Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Dealing with the validation conditions

The validation event was very thorough, and resulted in several conditions and recommendations. I created an action plan to deal with them, and allocate each condition or recommendation to a specific member of the QDT. For example, the Validation Panel wanted formal written support from the Sector Skills Council (E-Skills), which I am working on. Janice Maxted, the Qualification Leader for the HNC, is revising the Graded Unit in line with the Panel's suggestions. There are several other actions being worked on by various people.

Caroline, Hilary and myself are also busy validating the 52 new or revised units in the new HNC/HNDs awards. We are slowly working through these and hope to have all of the units validated by the end of January.

Although there is plenty to do, we hope to have all of the conditions lifted by the end of January, so that the HNC award is available to centres from April.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about how we're progressing with the validation of the HNC award.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

E-assessment support for the new awards

I met with Graeme Clark, of the E-Assessment & Learning team in SQA, this afternoon to discuss how that team could support the new HN awards.

The existing HNC/D Computing is the best supported HN award on SOLAR, SQA's e-testing system, with over 70 units currently supported by some form of online testing.

The purpose of the meeting was the discuss the extent of change in the new awards, and how much, if any, of the existing assessments could be repurposed for the new qualifications. Caroline and I emphasised that the new awards were significantly different from the existing qualifications and that a significant amount of new material will be needed to support them. Graeme was very supportive, and went away to consider how best SOLAR could be used to help centres to assess the new HN awards.

The revised HNC Computing will be available to centres from April 2012. The existing award will end (last registration) in 2014.

Contact Graeme if you want to know more about SOLAR.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Validation event

The validation event for the HNC Computing award was held on Friday in the SQA offices in Glasgow.

The validation panel was chaired by Cameron Walker, of Aberdeen College, and members included representatives on FE and employers. A key selection criterion for members of the Panel is that they have had no previous involvement in the development, so that they can bring a fresh perspective to the proposals.

The QDT was represented by Gerry Mackie, the Lead Developer, and a couple of members of the QDT, including the Qualification Leader for the HNC (Janice Maxted of Langside College).

The Validation Panel scrutinised the proposals very thoroughly, but were constructive throughout the event. It was a long day, commencing at 10am and concluding at 4pm, but, at the end of the day, I felt the Panel's ideas will make real improvements to the award.

The outcome of the validation was that the award was validated with a number of conditions. These mostly related to the quality of the documentation rather than the quality of the proposals. In fact, it was particularly pleasing that the Panel liked the structure of the new award, which will not change from the original draft framework. But it will be better explained and better exemplified (for example, we will add suggested pathways through the award).

Organising, preparing for, and conducting validation events is hard, and somethimes stressful, work. But events like Friday's reminded me of the benefits that they can bring. Without doubt the qualification will be improved as a result.

We agreed to revise the proposals by the end of January so we hope to have the conditions lifted in February, when we can focus on the HNDs. The new HNC Computing will be available to centres from April 2012.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about any of the awards in this development or find out more about how SQA validates its qualifications.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Progress update

This seems a good time to provide an update on progress.

We've been making steady progress with the awards. The frameworks have been agreed for some time, and we've spent most of the last three months writing units. This is coming along OK but, as always, it takes time to finalise such a large number of new and revised units. But most of the units are now at the validation stage, which is what me and the team are working on. The contents of the units are left to subject specialists, and the actual validation of each unit is more of a desk-check that the unit is presented correctly and uses appropriate language. Me, Caroline and Hilary are carrying out those checks now. SQA also carries out a peer review of new units, whereby another member of staff samples the units after we've validated them. There is no foolproof method of writing units, but these units have certainly been scrutinised by many people (on some occasions, as many as six people) before they will be published.

The validation event takes place on Friday, 9 December. The Lead Developer, Gerry Mackie, is busy putting together a validation proposal document (VPD) that is used at the event as the basis of discussions. Caroline has assembled a good validation panel, which consists of educationalists, employers and an SQA representative. We hope to send the VPD to the Panel members on Monday of next week to give them plenty of time to consider our proposals.

Individual units are validated separately from the group award, which is carried out at the aforementioned validation event, but the exception to that rule is the Graded Unit, which is also validated at the validation event. Janice Maxted, the Qualification Leader for the HNC award, is busy working on that unit at this time.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about this development.

Friday, 18 November 2011

HNC Computing - Validation Event

The validation event for the HNC Computing award will take place on Friday 9th December 2011 in SQA offices, Glasgow.

We have an excellent panel on board which are well represented by FE, HE and Industry.  All members of the panel have had no involvement in the development process but have particular interest in the award from a delivery, articulation and employment perspective.

The remaining four HND Computing awards will go forward for validation in March 2012 and will be available for centres to deliver from August 2012.

We are currently in the process of validating the 52 units that have came out of the HNC/D developments and these will start to appear on the SQA website over the next couple of months.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Unit finalisation and validation meeting

I met with Gerry (Lead Developer), Caroline and Hilary this morning to discuss how we would finalise and validate the units. Units are validated separately from the group award.

This development is going to produce a large number of new and revised units. Fifty four in total. So, it's a big job to finalise the draft versions and put them through validation.

Each unit has been scrutinised by several people -- the writer, of course, but also a vetter and, usually, an External Verifier. The Qualification Leader for each award has also looked at the units in his/her award and, of course, the Lead Developer has oversight of all of the awards. So, I'm pretty confident, at the end of this process, the contents of the units (from a subject perspective) will be right.

As usual at this stage in the development the progress is mixed. We aimed to have all of the units completed by the end of October. Many units were submitted on time, but there are a number not yet complete. In these circumstances we offer the writer extra time and support, or assign a new writer to the unit.

Me, Caroline and Hilary now have to ensure that the units are OK from a technical perspective. By that I mean that the units are written correctly and reach an acceptable standard. We will do this during November. Our priority is the units in the HNC, since we are validating that award first. This month is going to be busy for us.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the new units in any of these awards.

Friday, 21 October 2011

QDT meeting

The final meeting of the QDT (prior to the HNC validation) took place this morning. The main reason for having the meeting was to bring everyone up-to-date with progress.

Unsurprisingly, the turn-out was not great, given that it is the October holiday for many people, but eight people made it along.

We discussed the frameworks, links with vendors, BCS accreditation and the forthcoming validation event.

The vendor item was particularly interesting. We recently devised a procedure for adding vendor qualifications to the new frameworks and today, for the first time, the QDT had an opportunity to consider some applications from vendors. We looked at three -- from Microsoft, COMPTIA, and CIW. We are piloting a system of direct accreditation of vendor awards inside HNs, so it was interesting to "test" the process. Some of the vendor applications were approved, and it was good to see the "vendor box" in the new frameworks begin to get filled.

The development is on schedule. I'm hoping to receive most of the new and revised units at the end of this month, and the units will be validated during November. The group award validation event will take place in early December. We hope to have the new HNC award available to centres from March 2012.

The next QDT meeting will take place early next year, once the HNC validation event has taken place and we can focus on the HND awards.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Progress meetings

Every couple of weeks, me and Caroline meet with the lead developer (Gerry Mackie) to discuss progress. We had one of our progress meetings yesterday morning. At these meetings, we go through our progress plan line by line, to ensure that we are moving forward.

At yesterday's meeting we discussed membership of the validation panel. The validation panel must be completely independent of the QDT, since a key role for the panel is to scrutinise the proposals, so we went through some of the volunteers who had asked to serve on the panel (my recent update letter asked for volunteers). We think we came up with a pretty good mix of people. We also discussed who should serve on the QDT at the validation event. Again, we came up with a team who we think will do a good job. Caroline is currently contacting all of the individuals to check their availability.

The main task right now is unit writing. A team of people are currently busy creating new and revised units. The deadline for the units is the end of this month, so this is a very busy period for the team. Gerry is writing the validation proposal document (VPD), which is coming along nicely.

Contact Gerry if you want to know more about progress, or contact Caroline if you want to know more about the validation process.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Drop-in event for unit writers

The first drop-in event for unit writers was held today, in the SQA offices in Glasgow.

This was an optional event for unit writers to drop in, if they wished, to get advice and support about the units that have been assigned to them. The Lead Developer (Gerry Mackie), several Qualification Leaders, a couple of External Verifiers, and Kenje Lamb, who has expertise in online assessment, were there to provide help and advice.

Several writers took advantage of the opportunity to meet their vetters face-to-face and thrash out the contents of the units.

There was lots of discussions about contents and assessment. One particularly interesting discussion related to the general approach to the assessment of knowledge. It was asked if we should recommend a default approach of using multiple choice questions with a specific pass mark, much as we do with the current HN awards. I agreed to post some advice on the unit writers' e-group about this issue.

The next event will take place on 22 October in Dundee. Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the new units.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Supporting unit writers

An essential criterion when we selected unit writers was that they had been trained in unit writing. But we also support unit writers in other ways.

Every unit has a writer and a vetter, and the new way of writing units means that writers and vetters work as a team. We also created an online group for the writers. The members of this group include vetters, External Verifiers, assessment experts and, of course, the SQA team.

We plan to provide some face-to-face support to writers by offering a couple of drop-in sessions, one in Glasgow and one in Dundee, so that the writers can come in and sit down and discuss their specific unit(s) with real people! The first drop-in event is this Saturday, in Glasgow, and the second is in Dundee on 22 October. Writers can attend either or both events (or none).

We hope that by providing a range of support services to writers that we get the best possible units.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about how the units are shaping up. I hope to share the units with you at the earliest opportunity so that you can see some of the exciting contents of the new qualifications.

Friday, 9 September 2011

What's happening now?

The main current activity is unit writing. The new frameworks involve 52 new or revised units, which is a massive undertaking to produce so many updated unit specifications. Twenty-two people, mostly practicing teachers from colleges across Scotland, are working on the units. We've organised a couple of drop-in workshops for writers, in Glasgow and Dundee on the 19 September and 22 October respectively, to provide some face-to-face help and support to the writers. There's also an online community to provide peer support throughout the writing process, and members of that community include people with expertise in traditional assessment and e-assessment.

Behind the scenes, the Lead Developer, Gerry Mackie of Dundee College, is working on the Validation Proposal Document (VPD), which pulls together all of the work that the QDT has carried out over the last year.

We plan to validate the HNC award in December and the HNDs in early 2011, so that centres can offer the new qualifications from August 2012.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about this project.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Proposed HNC/D Frameworks

The development teams have been busy over the summer period pulling together the revised HNC/D frameworks and making any last minute tweaks to each of the draft documents.

There has been a lot of discussions around the design of the awards and making sure we have five unique awards to take to validation. We also had to ensure that there was a certain amount of overlap to allow flexability and movement between awards given we now have one generic HNC.

The frameworks have been uploaded to a file sharing site for you to view:  To access click on the links below:

HNC Computing Framework
HND Computing Framework
HND Computing: Software Development Framework
HND Computing: Technical Support Framework
HND Computing: Networking Framework

You will notice that we have added a third group (Group 3) to each of the frameworks for direct accreditation of vendor courses (pending appropriate SCQF credit and levelling).  Bobby provided an update on this vendor pilot in an earlier blog posting here.

Please note that the frameworks shared above are not the final versions (only final drafts) and there may be more tweaks following feedback from centres.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Meeting with lead developer

Me and Caroline met with Gerry Mackie, from Dundee College, this morning. Gerry was nominated by the Qualification Development Team to lead this development.

As the Lead Developer (LD), Gerry has overall responsibility for the shape of the new qualifications. This development is so big that we also selected Qualification Leaders (QLs). There is a QL for each of the individual awards that we are working on. It's a real strength of the Scottish education system that we use practising teachers to develop qualifications.

The purpose of the meeting was to plan the next steps in the project. We agreed that the validation date for the HNC award will be Friday, 9 December. It makes sense to separate the HNC validation from the HND validation(s) because the HNC is embedded within all of the HNDs and changes to the HNC will effect all of the HNDs. So we plan to get the HNC "sorted" first. We will be looking for members of the validation panel at some time in the next few weeks.

We also agreed to convene another meeting of the QDT on 21 October. This will be more of an update session rather than the usual discussion/decision making session since most of the decisions have already been made, but it will be a good opportunity to review progress at a critical time in the project.

I have previously written about our plans for the units. The units will be completed by end October and validated by end November. So, we should have a full set of units available for the time of the validation.

A key task for the Lead Developer is to produce the validation proposal document (VPD) and Gerry will be working on this during the next few weeks.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about this development or see "beta" versions of the units.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Meeting with vendors

I posted something a few weeks ago about our plans to incorporate vendors qualifications into the new HN awards. Caroline subsequently invited all of the vendors that we work with to a meeting, which was held in the Glasgow office this morning. Representatives of Microsoft and Oracle, among others, attended.

I began by describing the progress-to-date with this review, but the majority of the time was spent explaining our plans for accrediting vendor qualifications within the new awards. The main change is that we plan to directly accredit vendor qualifications rather than, as we presently do, accredit them by "translating" them into SQA units (what we call "credit transfer").
I emphasised that the final decision for including, or not, a specific vendor's awards lay with the QDT, and that the QDT would only consider vendor awards that were SCQF accredited (few vendor awards are) so the proposed system has opportunities and challenges for vendors.

Our plans to directly accredit vendor awards will be piloted in one or more of the new HN awards to see how it goes. But it's an exciting idea and one that utilises the potential of SCQF to mix and match qualifications from various bodies to provide the best possible qualification for students.

The next stage is for vendors to put their awards onto SCQF, and formally request their inclusion in one or more of the new HN awards. We have a devised a process for this, culminating in the QDT approving, or not, their inclusion.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the proposed vendor accredition system.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Writing process

I've documented the process we will follow when we produce units.

There are some things worth noting. Unit writers will not only be helped by a vetter, but will also have assistance from an External Verifier and someone to advise them about e-assessment. Kenji Lamb, formerly of Jisc, is going to help writers to think about ways that they can utilise e-assessment. It's great to have Kenji as part of the team.

We plan to have draft units complete by the end of October, and final (validated) versions by the end of November. We hope to validate the group award in December.

If you're not a member of the QDT, the first time you will see the units is when they appear on the SQA website, but we're happy to accept "beta testers" if you want a preview of the units before they are finalised. Contact Caroline if you want to join the preview.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Writers and vetters are now selected

I met with Caroline and Hilary yesterday afternoon to finalise the selection of unit writers and vetters.

We tried hard to be as inclusive as possible. The invitation to volunteer went out in July, and remained open for a few weeks, and we finished up with a great response. I used criteria to select individuals for each unit. I think the resulting team of writers and vetters is a good one. Most of the unit writers are members of the core or extended QDT, which represents 22 colleges, but there are also some new faces on the list.

Caroline will now issue contracts to the individuals who can now, at last, get down to the real business of writing the new curriculum.

The deadline for completing the units is the end of October. The units will be available to centres by December.

Contact Caroline is you want to know how the units are shaping up.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Vendor qualifications

I've been meaning to post something about how we plan to incorporate vendor qualifications for some time.

We currently do this through "credit transfer", whereby centres can claim SQA units for passing vendor qualifications. We achieve this by maintaining shadow units that incorporate vendor skills - but can also be delivered in a more generic way.

By way of a pilot, we plan to change this. We intend to directly accredit vendor qualifications by giving them SQA credits without going through the process of credit transfer. The approved vendor qualifications would sit in a separate (optional) group of units. Vendors would be responsible for ensuring their qualifications are on SCQF. The number of vendor units that could contribute to any HN award would be limited.

This doesn't mean that you have to deliver any vendor qualifications to get one of the new HNs but it does mean that students who possess these qualifications will receive recognition for their achievements.

The scheme is a pilot because we have to see how it goes. There may be academic and operational issues to resolve. But, if it works, it will be one of the most flexible vendor-accreditation schemes (within national qualifications) in the world.

If you are a vendor and you want to know more about this pilot scheme please contact Caroline.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Selecting unit writers

We have had a good response to the call for volunteers to write units. So, we are almost in a position to begin matching volunteers to units.

We will use the following criteria to match people to units:
  1. the person has attended unit writing training*
  2. the person has previous experience of unit writing and/or vetting
  3. the person is a member of the QDT (core or extended)
  4. the person is has played a lead or active role in developments to date
  5. the person is recognised as a subject expert
  6. the person has relevant teaching experience*
  7. the person has relevant curriculum development experience (such as involvement in previous qualification developments)
  8. the person has relevant experience of working with SQA (such as external verification)
  9. an appropriate overall balance of age/experience/gender/position/location is achieved
(* mandatory)

We will use this criteria to choose one person when we have several volunteers for a single unit. The criteria is not in order of importance.

You do not have to meet all of the criteria. Some are essential (such as number 1 and number 6) but most are not. Criterion 9 is not designed to exclude inexperienced people. Quite the opposite, in fact. It is there to encourage inexperienced people (such as part time lecturers) or minorities (such as women, who are under-represented in these developments) to volunteer since it permits us to choose someone in spite of their relative inexperience in order to achieve a good balance for the writing team as a whole.

Selections will be made in the near future. It's not too late to volunteer.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Unit Development

As you will be aware, we have been unable to commence with unit development work due to a delay in confirmation of our internal budget.  On Tuesday of this week Bobby, Gerry and myself met to discuss the list of definitive Units that will be taken forward for development as part of the HN Review for Computing/Networking.

We are now at the stage where we are seeking unit writers & vetters.

I have collated a list of the agreed units that will go forward for development into three categories:

1. New
2. Major Revision
3. Minor Revision

We have a large QDT (core and extended) which will take on a significant chunk of writing and vetting of units over the forthcoming months.  However, if you are interested in being involved, please select the units you would be interested in by clicking on the URL below:

I know many of you have already e-mailed myself, Gerry MacKie (or group leaders) with your preferred areas of interest but in order to be considered as part of the writing/vetting team you must make your selections using this URL.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Unit writing update

The frameworks for the new awards have been done-and-dusted for some time now, and I had hoped to rapidly move on to unit writing, since the training has been carried out, but we ran into financial problems.

In common with most public sector organisations, money is tight right now within SQA, so our plans for writing new and revised units were unaffordable. I've spent the last few weeks trying to finalise the budget for this phase of the development.

I got good news yesterday. While I didn't get enough money to develop every new and revised unit in the frameworks, there is now sufficient budget to develop the majority of units, and all of the important units. There may be more funding later for a second phase of unit writing when we can complete all of the units.

So, we can now get down to unit writing. Me and Caroline are meeting with Gerry next week to create a definitive list of units that we plan to write. We will then ask for volunteers to write (or vet) the units. If you are a member of the QDT, you will get early notice about this, but I will also post something on this blog, so keep your eyes peeled if you want to be involved.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Computing & IT Subject Network event

Scotland's College's organised a full day event at the City of Glasgow College to provide an IT Subject Network Conference. These events run annually and are popular with college lecturers.

There was an excellent turn-out, with more than 70 people attending. John Connell gave the keynote talk, discussing changes in education, specifically those brought on by changes in technology. John is passionate about the need for education to modernise.

This was followed by a presentation from me and Gerry Mackie about the on-going review of HNC/D Computing and HNC/D Computer Networking. My presentation focussed on how qualifications are developed.

View more presentations from bobbyelliott.
Gerry talked about how the new qualifications are shaping up and the tasks that lie ahead.

I pointed out that the new awards should be validated at the end of 2010 and available to centres from early 2012.

The day also included a number of workshops, many based around recent SQA developments such as the new NC in Computer Games Development, led by Fiona Jackson of Forth Valley College. Korima Audish, of Kilmarnock College, gave the presentation.

and the new NPA in Mobile Technology, led by Jim Kriegar of Anniesland College.

I thought that the event was excellent and it was good to see SQA developments play such a central role to the event.

Contact Gerry Dougan for more information about Scotland's Colleges.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Survey is closed

I closed the survey this morning. There was a fantastic response, with 133 people taking the time to complete the questionnaire. There was a great response from FE and a reasonable response from HE, but not many employers completed it, so we will have to try to engage with them in another way.

The responses were overwhelmingly supportive of the QDT proposals so we will certainly proceed on the basis of the current proposals. That means that we will develop the five proposed awards, and that the aims and objectives of each qualification are about right.

I don't plan to publish the results of the survey since it is one part of the larger, on-going consultation process with the sector that Gerry has been leading. Gerry will produce a consultation report, which will include the results from this survey, in the near future.

So, we are now in a position to finalise the qualification frameworks. We'll share the frameworks with you (via this blog) as soon as they are ready.

Once we have done that we can identify the new and revised units. And once we have done that, we will be looking for people to write the units between now (June) and September. Look out for invitations on this blog.

Contact Caroline if you want to see the qualification frameworks.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

QDT meeting

The full QDT met today, at Jury's Inn in Glasgow, to discuss the results of the recent consultation exercise. There was an excellent attendance, with 19 people attending the meeting.

The public consultation was now complete, so I spent the first half of the meeting discussing the survey results. I was pleased to be able to report to members that the draft frameworks had been overwhelmingly endorsed by the respondents to the questionnaire.

The purpose of today's meeting was to finalise the draft frameworks, taking into account the findings from the consultation. So, after discussing the results, we broke into five teams, one for each of the qualifications, so that the qualification leader could finalise each framework.

I asked the lead developer, Gerry Mackie, to carry out a final check on the frameworks before submitting them to Caroline. Once we receive the final frameworks we can progress to writing the units within each award.

I will post the frameworks on this blog once we receive them. In the meantime, contact Caroline if you have any questions about this development.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Unit writers training

Today and tomorrow, we are conducting unit writing training for people who want to be involved in producing units as part of this review. The training takes places in The Millenium Hotel in central Glasgow. There are four training session: one this morning, one this afternoon, and one tomorrow morning and afternoon. Around 6-8 people will attend each event, providing a pool of trained individuals who can be used for unit writing.

I gave a presentation about unit writing in general, and Hugh McDiarmid gave a presentation on writing Computing units in particular.
Unit writing training

View more presentations from bobbyelliott.
Today's events went well. Once we have a pool of trained unit writers we can proceed to developing the units within these new awards.

Contact Caroline if you want to know how you can be involved in the HN Review.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Post Consultation Meeting

Now that the online consultation date has ended with over 130 respondents participating, we will now move forward to the next stage in the development.  The full QDT (core and extended core) will meet next Tuesday with four main agenda items:

1. Discuss the consultation survey results
2. Identify new/revised units
3. Finalise the draft frameworks based on the feedback from the sector
4. Agree development timescales

Over the summer we plan to write new/revised units as well as liaising with HE on possible articulation routes for our new awards.  During this time we will also consult further with employers/industry/vendors and SSCs.

With the Validation Proposal Document (VPD) well underway we will be on target for our November/December validation date.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Update letter sent to centres

I arranged for a letter to be sent to all Scottish colleges this morning to update everyone about progress to date with the HN review, and outline the tasks that lie ahead of us. The letter will be sent (via e-mail), to the Head of Computing in every centre, early next week, so look out for it in your inbox.

Not everyone is comfortable with online communications so it is necessary to occasionally send traditional letters.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Online survey: update

There has been a good response to our online survey about our proposed qualifications. So far, over 100 people have completed the questionnaire.

As expected, there has been a particularly good response from college lecturers, but we could do with more people from industry and Higher Education. So, if you have HE or employer contacts, please forward this post to them (there is a link below).

The results, so far, are supportive of the proposals, and will be of great assistance to the development team when we come to finalise the frameworks. Thanks to everyone who took the time to complete the survey -- but please encourage your colleagues to do so if they haven't already.

The survey is due to close on Friday (5 May) but we may extend that to get more representation from industry and Higher Education.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

HN Review - Unit Writing/Vetting Opportunities

As you are aware, we are currently consulting on the five group awards which are part of the HN Review (HNC Computing, HND Computing, HND Computing: Software Development, HND Computing: Technical Support and HND Computing: Networking).  If you have not yet had a chance to complete the online consultation survey, it can be accessed here.

Once all frameworks have been finalised we will be in a position to identify new units to be developed and also those requiring revision.

Given the high number of core and extended core QDT members, they will be involved heavily in the development work.  However, if you would like to be considered for unit writing and/or vetting then please contact me direct stating your area of expertise.  Should we require additional writers/vetters in addition to QDT members I shall be in touch with you direct.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Consultation questionnaire

We're now at the stage where we have draft frameworks for all five awards, and we would like feedback on our proposals. To that end, we have created a questionnaire to get your opinions about our plans. The online survey is available at the following URL:

The actual frameworks can be downloaded from this link [ZIP]:

We're hoping that as many people as possible complete the survey. So, please encourage your colleagues to complete it, and share the link with your internal and external networks. The survey ends on Friday, 6 May.

This consultation exercise is part of a wider collaboration process, which has included discussion at Sector Panel, a public event, a debate at the Heads of Computing event, and numerous QDT meetings. Extensive consulation does slow down the development process but ensures that everyone has an input and, hopefully, ensures that the new awards are as good as they can be.

Contact Caroline if you need any assistance with the survey.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ready for consultation

Caroline and me met with the lead developer for this project (Gerry Mackie) this afternoon to tidy the draft frameworks and work on the consultation survey before opening them to the public on Monday of next week.

We tidied the frameworks for all five awards and completed the survey, so we are good to go once the QDT has a first look at the questionnaire.

The survey (with links to the draft frameworks) will be made available for public consultation from Monday of next week.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Finalising things for consultation

I will meet with Gerry next week to finalise the draft frameworks and sign-off the consultation survey. We tried hard to get these tasks done before the end of March, knowing that April is a bit of a dead month in schools and colleges, but we didn't make it.

We have to give colleges time to consider the proposals, and many are on holiday right now or about to go on holiday, so I decided to slow down, take our time, and ensure colleges have time to discuss and feedback on our proposals.

I am meeting with Gerry on the 14th, when we will finalise a few things, so I plan to commence the public consultation about the proposals on Monday, 18 April, for four weeks, ending Friday 13 May. This will be done via an online survey, through which we hope to get FE, HE, employer and special-interest feedback. Although this is later than I planned, it should not have an impact on the project end-date since the Summer was always going to be the prime time for writing units. All five awards will be validated in early 2012 and available to centres from August 2012.

The full QDT consists of over 30 people, representing over 20 colleges, so I hope that the consultation will be positive since such a large proportion of stakeholders is already represented in the Development Team.

Contact Gerry for more information about the new awards. Contact Caroline if you want to get involved in the development.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Development update

I've spent a lot of today discussing the review of HN awards so it seems a good time to update you on how things are going with this project.

The development team is working on five qualifications:
  1. HNC Computing
  2. HND Computing
  3. HND Computing: Technical Support
  4. HND Computing: Software Development
  5. HND Computer Networking
 Gerry MacKie (Dundee College) is leading the overall development, but each award has its own "qualification leader". The Qualification Development Team (QDT) has 34 members, representing 22 separate colleges, which is more than half of the colleges in Scotland.

We have spent several weeks considering the aims and objectives of each award, and, more recently, we have been working on the draft frameworks. This has taken longer than expected. I had hoped to begin the public consultation (of the aims and frameworks) before now but the internal (QDT) debate has taken longer than anticipated. This was not due to disagreements but, rather, constructive suggestions for what to include in each qualification.

The draft frameworks will be complete for 1 April and a public consultation (using an online survey) will commence on Monday, 4 April and run for the entire month. This will give everyone an opportunity to comment on every aspect of the proposed awards.

In my last update letter (August 2010) I stated that the new qualifications will be ready by early 2012 and available to offer from August 2012, and there is no reason why these dates need to change.

Speaking of update letters, I appreciate that not every Computing lecturer reads this blog, so I plan to write to centres in the near future to provide an update to our more traditional colleagues.

Contact Gerry for more information about the frameworks or contact Caroline for more information about the project in general.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Networking meeting

The team taking forward the Networking award, led by Chris Deegan, met this morning in the SQA offices in Glasgow. The purpose of the meeting was to finalise the draft framework for the HND Computer Networking qualification.

Looking around the participants, their knowledge and experience was evident in the quality of the discussions. I'm fortunate to have people of this quality involved in the development.

Vendor certification is important in every HN award but it is particularly important in this one, so we spent a lot of time talking about Microsoft, Cisco and other vendor awards to ensure that they are fully reflected in this new award.

Contact Chris for more information about the Networking award, contact Gerry about the overall HN review, or contact Caroline about the overall project.

There will be a public consultation on all of the draft frameworks in the (very) near future.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Delay in frameworks

We had hoped to have the draft frameworks available but there has been a (small) delay in the QDT finalising them. The time has been well spent. We're having good (internal) conversations about what should be in them. Once the QDT has agreed the frameworks, we will then carry out the following steps:
  1. consult with the wider community on the draft frameworks (this will be done using an online survey)
  2. revise frameworks in the light of feedback
  3. identify a list of new/revised units (from the four frameworks)
  4. ask for volunteers to write and vet the units
  5. select the writers and vetters
  6. train the unit writers and vetters. 
The qualification leader for each award is busy finalising their draft frameworks.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Draft frameworks

The development team are busy working on the draft frameworks for each of the awards.

Janice Maxted (Langside College) is working on the HNC Computing framework, Chris Deegan (City of Glasgow) is working on HND Computer Networking, Willie McCabe (James Watt College) is developing the framework for HND Technical Support, and Peter Ainsworth (Motherwell College) is working on HND Software Development. At this stage, we are not going to produce a framework for the generic HND Computing award (being led by Derek Summers of Perth College).

I should have these frameworks by this Friday and we will then give you an opportunity to comment on them.

Contact Gerry if you want more information about how things are progressing.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

HNC Computing sub-team meeting

The sub-team responsible for developing the new HNC Computing award, led by Janice Maxted of Langside College, met this morning. Janice wanted a meeting to discuss the aims and consider the units to be included in the framework. The HNC will underpin all of the new HNDs so we felt it important to get this one sorted first.

We had already made some decisions about the structure. For example, we want to use an examination as the Graded Unit. We had also agreed to carry a number of core skills in the mandatory section of the HNC award, such as Communications and Working with Others, not as stand-alone units but integrated into vocational (Computing) units.

At today's meeting we agreed a draft framework for the mandatory part of the HNC award, including a number of new units relating to professional issues, software development and trouble-shooting. We also had an interesting discussion about the core skills that we want to include.

At the end of the meeting, we agreed that Janice would write-up today's decisions so that we can consult more widely about the draft HNC framework.

Contact Caroline for more information about the HN review.

Monday, 24 January 2011

QDT meeting: discussing frameworks

The QDT met on Saturday, in the SQA offices in Glasgow, to discuss the structure of the proposed awards. We had previously agreed to develop five qualifications:
  1. HNC Computing
  2. HND Computing
  3. HND Computing: Technical Support
  4. HND Computing: Software Development
  5. HND Computer Networking
We had an interesting discussion about the design principles for HN awards, and agreed that we would try to keep the mandatory section in each award to a minimum to give centres maximum choice in the selection of units. We also had an interesting conversation about core skills. Computing has a long tradition of embedding core skills and we hoped to continue that during this development. But we plan to embed the core skills inside Computing units - not separate core skills units.

We had previously agreed the types of Graded Units in each award: an examination within the HNC and projects within the HNDs.

Although Gerry MacKie leads the overall development, each award has its own leader, and the main purpose of today was to give these individuals ideas about the nature and contents of their awards. There were lots of suggestions and we had some lively discussions around mobile technology, computer games, mathematics, and digital culture.

June McCamlie gave a presentation on the National Occupational Standards to remind everyone about this important source of information. We also agreed to ensure that vendor awards were fully recognised within the qualifications.

Days like Saturday are great. I've noted before, the uniquely inclusive, collaborative and co-operative approach that SQA takes to developing qualifications. Twenty colleges are represented in the core or extended QDT and it is this inclusion and diversity that helps to ensure the success of our awards.