct for further information (caroline.douglas@sqa.org.uk)

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Video gaming to be bigger than music

Interesting piece on the growth of video games in the next few years.


Thursday, 23 October 2008

Additional examplars for HNC Interactive Media Graded Unit

I agreed today, with colleagues in the Assessment Support team, to develop additional exemplars for the Graded Unit in the HNC Interactive Media award.

At present there is only a single assessment exemplar for this unit (in fact, there is none, since the one we commissioned is not yet published... but it's coming). So three additional packs will bring the total to four. The three new packs will be available to centres from April next year. The existing pack will be published next week.

Contact Caroline for more information about HN exemplars.

Sector Panel meeting

A bi-annual meeting of the Sector Panel for Computing met yesterday (in Glasgow). It was a good meeting, with most members managing to attend.

The Panel is primarily responsible for advising SQA about external developments and helping me to identify what qualifications needs to be developed. It's also a good forum to give me strategic direction on a number of issues. There are representatives of FE, HE, vendors, and industry serving on it.

Yesterday's agenda included a presentation about Glow, an interesting discussion about achievement in the Computing area (previously discussed), and a debate about links with vendors.


That final topic was particularly interesting to me. My team find it difficult to keep up-to-date with the changes that vendors make to their qualifications and curricula. The Panel provided many constructive suggestions and we agreed to commission a report into the possible options.

Please contact Shirley if you want to know more about the work of the Sector Panel or volunteer to serve on it.

Monday, 20 October 2008

New Computing team (vocational awards)

I previously mentioned that the Computing team was changing and we have now carried out the changes. Here is the new team set-up.


The new team met this afternoon for the first time when we discussed the new responsibilities.

Please download, print and keep this document since it will save you a lot of time if you contact the right person. The whole team look forward to working with you over the coming months.

Friday, 17 October 2008

HND Computer Games Development

We have now selected the lead developer and Qualification Development Team members for this development.

Congratulations to Tony Gurney (Ayr College) in being selected as lead developer. The other members of the QDT are: Fiona Jackson (Forth Valley), Fiona Rushton (JWC), Ian Tyson (JWC), Gillian Flockhard (Dundee), Iain McArthur (JEC) and Scott Fleming (West Lothian).

It's not too late if you want to be involved in this exciting project. Let Caroline know if you do.

We're aiming to have the new HND available to centres from January 2010.

Monday, 13 October 2008

New core skills

The entire suite of core skill frameworks has been updated recently, including the IT one.

The changes are not huge but sufficient to make reference to the new skills vital before writing units or making any core skill claims.

The changes are not retrospective... so there is no question of "re-auditing" existing qualifications to check if they are still compatible.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Presentation to Police Cadets

I attended a lovely ceremony at Strathclyde Police HQ this morning, when all of the cadets who successfully completed the Internet Safety award were presented with their certificates.



Over 50 cadets were present and the Assistant Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police presented the awards. It's great to see a project come to completion like this.

You can find out more about Internet Safety from Caroline.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Internet Safety and SOLAR

SOLAR is SQA's new e-assessment system, and the team behind it are rapidly adding materials to it.

Internet Safety is one of the first qualifications to be added to it. Both assessments and learning materials are available via the SOLAR website. So, any centre can now access the materials and undertake the assessments.

Contact Caroline for more information about Internet Safety and Joan for more information about SOLAR.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Leckie & Leckie - PC Passport Publications (New)

At the Scottish Learning Festival event taking place at the SECC both today and tomorrow, Leckie and Leckie will be officially launching their new PC Passport publication for Beginner Level (ISBN: 9781843725916).

PC Passport - Intermediate Level (ISBN: 9781843725923) is due to be published mid October.

To place an order, please click on the URL below:

http://www.leckieandleckie.co.uk/products/buy_online.asp

Friday, 19 September 2008

Changes to the Computing team

I've alluded to imminent changes to the Computing team in a number of recent posts and today I met with my team to discuss the changes that are going to take place.

SQA has been planning an internal restructure for a long time and the plans for these changes have now been finalised and will be implemented from 1 October.

The changes do not greatly effect the Computing team, in the sense that the team will continue with its current portfolio of qualifications. But its composition is changing. In particular, I'm losing Angela who is going to a new team dealing with "essential skills". It's a great opportunity for Angela and a great loss to Computing, since Angela (in one capacity or another) has been supporting Computing qualifications for the last four years. She will be sorely missed.

But I'm gaining someone who many of you will know very well. Shirley Sampson is returning the fold! Shirley has been doing a number of jobs within SQA during the last few years but she is now coming back as QO from 1 October. I'm delighted to have her knowledge, experience and wisdom back on the team. And there's a new face. Jacqueline Cambpell is going to join the team. Jacqui was previously involved in the Sport for Life project.

Although I'm losing one person (Angela) and gaining two (Shirley and Jacqueline), in fact the size of the team is falling since Angela was full-time and both Shirley and Jacqui are part-time. So, it will be a challenge to maintain the level of service. The continued presence of Caroline (QO) provides some continuity.

The Computing team will be part of a new qualification area called "Business & Industry", led by Gordon Rodgers. I'm looking forward to working for Gordon who has been very helpful and supportive to me.

I'm sure that the changes will be good for the subject area once the dust settles and everyone knows what they are doing. I'll post an updated organisation chart, showing precisely who is doing what, as soon as I have put one together.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Computing performance problems

I attended a meeting at SFEU this afternoon to discuss problems with HNC/D Computing at college. There were representatives of HMIE, the Funding Council and SQA (myself) there.

For some time now, the uptake of HNC/D Computing has been declining. The decline has been less than the fall in university applications for Computing subjects but it still has been marked. And the performance indicators (such as student retention and student achievement figures) are not good.

There has been an on-going debate about these problems for some time but yesterday's meeting provided an opportunity for a detailed discussion about the issues, together with some possible solutions.

The problems appears to be caused by a number of factors including the quality of teaching, staff development and training, and the curriculum itself. I have a special responsibility for the curriculum and was particularly interested in this aspect of the discussions. The pass rates in a few specific units are particularly low and I promised to look into this and see if there is anything that can be done to improve the pass rate (without compromising standards).

I offered to create a survey to get some hard facts and figures about the issues and I will do this in the next week or two.

There are issues surrounding Computing in every sector (school, college and university) but it's good to see some positive action taking place to address the problems.

Moderning assessment

My paper about modernising assessment has got me invitations to speak at lots of events. This morning's event was one of the smaller but more enjoyable talks - to a small group of Head Teachers from Inverclyde.

They were a lively group... and surprisingly supportive of modernising assessment. This has been a recurring theme whenever I've presented my paper - that nearly every teacher (whether from school, college or university) agrees with the need to update assessment. My presentation usually stimulates debate and yesterday was no different. I really enjoyed listening to the views of secondary HTs.

Computing e-Learning Materials

Please note that the Computing e-Learning materials are now fully hosted at the following URL:

http://www.sqa.org.uk/e-learning/computing

The temporary hosting site at http://www.e-learning-computing.com has now been cancelled as all materials are through the main SQA website.

Friday, 12 September 2008

More on Digital Culture

When I got back from London last night, I had a meeting with the person (Ted Hastings) who is developing the suits of new units relating to Digital Culture. Ted lives in Spain but, thanks to Skype, it's no problem to meet with him.

Ted has now produced a draft specification for each of the proposed units at SCQF Levels 6, 7 and 8. They make interesting reading. Not only from a content perspective, although they cover lots of interesting Web 2.0 stuff relating to online collaboration, but also from an assessment perspective. Ted has taken Assessment 2.0 to heart. He's proposing an element of teacher, peer and self-assessment in each of the units.

There's still a lot of work to be done on the units. I'll share the drafts via this blog when they are in a fit state. But they make very interesting reading even at this stage.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Awarding Body Forum

I spent today in London, attending an Awarding Body Forum, which is hosted by E-Skills UK. The purpose of these meetings is to provide a communication channel between the Sector Skills Council for IT (E-Skills) and the awarding bodies that provide IT qualifications across the UK.

Although much of the agenda inevitably relates to England, they are always interesting meetings and it's a good way for me to keep up to date with UK-wide developments. Today's agenda included developments at E-Skills, news about a revised GCSE in IT, Modern Apprenticeships, and an update on progress with the revised National Occupational Standards.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Interactive Teaching and Learning Materials

Over the past few months, we have developed additional interactive teaching and learning packs that cover a selection of HN Units that are included in HN Computing, Information Technology, Interactive Media and Computer Networking awards.

These have now been uploaded to the SQA website and can be accessed by clicking on http://www.sqa.org.uk/e-learning/computing.

Friday, 5 September 2008

HND Computer Games QDT and lead developer

This morning I put out a request for volunteers for the Qualification Development Team (QDT) for the new HND Computer Games Development qualification. As previously noted, we had an open meeting of all interested parties last month and, as a result, decided to progress with this work.

The first stage in any new development is to form a QDT, and appoint a person to lead the work (a "lead developer"). So, I posted an appeal on the online group (there is a dedicated one for this project) and I'm hoping that I get a good response. I'm looking for one person to serve as lead developer, and around six people to serve on the QDT.

If you missed the open meeting and want to know more about this development, contact Caroline.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Online groups

The Computing team has been using online groups (Smartgroups (RIP), Yahoogroups and, more recently, Jiglu) for a long time. In the days of Smartgroups they were very active indeed. They are less active now.

At the Computing team meeting on Tuesday, we discussed the use of these groups. There are a lot of groups still in existence, although many of these are hardly used. So, we decided to review the groups and rationalise them by combining the low usage ones. A final decision has not been made about what groups we will continue to support and what ones will be killed off but I'll post something in the near future.

The review of the online groups coincides with internal changes in SQA that I'll write more about shortly.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Professional Development Workshops

For the last few years SQA has been organising PDWs to help teachers to understand standards in NQ Courses.  You may already have heard that this year a PDW is being organised for Higher Information Systems.  The workshop will use examples of candidates’ work from the 2008 examination diet to develop delegates’ understanding of national standards.

More details can be found here.

PC Passport and UCAS points

We've been trying to get PC Passport recognised for UCAS credit for some time. This is important for schools that want to help students progress to university.

I spent some of this morning checking a proposal to allocate "40 to 50" UCAS points to PC Passport at Higher level. While this is not official yet, it is very promising and I'm hoping that a definitive value will be assigned soon. Watch this space...

Thursday, 28 August 2008

NC Digital Media Computing Level 6

Bobby and I met yesterday to discuss the progress of the NC DMC level 6 Award. The award went live this month with the arrangements document and Units available to download on the SQA Website. We are currently producing Assessment Support Packs for the following Units:

Computing: Digital Media Elements for Applications
Computing: Office and Personal Productivity Applications
Computing: Computer Hardware and Systems
Computing: Authoring a Website
Computing: Plan and Build a Computer Network
Digital Acquisition and Editing: Audio
Digital Acquisition and Editing: Video

These packs will be available and on the Secure Site in October.

Welcome to National Qualifications colleagues

SQA is actively looking at ways of using technology (and particularly Web 2.0 tools and services) to work more closely with schools, colleges and other centres. We're currently looking at tools like blogs and wikis to help us do that in a more inclusive and collaborative way than we've done in the past. The result should be that you notice a change in the way that SQA communicates and works with you in the coming months and years.

One immediate change is that the NQ Computing team (the team responsible for Computing qualifications in the school sector) is going to join this blog and post information about that sector. So, welcome to Derek and Dave!

In fact, it makes good sense since Computing qualifications are not neatly split between colleges, schools and workplaces, with qualifications such as PC Passport spanning all three.

Anyway, it nice to see the whole SQA Computing team collaborate in this way.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Welcome back

I've been trying to find the time since Monday to post a "welcome back" message. I still miss the long summer holidays (as a Head of Department I was probably going to lose them anyway) and I know the "return to work" feeling that many of you will be currently experiencing. Anyway, welcome back!

The summer holiday has been quite productive for the Computing team. We've progressed the HND Interactive Media development and commenced the HND Computer Games Development.

I'll be writing to centres in the near future with my usual annual update letter, although it won't contain anything that readers of this blog won't know about already. It's a pity that I have to maintain the two forms of communication (web and traditional) since this places an extra burden on my team. I'm sure that the day is coming when update letters are a thing of the past.

It would be nice if this blog was more interactive in the coming year. I'm pretty sure that it has a high readership but there is little use made of the comment facility (or the polling facility - the current poll has three votes) and that's a pity because it's one of the strengths of online communications.


Friday, 15 August 2008

Internet Safety and Strathclyde Police

During the last year, Strathclyde Police has put every new cadet through the Internet Safety qualification. I met with Rob Hay yesterday afternoon to discuss how the project has gone.

It has went well. Of the 63 cadets recruited last October, 45 of them completed the unit (which is consistent with the normal cadet drop-out ratio). Rob reported that those who finished, enjoyed and benefited from the qualification. Rob came up against the usual challenges when introducing something new (such as the police firewall!) but the cadets overcame these obstacles. It was so successful that he hopes to offer it to every officer in Strathclyde Police.

This qualification appears to meet a need since some schools have offered it to entire year cohorts, such as Airdrie Academy which offered it to every pupil in second year.

You can find out more about Internet Safety by contacting Caroline.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

NC Digital Media Computing - Level 6

The arrangements document for the National Certificate in Digital Media Computing (Group Award Code - G90L 46) is available for download from the SQA website.

All associated Units are available for download using the NQ Unit search facility on the SQA website.

New National Occupational Standards for IT

E-Skills UK (the Sector Skills Council for IT) has been working on an update to the National Occupational Standards (NOS) during the last few months. I've been involved in some behind-the-scenes discussions about the new Standards.

I received notification today that the draft Standards are now available for public consultation. E-Skills would like your feedback.

The new Standards are important for many reasons. They underpin SVQs and, increasingly, other qualifications are expected to be "compatible" with them - so this development will affect all future IT awards.

You can find out more about this project by contacting Genny Dixon directly or contact Caroline if you want to know more about SVQs.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

HND Computer Games Development

I attended a meeting in Edinburgh this morning to discuss the possibility of developing a new HND in the field of computer games.

SQA developed a qualification entitled HNC Computer Games Development three years ago and, after a slow start, it is beginning to take off, with several centres reporting a lot of interest and high uptake for the coming session. The attendance this morning seemed to reflect this high interest - 20 people attended (no mean feat given it's the last week of the holidays), representing 14 centres.

It was a very positive meeting. The overwhelming concensus was to develop an HND award to build on the existing HNC qualification. In fact, there was general support for a review of the HNC, perhaps reflecting the huge changes in this industry during the last three years.

We aim to have the new award available to centres from January 2010. The first stage is forming a Qualification Development Team. In the meantime, contact Caroline if you want to know more.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Edinburgh Interactive Festival

I'm attending the Edinburgh Interactive Festival today, which is being held in the International Conference Centre.

It's been a fascinating day that has helped me understand the computer games industry, which is a £50 billion industry. Of particular interest was trends in the games industry that include growth of gambling and collaborative games, huge increase in online games as the Internet becomes ubiquitous, location-based games that use your current location as an intrinsic part of the game, and new types of game that mix gaming with reality (Alternative Reality Games). The key message from today is: the future of gaming/entertainment is social i.e. games that involve lots of people and maybe mix the virtual with the real.

I'm currently involved in two related developments: the on-going HND Interactive Media development and the about to commence HND Computer Games Development. Today has been a big help to my understanding of the computer games industry... and how hugely important that industry is going to become in the next decade.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Get involved with SQA

It's that time of the year when you start to think about the new term that is about to commence.

It's the same in SQA... we're thinking about the new session and the demands that will be placed on the team to support and develop our awards. We can only do this with the help of the sector and we're always looking for people to serve in various roles such as unit writer/vetter, assessment writer and External Verifier.

So, if you're interested in getting involved in any way, please let us know. The work is either paid (to you) or you're given release from your centre so you don't work for nothing. And it's work of national significance, affecting every centre in Scotland (and it's good for your CV!).

Contact Scott is you are interested or want to find out more about the sort of work you can do for SQA.

Monday, 4 August 2008

More online assessments and teaching materials

I met with Graeme Clark, of the CAA team, this morning to discuss ESF funding of additional online materials to support Computing awards.

SQA recently received significant EU funding to support its awards (at SCQF Levels 4-6) and my team made a number of successful bids for some of this money.

Graeme is managing this work, which will produce online assessment material for a number of Units within the new NC Digital Media Computing award, and also online teaching material for some of the units. Centres offering the NC awards should have these materials by Spring 2009.

Some of this money will be spent updating the online question bank for the Internet Safety unit and we're looking for someone to work through the existing item bank to weed out the questions that are out of date. Contact Caroline if you're interested.

This work is at an early stage but the end result will be more Computing units supported with online materials.

Friday, 1 August 2008

HN Unit - D76D 35 - Internet: Web Server Management

We have made a slight change to the above HN Unit with the removal of the cutting score of 60% under Evidence Requirements for Outcome 1.

Please ensure you download the most up-to-date version from the SQA website. This is now identified as Version 02 (July 08) within the Administrative Information section of the specification.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

NPA Web Design Fundamentals at SCQF Level 5 (G8HD 45) - Support Materials

The NPA Web Design Fundamentals at SCQF Level 5 was created to match the requirements of the vendor curriculum, Digital Design: Foundations of Web Design from Adobe (formally Macromedia). This curriculum provides resources and learning materials which may be used in the delivery of the NPA Unit F181 11 Web Design Fundamentals.

Materials have been donated to support this qualification from Adobe as part of the SQA's DIVA project. CD-ROM copies of the master set of materials for your centre is available for £5 to cover copying, postage and packing. These materials can be ordered using the publication code CB4370 from the SQA Customer Contact Centre (customer@sqa.org.uk).

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

IBM - System i Certified

Last month I posted a blog entry inviting you to attend the IBM Teach the Teachers training event which is taking place from Monday 18th August until Friday 22nd August in the Business Conference Centre at Cumbernauld College (http://www.cumbernauld.ac.uk/bcc).

IBM have confirmed that all those in attendance have the opportunity to become System i Certified by sitting the System i Operations Certification on the final day of the event. There will be no cost for this as all exams will be paid for by IBM.

If you would like to attend, please contact Scott Miller (ict@sqa.org.uk) to confirm you place.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Changes to the Computing team

Vanessa Ranaldi left SQA last week, when her contract expired. Vanessa's departure coincided with other changes to the Computing team so I thought it would be a good idea to update the organisation chart for the team. Here's the current version.

Read this document on Scribd: HN SVQ team
We were sorry to see Vanessa go since she had been responsible for a number of projects in her time at SQA - and notably PC Passport since late 2004.

So we're re-organised responsibilities to cover Vanessa's work. Please use the diagram when contacting SQA.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Standards review



I am in London today, attending a meeting of awarding bodies to discuss the new E-Skills' National Occupational Standards (NOS). These Standards form the basis of SVQs.

There will be a public consultation on the new Standards at the end of this month, so this was an opportunity for the Awarding Bodies to get an early look at the emerging version.

The revised Standards will ultimately result in revised SVQs and, given the focus on all qualifications recognising occupational standards, changes to all IT qualifications.

Monday, 30 June 2008

HND Computer Games Consultation Event

An invitation to the HND Computer Games consultation event was despatched to all FE centres last week. This event is being held on Tuesday 12th August in the Carlton Hotel in Edinburgh from 10.00am until 12.30pm.

If you would like to attend, please contact Scott Miller at ict@sqa.org.uk to book your place.

We have chosen this date to coincide with the Edinburgh Interactive Games Festival, which specialises on gaming and games culture. This takes place from Sunday 10th August until Tuesday 12th August at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Click on the following URL for more information:

http://www.edinburghinteractivefestival.com/

Thursday, 26 June 2008

SFEU Computing subject network event

SFEU held a subject network event for Computing today at Central College in Glasgow.

John McCann opened the event with an interested potted history of the subject. his talk brought back many happy memories for me of such things as the Advanced Courses Development Programme that commenced in the 1980's.

I had a couple of speaking slots - one on HN developments and one on the new NC awards. The HN presentation was interesting because part of it related to some of the issues surrounding the subject relating to uptake, success rates and student satisfaction. Ron Dillon gave a fascinating talk on the issue. There doesn't seem to be single reason but the contents of some SQA units appears to be part of the problem.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Guide to Assessment

SQA has recently updated its Guide to Assessment.

Read this document on Scribd: SQA Guide To Assessment


It contains vital information for every assessor.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

HND Interactive Media consultation

An online survey was opened today relating to the HND Interactive Media development. More info on the dedicated blog. The survey can be directly accessed here.

HNC Interactive Media Assessment Exemplars

We now have 11 Assessment Exemplars uploaded to the secure site for Interactive Media. There is only one more to come, the Graded Unit. This is currently in its final stages and should be available on the secure site by the end of June. Your SQA coordinator will be able to download the following:

Client Side Scripting for Web Applications
Digital Imaging: Bitmap and Vector
Digital Media: Audio
Digital Media: Video
Interactive Media Planning
Interactive Media Authoring
Internet: Web Development Standards and Legislation
Manage Database Systems Using SQL
Project Management for IT
User Interface Design
Wed Development Essential Content

Monday, 16 June 2008

IBM - Teach the Teacher Event

As you may know, we have recently appointed a Qualification Development Team (QDT) to take forward the production of an HN Unit which will cover the above IBM course content and will be available for inclusion into various HN Group Awards from 1st August 2008. The Unit value will be 2 credits (80 notional hours) at SCQF Level 7 and currently has the working title of ‘Multi User Transactional Operating System: Operator’. The writing process for this HN Unit is now underway.

IBM have arranged a five day ‘Teach the Teachers’ course available to all FE staff, which will take place from Monday 18th August until Friday 22nd August 2008 – this is an excellent CPD opportunity for those individuals in attendance. This course covers the IBM System i Operator Course and will assist lecturers in delivering the new HN Unit. There are a limited number of available places on this course, therefore, places will be booked on a first come first served basis.

The course will take place in Cumbernauld Business and Conference Centre, Town Centre, Cumbernauld G67 1HU. To book a place (only one per centre) please contact Scott Miller by e-mail (ict@sqa.org.uk) or by telephone (0845 213 5472).

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

New NPA awards

SQA has two types of validations: a "group award validation" and an "operational validation". The group award event is the one where a panel check the qualification proposal from an educational and employment perspective. Many of you will have served on such a validation panel in the past. An operational validation is an internal process to check that the proposed award "will work" - in other words, SQA can actually implement it.

Today we had the operational validation for three new NPAs:
  • NPA Still Images, Audio and Video (at SCQF Levels 4 and 5)
  • NPA Animation (at SCQF Level 5).
There were a few minor conditions but nothing serious. The next stage is the group award validation, which will take place later this month.

All three awards will be available to centres from July. Please contact Angela for more information.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Extension to PC Passport

As many of you will know, the original PC Passport suite of awards was refreshed during 2006/7 and the revised awards came on-stream in August last year.

We had planned to let the original qualifications run out ("lapse" in SQA-ese) in July 2008 - which would mean that we would not accept any new entries after this date. But I've had several e-mails and other communications from centres that want to continue to run with the original awards and, after some internal consultation, we intend to extend the lapsing date to July 2009.

So this means that you can continue to enrol students onto the original awards for another year. But this is really a safety net for those centres who were unaware of the changes since the new awards offer many advantages over the original ones (such as improved assessments).

I'll be writing to centres in the near future to let them know formally. In the meantime, contact Caroline for more information about the old or new PC Passport awards.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

SFEU Subject Network meeting

I've been talking to Tony Gurney of SFEU about my input to the Subject Network event at the end of June. I'll be speaking about NC and HN developments - including recruitment and retention issues. You can find out more about the event here.

NC DMC Level 6

Today we had a meeting with Walter Patterson and Gillian Leitch regarding NC DMC Level 6. The units are currently being published and coded and will be on the SQA Website towards the end of June, along with the arrangements document.

We have commissioned ASP writers but are still looking for volunteers to write the following:

Computing: Authoring a Website

Computing: Digital Media Elements of Applications

Digital Media: Video

If you are interested in writing/vetting please contact me.

Friday, 2 May 2008

SQA committees

There are three main committees that help me and my team manage our portfolio. These are:
  • Sector Panel
  • Qualification Development Teams
  • Qualification Support Teams.
In the last couple of days there has been a QST meeting (yesterday) and a Sector Panel meeting (this morning).

Yesterday's QST meeting covered the NC and NPA awards (SCQF Levels 4, 5 and 6). There is another QST for HN/PDA awards (SCQF Levels 7 and 8). The main purpose of a QST is to advise me about resources and other forms of support needed to help centres. I received lots of suggestions! And thanks to ESF money we might have significant funds to develop support materials for these awards.

This morning's Sector Panel meeting was particularly good. Sector Panel gives me strategic help and consists of college representatives (Stow and Anniesland), HE representation (University of Glasgow), Sector Skills Council, HMI and vendor representatives. So it's a comprehensive group. We discussed a large number of issues today including gender issues, uptake, success rates and level 9 awards. It was a great meeting and lots of action points emerged from it.

We're always looking for members of these committees so if you want to know more about them please contact Angela for QST membership and contact Caroline for Sector Panel membership.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

E-learning material

Over the years, we have produced a range of e-learning material to support the IT awards at HN level. Most of the funding for this has came from ESF.

Although many of these developments were ad hoc, there are now sufficient units covered by online learning that entire group awards can now be delivered this way. The entire HNC Computing can now be delivered online; as can the new HNC Interactive Media; most of the HNC IT award is also covered; and some of the HNC Computer Networking. In total, 29 units are now supported by e-learning materials.

All of these materials will eventually appear on the SQA website but, for the moment, some are hosted elsewhere. In fact, three websites: here, here and here. Please contact Caroline for further information.

Speaking of e-learning, you may be interested in this paper on how e-learning effects teaching and learning.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Writing objective tests

I get frequent requests for my Guide to Writing Objective Tests from centres (and individuals) who are tasked with creating a test (usually for online delivery). Many of the new awards in my portfolio using multiple choice questions and the Guide is a good source of advice on writing this type of question.

The latest version of the Guide is maintained on Scrib and can be downloaded from that site (in various formats including PDF and Word).

Read this doc on Scribd: Objective Test Guide

Monday, 21 April 2008

Graded Unit (Project) EV training

I attended a training event on Saturday along with the Computing External Verifier (EV) team. It covered new guidance on the Graded Unit that was recently sent to centres (I would link to the PDF but I can't find it on the SQA website - in spite of our "new, site wide search facility").

It was an interesting event that gave us the opportunity to discuss standards relating to Project-based Graded Units - of which there are many in my portfolio.

I would be interested to know how satisfied you are with the Project-based GUs and if you would like any additional guidance from SQA (please use the comment facility).

Monitoring of Standards - HN Computing

We are looking for an FE & HE representative to take part in a Monitoring of Standards exercise focussing on a selection of HN Computing Units sampled from candidates over a selection of centres.

This work will take place during the summer break and will be paid work lasting approximately 2-3 days.

If you are interested in taking part, please get in touch with me direct (caroline.douglas@sqa.org.uk).

Friday, 18 April 2008

The demise of Computing in schools and the rise of digital culture?

The subject of Computing goes through peaks and troughs. I remember fighting off students for my HNC Computing day-release class in the early 1990's, whereas today most day-release classes have vanished. So the subject is going through a lull in popularity. But I'm confident that it is only a lull and it will return to its former popularity in a few years time.

I attended another meeting of the Schools Computing group this morning at Jordanhill College. The group has had considerable success in raising the profile of the problem, and there is an action plan to try to improve the popularity of the subject in Scottish schools.

I recently mentioned that some of the most exciting developments in our sector happen in the library area. We're about to update the Advanced Diploma in ICT for Librarians, and, as part of that development, we're going to develop one or more units relating to Digital Culture. I've asked a developer to create a framework covering SCQF Levels 6, 7 and 8. This framework will include various topics such as Web 2.0, e-citizenship, e-democracy, netiquette, social networks, e-learning, citizen journalism, and online activism. It will embed the "new literacies" of digital literacy, media literacy and information literacy. These unit(s), once developed, could be added to any qualification framework.

I believe that that is part of the solution for our subject. We may have to re-invent ourselves for the 21st century by embracing areas like digital culture and information literacy. Scotland continues to need talented software engineers but the subject may have to evolve to include these new areas.

We have already diversified our qualifications by developing awards in IT, Interactive Media and Computer Games. As a result, the number of students doing HN "Computing" awards has fallen by less than 10% over the last five years - at a time when university entry to Computing courses has fallen by 50%.

Continued innovation is needed during the current lull to maintain numbers for this vital part of the Scottish economy.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The Ultimate Steal

As you might be aware, in September Microsoft launched ‘The Ultimate Steal’ where students can save over £500 off the cost of Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 at www.theultimatesteal.co.uk .

This has been fantastically received, and by popular demand, we’ve now managed to open up this offer to staff. That means if you are a member of staff and you fulfil the following criteria:

1. You must hold a valid email address at a UK, Jersey, Guernsey or Isle of Man educational institution, ending in either ‘.ac.uk’, ‘ac.im’, ‘ac.gg’ or ‘ac.je’.

AND

2. You must be employed at an education institution geographically located in the United Kingdom, Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, for at least an average of 8 hours per week or 4 teaching hours per week.

You can now purchase Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 for just £38.95 .

However you must act quickly as the offer closes on April 30th 2008.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Today's Herald follows up on falling Computing numbers

Interesting article in today's Herald.

HNC Interactive Media assessments

I've had lots of enquiries about the availability of the assessment exemplars for the new HNC Interactive Media. The award itself was validated last June so the packs have taken a long time. I won't bore you with the reasons - but they were the usual delays that can happen.

Anyway, they are coming now. Some are available right now from the SQA secure website. Others are just about there. As I wrote in my recent update letter, they will all be available by May. Please contact Angela for further information about these materials or any other aspect of this qualification.

Don't forget to check the dedicated blog for the corresponding HND development.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Digital Culture

Some of the most exciting developments in ICT are taking place in the library sector. We devised a couple of PDAs a few years ago for librarians called ICT for Librarians at Diploma (SCQF 7) and Advanced Diploma (SCQF 8) levels.

We're in the process of updating these awards and, as part of that update, we are considering the development of a new series of units entitled Digital Culture, which would embrace the "digital lifestyle" of blogs, wikis, virtual worlds, gaming, citizenship, participation, etc. It sounds like an interesting project.

You can find out more about the current awards from Angela.

TESS story on Computing in schools

Interesting front page story in this week's TESS.

Meeting with IBM

Caroline and I met with Cally Beck and Linda Grigoleit of IBM this morning to discuss ways of incorporating IBM-curricula into SQA qualifications. It was a productive meeting and we agreed to identify existing HN units than could be used to deliver IBM skills. IBM has a new qualification relating to their System I and we were confident that we would be able to map this into existing (or new) HN unit(s). Cally talked about a number of ways IBM would be willing to support Scottish centres, including placements and guest speakers. We're hoping to have an arrangement up-and-running for August. Watch this space...

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

PC Passport - Credit Transfer

The SQA has created a guide to credit arrangements for PC Passport. These arrangements cover centres and candidates who may be undertaking the existing version of PC Passport, who wish to obtain credit for units in the refreshed version of PC Passport.

It is recommended that centres note that registration of candidates for the existing version of PC Passport will only be accepted by the SQA only until July 2008. Candidates cannot be registered for the existing version of PC Passport after 31st July 2008.

Registered candidates of the existing version have until July 2009 to complete the award and centres should consult the credit transfer document to find out arrangements for gaining credit into the refreshed version of PC Passport.

The refreshed version of PC Passport also recognises industry qualifications and arrangements have been made to facilitate recognition of Certiport’s IC3 and Microsoft Office Specialist certifications for all versions of Microsoft Office.

Centres should note only the full vendor exam pass certificate will be accepted. Examples of these can be found under the Entering candidates section on the PC Passport website.

PC Passport Summary guides for credit transfer together with the full detailed credit transfer document can be found at: www.sqa.org.uk/pcpassport under the credit transfer arrangements section on the left hand side.

PC Passport is one of the fastest growing qualifications in Scotland attracting over 20,000 candidates annually. Contact your local SQA centre to find out more.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

HND Interactive Media

This is a final reminder that there is a dedicated blog for this development.

You can keep up-to-date with everything that's going on via this link. Please bookmark it (if you're interested) and visit regularly. But no complaining that you didn't know!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Teaching blog

Thought you might like to see this example of a blog that a Computing teacher uses with his students.

Are there any other examples of teacher blogs?

HND Computer Games

An HNC Computer Games Development has been available to centres for some time. We didn't develop a corresponding HND award because there were question marks about likely uptake. Nearly all of the HNC students progress to university degree courses (in a related area).

But I have received a small number of requests to develop an HND. Although not large in number, these requests are regular. So I plan to arrange a meeting of interested parties later this academic year (probably June) to discuss our options and to determine if there is a genuine demand for an HND award.

I'll write to centres in the next few weeks but in the meantime it would be interesting to read your views via the comment facility.

Contact Caroline for further information about Computer Games qualifications.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Children and new technology report

As you probably noticed via TV/radio last week, the Byron Review of children's use of new technology was published last Thursday. You can download the full report here [PDF].

It makes interesting reading. You don't have to read it all - the Executive Summary [PDF] contains the key recommendations. It seems to me to strike a good balance between seeking to protect children without scare-mongering. All of the recommendations sound sensible.

A recurring theme is the need to educate young people and adults in the correct (safe) way to use the Internet. My only disappointment with the report was that it made no mention whatsoever of SQA's Internet Safety qualification, which remains the UK's (and, probably, the EU's) only national qualification in this area.

But given the focus on formal education, the Internet Safety unit is well placed to address many of the report's findings. It will hopefully stimulate demand for this qualification and might result in healthy evening class numbers in most colleges.

Please contact Caroline if you want more information on the Internet Safety qualification.

Friday, 28 March 2008

CIW qualification

I spend a lot of my time talking to vendors. As you may know, as part of the DIVA initiative, SQA has developed links with many leading industry organisations, such as Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco and Adobe.

Caroline and I met with Marjorie Quigley of ComputerPREP this morning to talk about the CIW qualification. The newly developed PDA in Web Technologies at SCQF Level 7 covers the CIW Foundation curriculum. According to Marjorie, a large number of FE colleges in Scotland plan to offer this qualification, once the PDA is available, which it will be at the end of April (it was validated with conditions last week).

You can find out more about CIW from Marjorie, more about this new PDA from Angela and more about vendor links from Caroline.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Visit to Stow College

Some time ago, I mentioned how much I enjoyed visiting centres to see at first hand what's involved in delivering SQA awards and also hear about some of the issues that face lecturers "at the chalk face". Well, another one of my ex-colleges took me up on my offer. My old boss, Ron Dillon, invited me to Stow College to participate in the weekly staff meeting, which is held every Wednesday afternoon (yesterday).


My presentation covered the range of IT qualifications available to centres - and particularly the new ones such as the new NPAs and PDAs.


It was an interesting and lively meeting - the sort that reminds me about the real issues in centres. I'd be happy to do more, time permitting.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

External Verifiers' meeting

There was an EV meeting in Glasgow today, in the SQA offices. The EV team meet several times per year to discuss operational issues.

David Drennan, the Senior Verifier, leads the meeting, which is a great opportunity for the EV team to discuss field issues and debate standards.

Today's agenda includes an interesting presentation about SOLAR and Graded Unit verification. Me and my team always take the opportunity to attend and provide a qualification update, so that the EVs are clear about new developments.

Although I'm posting this in the middle of the meeting, it's going well and the EVs appear to be enjoying the event.

Contact Mark Hood if you want to find out more about becoming an External Verifier.

Friday, 14 March 2008

E-Skills report: Technology counts

E-Skills has recently published an interesting report on trends in the IT industry. It can be downloaded here [PDF].

It's quite a large report but it's worth printing and reading the Executive Summary (pages 8-16).

It's full of facts and figures, and is a fabulous source of information for validation documents.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Professional Development Workshops

To support the delivery and assessment of the Refreshed PC Passport and Internet Safety, a series of Professional Development Workshops are being run over the next few months.

If these are of interest to you in your centre, please follow the link to find out more:

http://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/23465.html

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Oracle Academy seminar

I attended an Oracle Academy seminar in Glasgow yesterday afternoon to promote the links between the Academy programme and SQA awards. Although our links with Oracle are part of the DIVA project, it pre-dates that programme and, over the years, it has developed into a popular qualification in Scottish colleges. There are links between Oracle Academy and HNC Computing, HNC Computer Networking and HNC IT awards. Graeme Downey, from Clydebank College, gave an interesting presentation on how he combines Oracle with SQA provision.

You can find out more about SQA/Oracle links from Caroline.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Computing & IT Sector Panel - HE Representation

We are seeking HE representation to join the Computing & IT Sector Panel.

If you are interested and would like to find out more information then please get in touch with me direct (caroline.douglas@sqa.org.uk)

Sunday, 24 February 2008

HND Interactive Media update

I posted an update on the HND Interactive Media development on the dedicated blog for that development.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Visit to Clydebank College

I visited Clydebank College yesterday to have a look at the new campus. It's very impressive. The location is fantastic - right beside the Clyde.

I taught there from 1984 to 1990 and it was great to meet old colleagues such as Graeme Downey and Bob McAllister. I'm still recovering from lunch in the training dining room.

I don't do enough visits to centres. I really enjoy meeting the people who actually deliver SQA awards and it's great to hear their views and see qualifications being delivered in a classroom.

Monday, 18 February 2008

HNC Graded Unit Exams

The following HNC Exam Exemplars are now published and available on the SQA Secure website via your SQA Centre Co-ordinator:

DH36 34 HNC Computing: Graded Unit 1 Exam (Exemplars 10, 11 & 12)
DE36 34 HNC Interactive Multimedia Creation: Graded Unit 1 Exam (Exemplars 4, 5 & 6)
DV6D 34 HNC Information Technology: Graded Unit 1 Exam (Exemplars 4, 5 & 6)

Please note that all published Interactive Multimedia Creation Exemplars cover Communication: Practical Skills. For centres who offer DH4F 34 Writing for the Media instead of the above Unit, please contact me direct and I shall provide further exemplar materials.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Visit to John Wheatley College to assist with the new NC awards

I visited John Wheatley College this morning to talk to the staff about the new National Certificate Digital Media Computing awards. There was a good turn-out with around 20 lecturers, from both the Computing and Design teams, attending. Here is the presentation I used.

There was a lively question-and-answer session at the end.

Now that the Level 6 award has been validated, all three qualifications (Levels 4, 5 and 6) are available to centres. Contact Angela for more information.

Note the survey (see right hand panel) asking if you want some national events to support these awards.

Monday, 4 February 2008

National Certificate Level 6 validation event

The validation event for the proposed NC Digital Media Computing at Level 6 took place on Friday... and was approved without conditions! There were several (eight) recommendations. The Development Team were delighted with this outcome since it is unusual for no conditions to be placed on an award.

This outcome was testimony to the hard work put in by the QDT and especially Water Paterson, Gillian Leitch, Bill Brown and Angela. But lots of people were involved in writing and checking units, and preparing documentation.

So, once we've done some background administration, this Level 6 award (the first new NC award validated by SQA) will be available to centres. We've still got some units to finalise but the whole package will be ready in March.

In the meantime, contact Angela if you want to start your planning sooner.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

National Certificate (Level 6) validation

I returned from two weeks in Botswana yesterday, where I was helping their Ministry of Education launch an Advanced Certificate in ICT, which is similar to our HNC Computing/Networking awards. I greatly enjoyed (and learnt from) the experience. It's amazing how teachers the world over share the same concerns (resources, assessment, quality of students, etc.).

The team has been busy in my absence. In particular, Angela has been working hard to prepare for this Friday's validation of the new National Certificate in Digital Media Computing at Level 6. As you probably know, the Levels 4 and 5 awards are currently available to centres, so this award completes the suite. Walter Patterson is leading the Qualification Development Team and Ron Dillon (Stow College) is convening the Validation Panel. It should be a good event.

I've also (at last) got around to asking for volunteers for the QDT for the HND Multimedia development so please check this out if you want to be involved in this important development.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

DV6D 34 Information Technology Graded Unit Exam Exemplars

The following Exam Exemplars for IT have now been published:

DV6D 34 Information Technology: Graded Unit 1 Exam Exemplars 4, 5 & 6

Centres can also use Versions 1, 2 & 3 and all of these are available on the SQA secure website for download through your SQA Centre Co-ordinator.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Congratulations to Ayr College

Well done to Tony Gurney and his team for winning the IBM competition to design a poster for IBM System i.

The competition was lauched by IBM last October and finished on the 31st December 2007.

The winners each receive a 4GB iPod Nano.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

F1XA 34 & F1X9 34 Computing: PC Hardware and Operating Systems Essentials/Support

There have been a couple of tweaks made to the above Units (Computing: PC Hardware and Operating Systems Essentials & Computing: PC Hardware and Operating Systems Support) and both units are now identified as Version 02.

The changes made to both Units are as follows:

Change of wording from Restricted Response Test to Multiple Choice Test within Assessment Guideline sections.

Change made to suggested time allocation. This now states 80 minutes for Multiple Choice Test rather that 90 minutes (5 min start up time, 80 min test and 5 min finish off time).

The associated Assessment Exemplars follow these changes and are currently with our Support Materials section for publishing.

Copies of the revised HN Units for F1XA 34 & F1X9 34 can be downloaded from the SQA website.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Access problems to blog

I've had some feedback about access problems with Blogger. It appears that many colleges and local authorities have blocked the blogspot.com domain name - which means that many people can't access this blog (at work).

So I've created a small survey to ask if you can access Blogger and, if not, if you can access a popular alternative (Wordpress). Interestingly, SQA blocks Blogger but not Wordpress. I appreciate that if you can read this message then you can access Blogger but can you indicate this in the survey (i.e. do not select Blogger if you had to ask permission to access this site). Alternatively, you may be accessing this page from home since your college/school has firewalled it.

Depending on the results, I might move the site to Wordpress. Thanks in anticipation.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Exam Exemplars - 2008

The Graded Unit exam exemplars have now been finalised and are with our Support Materials Department for publishing. We have produced the following:

DH36 34 Computing: Graded Unit 1 Exemplar (3 versions)
DE36 34 Interactive Multimedia Creation: Graded Unit 1 Exemplar (3 versions)
DV6D 34 Information Technology: Graded Unit 1 Exemplar (3 versions)

These will be in addition to the exisiting exemplars available on the SQA secure website bringing a total of six graded unit exemplars per subject (ie DV6D 34 Information Technology: GU1 Versions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6).

Over the next 6-8 weeks these exemplars will gradually be added to the SQA secure site by our support materials department.

Exemplars for DE36 34 Interactive Multimedia Creation GU1 cover the Communication: Practical Skills Unit. We have produced two separate exemplars which assess the Writing for the Media Unit and would appreciate if centres contact me direct if they wish to use these versions.

PC Passport Assessment Support Packs (ASPs)

Today saw the final work-based pack for PC Passport: Advanced added to the SQA Secure website.

This now completes the full suite of ASPs available to support the award at Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels.

Access to these materials are through the SQA Co-ordinator within your centre.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Oracle Academy

I met with Jane Richardson of Oracle this morning to discuss developments relating to SQA's links with Oracle. We have two on-going developments: one relating to NQ (their Database Design course maps onto the Information Systems course at AH level) and one relating to HN (the Database Design course provides credit transfer to several HN units).

Oracle has recently updated it's Oracle Academy programme, which now includes several qualifications. The one that we're interested in is called Introduction to Computer Science, which contains the Database Design and a new unit entitled "PLSQL" (Programming Language SQL).

We recently checked SQA qualifications for a similar unit to PLSQL - but couldn't find one so we've agreed to develop one. Look out for more information in the future. In the meantime, contact Caroline if you want to know more about SQA's links with Oracle or contact Jane if you want to know more about the Oracle Academy.

Jane pointed out that Oracle intended to use the relationship with SQA as an example of a successful global public-private partnership and I can certainly vouch for the superb training made available to Scottish teachers through this programme.