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Thursday, 31 March 2011

E-placement programme

I participated in a conference call this afternoon, organised by E-Skills UK, to discuss how Scottish colleges can access the E-Placement Scotland scheme. Around 15 people participated in the tele-meeting.

Mark Ratcliffe, of E-Skills, went over the background to the project. The project runs over the next three years and hopes to generate 750 new work placements for students in IT companies in Scotland. Mark pointed out that the project also hoped to make better use of existing placement opportunities. IT placements declined significantly during the last decade (by 50% according to Mark) and it was hoped that this project would reverse that trend and provide students with better employability skills.

An important part of the project is the associated website, where students and employers can arange placements.

The placements must be between 3-12 months in duration. They can be full-time or part-time (but must amount to at least 3 months full-time employment). It was suggested that it might be possible to use the summer holiday between the first and second years of the HND programme to fit in some of the placement. But the timing is an issue.

Although it's not vital that the placement is credit bearing, several people expressed the view that it would be advantageous if completion of the placement was part of the HN awards (as options) and I will be looking further into this in the coming weeks.

Contact Mark if you want to know more about this initiative.

Re-assessing Graded Units

I had an interesting discussion this morning, among colleagues in other subject areas, about the rules for resubmitting Graded Units, either to convert a fail to a pass or to upgrade a result.

We found some useful guidance on this topic in a document entitled Guidance on the Implementation of Graded Units in HNC/Ds [PDF]. There is information on page 23 (about project-based GUs) and page 31 (about exam-based GUs). The key thing is that the re-assessment is based on a substantially different project or examination. It's up to centres whether re-assessment will be offered, and how much is charged, and suggests at least one opportunity for re-assessment is built into the programme.

Contact Caroline for more information about the Graded Units in Computing awards.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Team building day

We had an away-day yesterday at Kelso Nursery School, in Yoker. Although the day was meant to be a team building day, it had a more concrete objective -- to improve the gardens in the nursery school.


The weather was kind and we had a great day. We planted trees, bushes and flowers, and, I think, made a real difference to the place.


The teachers and kids expressed their appreciation by awarding us a certificate for our efforts! Contact Hilary if you want your garden dug.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Complexities of vocational education systems

On Friday afternoon, I attended one of SQA's occasional research seminars. This one was presented by Professor Geoff Hayward, of Leeds University, and was about vocational education systems. Or, more specifically, it was about why vocational education systems have become so complex.

He pointed out that vocational education has become complex in every country in the world but that England has "unquestionably the most complex in Europe". This, he said, was due to several factors, including the introduction of qualification frameworks (credit and levelling systems) in most countries. This evolution towards complexity increased costs and reduced transparency - resulting in many employers not understanding the qualification system. Geoff was also critical of the tendency to reduce learning to small chunks, comparing this to the traditional apprenticeship, which took years to complete. He pointed out that modularisation increased complexity.

Geoff's main point was that vocational education has become more complex because governments, across the world, "try to make qualification systems do too much". This "mission creep" has produced the complexity.

It was an interesting talk. I was particularly interested to learn about the history of vocational education and to hear Geoff challenge some of the orthodoxies in modern education.

Friday, 25 March 2011

HN review update

I know I said that I wouldn't contaminate this blog with lots of posts about the HN review, but I posted a summary of progress yesterday on that blog, which pretty much brings you up-to-date with where we are right now with that development. So, if you are at all interested in the changes to a number of Higher National Computing qualifications, please check it out.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

New CompTIA Membership Scheme

We work with a range of global vendors in a non exclusive way through the DIVA Programme.   A number of Scottish Colleges use CompTIA Certification as part of their National Certificate programmes.  We have been asked to alert School ,  Colleges and Universities in Scotland to their new membership scheme.  The details of this can be found on the CompTIA Website here.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Game to Learn: day 2

The second part of the Game to Learn Conference started today, at the University of Abertay in Dundee. There was a fantastic turn-out -- around 200 teachers attended. Today's keynote was given by Derek Robertson, of Learning & Teaching Scotland, who spoke widely about game-based learning (GBL), with particular emphasis on how it can be used for assessment.


Derek spoke about the "gamification" of learning - in other words, how education can use some of the features of computer games to improve learning, such as progress meters and rewards for reaching learning levels. He emphasised the transformative nature of game-based learning; how it enlivens learning and improves motivation in the classroom.

There are more workshops this afternoon and the conference will conclude with a final keynote about how Little Big Planet can be used in the classroom. It sounds good.

Yesterday's event focussed on the college and university sectors; today's focussed on the school sector. But both had something in common -- fantastic attendance. It's not often that I sense something fundamental is changing in education, but with game-based learning (GBL) I get that feeling.

Schools and colleges can offer qualifications in game development right now. Contact Hilary for more information.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Game to Learn conference

Today and tomorrow, I am attending the  Game to Learn Conference organised by Jisc. In fact, it's a three day conference, but yesterday's event was for "code-bashers". The agenda for today and tomorrow is more accessible to the non-programmer.

Today's event is being held at Dundee College. SQA is directly involved in two workshops - one relating to our Gamespace project and one related to the NPAs in Computer Games Development. Colin Maxwell, of Carnegie College, is leading a workshop on 3D Games Development and is showing how a tool called Blender can be used to create appropriate 3D games for these courses.



The first part of today consisted of two keynotes relating to how computer games can be used for learning. I enjoyed both.

The afternoon session began with another keynote. This one explained how World of Warcraft can be used for teaching and learning, and was presented by Michelle Hoyle of the University of Sussex.


Tomorrow's event will be held at the University of Abertay and sounds equally interesting. You can follow the conference on Twitter by searching for the hashtag "#gametolearn".

Scotland has an international reputation for computer games production, and it's great to see so many FE colleges getting involved in this area. There is a big turn-out today with lots of Scottish colleges (and universities) sending staff.

Hilary is attending with me today, and you can contact her for more information about the NPA awards. We also have HN qualifications in this area but, in this case, contact Caroline for more information.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

PDA Web Design

Late last year I provided an update on the new PDA in Web Design award to let you know the timescales in which we planned to have this made available to centres.

There has been a delay in the development of the award, however we are now finalising each of the units and putting the finishing touches to the validation document.

The award will consist of three single credits at SCQF Level 7.  The Units will be:

1. Website Design: Planning & Design
2. Website Design: Content Creation
3. Website Design: Development

We now plan to host the validation meeting at the beginning of May to allow for any conditions that may be placed on the award to be met and lifted. The award would then be available to centres from June 2011 onwards.

The new PDA is based on the official curriculum for the CIW Web Design Specialist (formally CIW Site Designer) qualification.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Measuring success in vocational programmes

I posted a message in December about a project being undertaken to look at ways of measuring performance in vocational Computing programmes. The project was requested by the Sector Panel for Computing & IT, and is being undertaken by Ron Dillon (Stow College) and Joanna McGilvray (Forth Valley College). I met with Ron and Joanna this afternoon to get an update on their progress.

The aim of the project is to look at ways of measuring success within vocational Computing awards. This is harder than it sounds. Students on vocational programmes are different from pupils at school. They have more pressures on them (often responsible for running households) and tend to come and go in a way that does not happen at school. So simply measuring how many people start and (successfully) complete a course in a given year does not work.

Their findings are fascinating. Ron has concentrated on programme pass rates and Joanna has looked at unit pass rates (including Graded Units). Preliminary results confirm the complexities surrounding the analysis of data relating to group award and unit pass rates.

Ron and Joanna will present their findings at the next Sector Panel meeting (in April), and will then produce a short report on their findings, which will include recommendations on how best to measure success rates in these types of programme. I hope to share their final report with you at some time in the future.

Contact Ron if you want to know more about this project. Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the Sector Panel.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Awarding Body Forum

The Sector Skills Council for Computing (E-Skills UK) and the awarding bodies across the UK meet every few months to discuss national issues at Awarding Body Forum meetings. I attended a meeting today at the Edexcel offices in London.

The agenda always covers a wide range of issues. Today's event included an interesting presentation from Mark Elkins from the BBC about their plans to revamp their long-running, and highly successful, Webwise initiative. The updated version should be available from May and will be based around the National Occupational Standards devised by E-Skills.

A large part of the meeting was taken up with Modern Apprenticeships (MAs). There is significant momentum behind MAs, and SQA plans to work with E-Skills to ensure that they are they are available in Scotland, both for IT users and IT professionals.

Some of you may know Genny Dixon from E-Skills, who announced her retirement from E-Skills later this month. Genny has been very helpful to me and my team and will be missed.


SQA hosts the next Awarding Body Forum meeting in June. Contact Hilary if you want to know more about National Occupational Standards or SVQs.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Internet Safety & Responsible Use Conference

I was invited to give a presentation at the Internet Safety & Responsible Use Conference organised by LTS.

The conference was opened by the Minister for Children and Early Years, Adam Ingram. My own presentation was about national qualifications in this area, specifically:
  • Internet Safety (unit)
  • Child Online Protection & Safeguarding of Children (PDA)
I was pleased at the interest in my talk and, hopefully, many people will take it forward by offering the qualifications in their centre or undertaking the qualifications themselves.
The keynote talks were excellent. Helen King, of CEOP, gave an interesting talk about trends in child protection. She pointed out that CEOP has a channel on YouTube with some excellent resources on child protection, including a new video on sexting.


The second keynote, from Jodie Fraser, emphasised the limitations of schools trying to control young people, rather than educate them. She spoke about "the limitations of filtering, blocking and banning" and how it "failed to equip young people to become adults in the digital world". She pointed out that banning many web services frustrated innovative teachers.

Contact Caroline to find out more about SQA's online safety awards.

Friday, 4 March 2011

HN review

Readers of this blog will know that there is a separate blog for the current review of a number of HN frameworks. There is a side-panel (see right) on this blog that imports a feed from the review blog so that you can see the latest posts.

I use a separate blog for important developments, rather than include lots of messages in this blog since I appreciate that some readers may not be interested in the development. For example, there was a separate blog for the (very successful) HNC/D Computer Games Development project.

So, if you are interested in the new HN frameworks, don't forget to visit the blog from time to time or add the RSS feed to your PC or smartphone reader.

Contact Caroline for more information about the HN review.