Monday, 10 December 2012

Validation: Day 2

The second, and final, day of the validation event for the updated HNDs took place on Friday. The second day focused on the Technical Support and Networking awards. We also got feedback on the awards that we presented on the first day (Software Development and the generic Computing awards).

The outcome of the validation was that all of the awards were validated with several conditions and recommendations. The main conditions related to core skills (for all of the awards) and the title (of one of the awards).

The panel asked that the HND Computing award be retitled to HND Computer Science so that the title is consistent with the new Curriculum for Excellence qualifications. So, the new HNDs will now be entitled:
  1. HND Computing: Technical Support
  2. HND Computing: Networking
  3. HND Computing: Software Development
  4. HND Computer Science.
The other main condition was the inclusion of all of the core skills at SCQF Level 6. The proposed awards included most of the core skills at Level 6 but not them all. The panel asked that all of the core skills (Communication, Numeracy, IT, Problem Solving, and Working with Others) are embedded at SCQF Level 6. This will present more of a challenge to the QDT since we will have to find a way of adding Numeracy and Communication at SCQF Level 6 in all of the HNDs. But, if we can do it, this will mean that these HNDs carry more core skills than any other other HN award offered by SQA.

The were a number of other conditions relating to aims, entry requirements, professional recognition, and transitional arrangements (among others).

So, there is plenty of work ahead for the QDT. But we were happy with the outcome and think that the proposed changes will improve the new qualifications. We hope to have the conditions lifted by March next year and all of the awards available to centres from July.

Contact me if you want to know more about this validation event.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Validation: day 1

Yesterday was the first day of the two day validation event, which will examine the four HND proposals. For the sake of continuity, we used the same validation panel as we used for the HNC validation, which consisted of representatives of colleges, universities and industry.

We're looking at two awards each day:

Day 1: HND Computing and HND Computing: Software Development
Day 2: HND Computing: Technical Support and HND Computing: Networking

So yesterday we looked at Software Development and the generic Computing awards. Each of the Qualifications Leaders started the day by giving a brief description of the proposed award, together with the reasons for any changes.

We got the Panel's feedback in the afternoon. It was mostly positive. Both awards were liked but the Panel made several comments and suggestions about possible improvements to the awards.

Today we're looking at Technical Support and Networking. The QDT will get formal feedback on all four awards later today. These are expressed as "conditions" (which we must address) and "recommendations" (which we don't).

Since we are in the middle of the process right now, I don't want to write too much about the final outcomes. But it's been very constructive, and I am expecting a positive outcome, albeit with some work for the QDT to carry out.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Final preparations for validation

The team have been busy this week making final preparations for the imminent validation event for the revised HNDs.

Validations have been an important part of the qualification development process for a long time. The purpose of a validation is to carry out a final check on the proposals through a process of peer review. There are two particularly important phrases in that last sentence. The validation is a "final check". It is not meant to question the  basis of the proposed award since anything so fundamentally flawed should never be presented for validation. The other important phrase is "peer review". A validation event is a meeting of equals. It's not an inspection by one group of teachers on another.

That's not to say that a validation is a rubber stamp exercise. The panel can impose conditions and recommendations on a proposed award, and the QDT is required to address the conditions.

The members of this validation panel are typical, consisting of experienced, dedicated professionals, with a variety of backgrounds, who, together with the equally professional members of the QDT, will try to make the new awards as good as they can be.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Validation event

We've been busy recently preparing for the forthcoming validation event for the revised HNDs, which takes place next week.

Since we are validating four awards (HND Computing, HND Computing: Networking, HND Computing: Software Development and HND Computing: Technical Support) we are doing the validation over two days. It will take place next Thursday and Friday (6 and 7 December). The qualifications will be split as follows:

Day 1: HND Computing and HND Computing: Software Development
Day 2: HND Computing: Networking and HND Computing: Technical Support.

This seemed the most logical split due to the links between the awards.

A validation event is a meeting of equals -- it's not the panel "inspecting" the development team. It's an opportunity to have an open and frank and positive discussion about the proposals.

These particular proposals are the most talked-about and considered qualifications I have ever been involved with. The development process goes back almost two years, during which time there have been a huge number of meetings and discussions about their contents. That doesn't mean that they're perfect, but it does mean that we believe that they are well thought through.

It was pleasing that the proposals had wide support at the recent Heads of Computing event, when each of the Qualification Leaders went over their draft awards.

Look out for more news on this blog about the validation once it's over.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

HND Computing Awards - Structures

The Qualification Leaders are currently writing the Group Award Specifications (previously known as Validation Proposal Documents) for the following HND awards:

1. HND Computing
2. HND Computing: Networking
3. HND Computing: Software Development
4. HND Computing: Technical Support

There have been some additional units added to the award strucutres over the past couple of months so the versions that were previously available have been updated.  These structures can be accessed here and  replace any versions you may have saved before.

These versions will go forward for validation as part of each of the awards in December.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Validation Panel

As you know, we are preparing for the forthcoming validation event (the date is still to be decided). One of the key stages in that process is selecting the members of the Validation Panel. We try to get a good mix of educational and industrial representatives who are independent of the development.

Our job for the HNDs was easy since we asked the members of the HNC Validation Panel if they would be willing to serve on the HND validations. They all did. So the Panel for the HND validations will be:
  • Cameron Walker (Aberdeen College): FE representative (Convenor)
  • Debbie McHarg (Stevenson College): FE representative
  • Alan Gannon (Adam Smith College): FE representative
  • Brian McGhee (University of the West of Scotland): University representative
  • Genny Dixon (consultant, previously E-Skills UK): Employer representative
  • Sharon O'Neil (SQA).
The Panel are completely independent of the development, so they can bring a fresh eye to the proposals.

SQA's collaborative, peer created and reviewed, qualification development process has stood the test of time, and proven to be a rigorous, fair but thorough process, which produces high quality qualifications.

Contact Caroline if you have any queries about the validation event.

Preparing for the validation

Me and Caroline met with the Qualification Leaders on Saturday to discuss the forthcoming validation event. The Qualification Leaders are:
  • HND Computing: Derek Summer (Perth College)
  • HND Computing: Networking: Chris Deegan (City of Glasgow College)
  • HND Computing: Software Development: Pete Ainsworth (Motherwell College)
  • HND Computing: Technical Support: Sean Miller (Telford College).
In fact, we focussed on one specific aspect of the validation event -- the production of the required documentation. This has changed. It was previously a "Validation Proposal Document" (VPD), which became "Arrangements" once the award was validated, but this has been replaced by a "Group Award Specification", which replaces both the VPD and the Arrangements.Much of the contents is the same but the new Spec is more streamlined that the previous documentation.

Evidence of support for new awards remains a crucial part of the validation process so don't forget to complete the appropriate online survey if you haven't done so already.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Stakeholder surveys

The QDT has engaged with stakeholders since the start of this development. There are 32 members, representing more than 20 centres, on the QDT itself, and the members of the QDT have formally and informally consulted with their contacts throughout the development process.

But we have recently created more formal means of getting stakeholder feedback via a number of online surveys. There are surveys for college lecturers, university lecturers and employers.

If you haven't done so already, I would appreciate if you would complete the appropriate survey. If you've already completed one, you could encourage colleagues to complete it or forward links to your own contacts. Thanks in anticipation.

Please contact Caroline if you have any problems.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

QDT meeting

The eighth meeting of the QDT took place yesterday morning. The QDT consists of 32 "extended" members and 15 "core" members. Most colleges in Scotland are represented in one capacity or another.

The agenda included a number of important items, including an update on progress, a discussion about timescales, and the contents of the proposed HNDs. I also took the opportunity to tell members about the new Qualification Review Teams.

There was a particularly interesting discussion about progression to degree courses. Members emphasised the importance of designing HNDs that articulate with degrees. The Qualification Leaders agreed to carefully look at this aspect of their frameworks in discussion with university representatives.

The HNC has been available for a few months, and we hope to have the HNDs available to centres from early 2013. The awards are progressing OK, with the focus on the creation of the validation proposal documents (VPDs), which is being done by the Qualification Leaders.

The validation event will take place in December.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the new HNDs.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Reducing assessment

One of the key goals of the HN Review was to reduce the amount of assessment in the awards. So the unit writers were under strict instructions to minimise assessment, while maintaining national standards. I think that we achieved that with the HNC. The number of assessments in the mandatory units of the new award is 55% lower than the existing award. We have also significantly reduced assessment in the optional units.

We are also looking at some radical solutions to this problem. The HN 2.0 project is looking at how we can use social software for summative assessment in the new HNC. The project has coined two new terms: social assessment and smart assessment. Social assessment is how social media can be used for summative assessment. Smart assessment is how smartphones can be used to generate evidence. We hope that combining social assessment and smart assessment we can hugely decrease the time spent on assessment, and make assessment a more natural part of the learning process. For example, we are exploring ways of integrating all of the assessment in the mandatory units of the HNC into a couple of activities using social/smart assessment techniques. This represents a radical departure from the traditional approach.

The HN 2.0 project will produce a report that will describe these ideas in more detail, and a new assessment exemplar that will turn the theory into a practical assessment. The traditional assessments will still be available to use, although much reduced, but this more radical approach will also be an option.

Look out for more details shortly.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

HND frameworks

The QDT has been working hard on the HND frameworks over the last couple of months. We are developing four HNDs - one is new (HND Computing) and three are revisions to existing awards, although very major revisions. The HNDs are:
  • HND Computing (new)
  • HND Computing: Networking
  • HND Computing: Technical Support
  • HND Computing: Software Development.
Each award has its own Qualification Leader.

The frameworks are pretty mature now, so I am not expecting them to change a great deal prior to the validation event. You can download the frameworks here.

The HND Computing award is new, and is designed as a general qualification for students who don't want to specialise in any one aspect of the subject.

The QDT for this review is very large, with representatives from more than half of Scotland's colleges,  but it's not too late for you to provide feedback on the frameworks for the QDT's consideration at the next meeting (scheduled for late August). Please contact Caroline directly with feedback, and she will ensure that the QDT sees your comments.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

HNC Arrangements are now available

Caroline posted a message on the SQA Computing blog last week to let everyone know that the HNC Arrangements have now been published. You can download them here [PDF].

This is an important milestone in the project. It's great to see one of the awards put to bed. It took longer than planned to finalise the HNC, but we got there eventually.

The new HNC includes many improvements over the existing award, such as a more up-to-date structure (which includes professionalism and ethics), core skills in context (now delivered as part of vocational units), and a new way of recognising vendor awards. The optional units include a huge range of exciting new topics, such as Cloud Computing [PDF] and Mobile Technology [PDF].

I know that some centres plan to offer the new HNC from August, and we will work with those centres to ensure a smooth transition from the current award to the new one.

Some support material is already available for the new HNC, and a great deal more is coming. The award will be supported by traditional learning material and e-learning material.

Contact Caroline for more information about the new HNC, including information about current or planned support materials.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Qualification Leader meeting

I met with the qualification leaders (QLs) for each of the HNDs on Friday morning. Each HND has a lead developer:

  • HND Computing: Derek Summer (Perth College)
  • HND Computing: Networking: Chris Deegan (City of Glasgow College)
  • HND Computing: Software Development: Pete Ainsworth (Motherwell College)
  • HND Computing: Technical Support: Sean Miller (Telford College).

The purpose of the meeting was to get a progress report on how the frameworks for each award were coming along, and also to discuss any issues.

The frameworks are coming along well. The HND Computing and HND Software Development ones are pretty much agreed, but there are some issues surrounding the Technical Support and Networking frameworks.

It was a good meeting. We had useful discussions, and resolved several issues. Caroline will update all four frameworks and share these when the agreed changes have been added. I would value your comments. I am hoping that the HND frameworks can be finalised by the end of this month. The new HNDs will be available to centres from January 2013.

Contact Caroline if you want to know more about the new HN awards.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

HNC now validated

I came back from holiday to some great news -- the HNC award is now validated. It was almost there when I left but it's great to see it formally validated.

I appreciate that it took longer than planned. I had hoped to have the HNC award available to centres from March, so that some centres could offer it from August, but a number of factors complicated matters and the process took longer than I had hoped.

It might not be a bad thing to delay the introduction of the award. It will mean that centres can see the HNDs before commencing the HNC (the HNDs will be validated this year), and it also means that the associated support materials (of which there will be many) can be seen before you begin to deliver the award.

The Arrangements for the HNC will be available on the SQA website shortly, and you will be able to enter students from the middle of this month.

To help centres prepare for the new award, I plan to add some of the new units to the existing HNC framework, so that centres can run a sort of hybrid next year if they wish to. I will post more information on this in the near future, but in the meantime I would be interested to hear from you about the units you would like added (use the comment facility).

Contact Caroline for more information about the new HNC in Computing.

Monday, 30 April 2012

HN 2.0 project update

The development team for this project met on Saturday. Although this project is linked to the new HNC Computing, I will post future updates on the main SQA Computing blog, so check there for the latest update about this project.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

QDT meeting

The ninth meeting of the QDT took place yesterday afternoon, in the SQA offices in Glasgow. This is the first formal meeting of the group since the HNC validation event in December. So we had a lot to talk about.

The focus of the meeting was the new HNDs. These had been put on hold until the HNC was put to bed, which it, mostly, has.

It seemed a logical time to review membership of the group. I was particularly pleased to welcome Marion McNab, of Glasgow City College, to the group, who will represent the HN Collaboration Forum. The core and extended QDT has pretty extensive representation on it, with 22 colleges represented in some capacity, which is more than half of the colleges in Scotland.

The review embraces five new awards (the HNC plus four HNDs) and although we still have to validate the HNDs, I pointed out that most of the work had been done since we had draft frameworks for the HNDs and most of the component units were now validated. But we still had work to do -- the most pressing of which was finalising the HND frameworks.

There will be four new HNDs:
  1. HND Computing (generic)
  2. HND Computing: Networking
  3. HND Computing: Software Development
  4. HND Computing: Technical Support
Most of the hard work had been done but we still need to tie down the structures. This is going to be taken forward by the Qualification Leaders, who are:
  1. HND Computing (Derek Summers)
  2. HND Computing: Networking (Chris Deegan)
  3. HND Computing: Software Development (Pete Ainsworth)
  4. HND Computing: Technical Support (Shaun Miller).
I am the convenor of the QDT and my presentation includes the key points from the meeting.
One of the criticisms of the HNC validation panel was our engagement with employers, so we have to work on this for the HNDs.

We hope to have the HND frameworks finalised by the end of May, and carry out the validation event in August, so that the new awards are available to centres from January 2013.

Contact Caroline if you want more information about this development.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Support Materials for HNC/D Computing

We have commissioned the development of assessment exemplar materials to support the forthcoming HNC/D Computing awards and these are now well underway.

In addition to the assessment exemplars for the mandatory units in the HNC Computing award, there will be a further 32 packs in development that will cover many of the options within the HNC & HND Computing awards.

All mandatory unit packs will be in place for the start of the new session.  The remaining packs will start to appear on the SQA secure site from August 2012 onwards.

As well as assessment exemplars for HNC Computing mandatory units, we have also commissioned the development of teaching and learning e-materials which will also be in place for the start of the new session.

To access the list of materials being developed through SQA click here.

Friday, 13 April 2012

HN Computing - Unit Specifications

As mentioned in my previous blog post unit codes are being allocated to the HNC Computing framework on a regular basis and the latest version of the framework can be accessed here.

Coded Units have now been published and can be accessed through the SQA website HN Unit Search

In addition to the HNC Units there are also some Units that have been developed for the forthcoming HND Computing awards that have been also published on the website.  I've listed the Units below:

Managing a Web Server (H16S 35)
Open Source Operating Systems: Introduction to Command Line Administration (H18C 35)
Open Source Operating Systems: Advanced Server Administration (H18D 35)
Open Source Operating Systems: Basic Server Administration (H18E 35)
Open Source Operating Systems: Advanced Network Services Administration (H18F 35)
Network Server Operating Systems (H16T 35)
Network Technology and Data Communications (H16V 35)
Relational Database Management Systems (H16W 35)
Server Administration (H16X 35)
Software Development: Data Structures (H16Y 35)
Software Development: Object Oriented Programming (H171 35)
Systems Development: Object Oriented Analysis and Design (H172 35)

If you have any queries regarding the HNC/D Computing developments, please get in touch with me here.

Monday, 12 March 2012

E-learning material

As part of the additional support that we can now provide for the new awards, we plan to produce e-learning material for the mandatory units in the new HNC qualification (excluding the Graded Unit). We have assembled a team of writers, led by Ted Hastings, which will produce the material.

We didn't specify what tools the developers should use, so long as the final material can be used flexibly in a wide range of environments, including stand-alone and hosted on a VLE. One of the most popular ways of generating content is Wordpress, and we hosted a training event on Saturday for those writers who wanted to know more about this development environment.

It seemed to go well, and Wordpress appears to be a very capable development tool. I think the people who attended were impressed with its facilities.

We have traditionally supported our HN awards with e-learning material (the Computing awards are the best supported of any HN) and this initiative will continue that tradition. Look out for the new materials being available in June. Contact Caroline if you want more information on this project.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

HNC Computing - Update

I understand that many centres are currently planning for the new session so thought it would be a good time to give you an update on the status for the new HNC Computing award.

The framework is now fixed and can be accessed here.  There is a section on the framework dedicated entirely to vendor.  This section will continue to populate as and when vendor courses have been successfully SCQF credit and levelled (and approved by the QDT).  More information on vendors will be detailed in the Arrangements Document due to be published on the SQA website in the next 3-4 weeks.

The Unit Specifications are validated and currently awaiting coding. These will start to appear on the website for download over the next week or so.  As soon as I start to receive a note of the codes I shall add them to the framework so that you have a complete listing of Units and Codes for the new and revised specifications.

The assessment exemplars for all mandatory Units in the HNC are well underway and these will be in place for the start of the new session.

We have managed to attain surplus monies from our year end budget that we have allocated this to three new projects to help support the new award:

1. Additional assessment exemplar packs (30 in total) covering a selection of optional units in the HNC
2. Online teaching and learning materials for the mandatory units in the new HNC Computing award
3. HN 2.0 project (further information here)

We shall be updating this blog with the status of all these projects over the next few months.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Update on progress

This seems a good time to post another update on how things are progressing.

Since the validation event for the HNC in December, we've been working on the conditions and recommendations that the Panel asked us to address. We've made good progress, and I hope to have the HNC award validated in the near future. In the meantime, you can prepare for the new award if you're planning to offer it in August.

We've also been given additional funding to produce extra support materials for the new qualification, and the HN 2.0 project will investigate how you can use social media for assessing the HNC.

I didn't want to progress with the HNDs until the HNC was in-hand, and I think that we are pretty much in that position now, so we'll be organising the next meeting of the QDT soon.

Contact Caroline if you want specific information about the new awards.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

HN 2.0

I've previously mentioned that there is additional money to support this development, and that one of the areas we planned to invest in was assessment. I am about to kick-off a new project to modernise the assessment within the revised HNC.

The HN 2.0 project aims to explore how Web 2.0/social media can be used to assist lecturers carry out assessment in the new HNC award. The objectives are:
  1. identify specific Web 2.0 technologies that can be used for assessment
  2. identify units within the new HNC that could be assessed through social media
  3. exemplify this in terms of concrete examples of evidence generation through social media.
The deliverables will be a report and a workshop.

I haven't created a detailed project plan yet, so I can't be sure about timescales, but I hope to have the work complete by the summer.

I will be seeking volunteers for this project through the usual channels (such as the online group) but contact me directly if you are interested in getting involved.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

SOLAR support

The current HNC/D awards make great use of SOLAR for online assessment. In fact, Computing has more assessments delivered this way than any other subject.

I met with Graeme Clarke, Project Manager for Computer Assisted Assessment, this afternoon to discuss how SOLAR could continue to support the new HN awards.

It was a good, positive meeting. The e-assessment team is keen to support the new awards. He gave me some good news about the HNC Graded Unit -- new assessments were recently added to SOLAR for this important unit. Additional questions have been added to the item bank to make more tests available to centres.

Graeme also pledged support for the new and revised units within the new group awards. It's too early to say exactly what units will be supported through SOLAR, but it was great to hear this support.

Contact Joan Morris if you want to find out more about using SOLAR or find out what is available to centres.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Additional support is coming

We have recently received additional financial support for this development. We have received fairly significant sums of money to support this development. This money will permit us to create additional support materials. For example, we had planned to produce assessment exemplars for the mandatory units only, but this money will permit us to write assessments for many of the optional units too. Some of the money will be used to create e-learning material for the mandatory units in the HNC. And there is now some money to take forward the modernising assessment initiative.

Look out for more information about each of these initiatives in the near future. Or contact Caroline to find out how you can get involved.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Modernising assessment

I came across an interesting paper recently relating to the assessment of Web 2.0 (social media) in universities. The paper is entitled Worth it? Findings from a study of how academics assess students' Web 2.0 activities and was published in the February 2012 edition of Research in Learning Technology. The full paper can be downloaded here.

The paper points out that the use of social media for assessment was limited. When it was used, it was used for low- or mid-stakes assessment. The most common technologies were blogs and wikis. And the subjects that used it most were Social Science, IT, and Education. Its conclusion was not good:

"Web 2.0 cannot be seen to be transforming assessment. On the contrary, its affordances are being appropriated to perpetuate conventional, invisible assessment practices."

The use of Web 2.0 in assessment is a professional interest of mine. My paper on modernising assessment was referenced in this research.

I suspect that practice in FE in the UK is no better and, possibly, worse. One of the goals of the HN Review is to improve assessment. I plan to look at ways that we could utilise some of the affordances of social media to do this. Look out for more information on an "HN 2.0" project in the near future.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

What you can do now

We hope to have the updated HNC award available to centres from April. But that doesn't mean that you have to wait until then to start preparing to deliver the updated award.

The draft framework was broadly accepted by the Validation Panel, so the shape of the award is known. In fact, none of the conditions relate to the mandatory section of the qualification, which will be unchanged. The only structural change will be the addition of one or two units to the optional section.

We are presently validating the new or revised units in the award. In fact, some of the units have been validated and are now "feature complete". We'll share these units with you in the near future. Watch this space.

You will start to see final (coded) versions of the units appear on the SQA website from February and definitive Arrangements will be published on the SQA in April. There will be a launch event in June.

The existing HNC framework will continue to be "current" until 31 August 2014 (the date of the final certification) so there is no requirement for you to offer the new award right now, but we think that it is so much better than the existing award that we hope you consider offering the new version from August of this year.

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