Wednesday, August 12, 2020

An Experienced Reflection on National Awarding


I worked for the SQA for most of the current century - and every year congratulations are due to all learners and this year, in that respect, it is no different. 

I'm glad I am on a beach in the Outer Hebrides this week.  Working for the SQA is a thankless task and colleagues will be working hard as ever to deliver. 

We need to step back from the hysteria.

These are exceptional times. This is the first time since the 1880's that the national exam diet has been cancelled. This has put a strain on everyone; learners , teachers , administrators and politicians. In times like this tough decisions need to be made and justified.  A decision was made today to uphold the estimates made by teachers. 

This I think exposes some deep fault lines in our system. Teachers have systematically over estimated pupils eventual results for years. The external exams being the method of arbitration. Without the exam this issue is thrown into sharp focus. 

I think the appeals system that was ready to go into operation would have supported the deserving cases. But we will never know. The noise about education being a postcode lottery isn’t just noise - but the appeals system would have adjusted these. 

What is the issue .

Many teachers are not particularly good at designing prelims , and or are unsure about standards. The evidence is pretty well known to those who have worked  in and around the system.  There is often a big gap between learners actual grades and those predicted by their teachers.  Appeals are often made based on invalid evidence, commonly cobbled together prelims based on items from past papers - when this was admissible evidence.  

The system has not done enough over a lot of years to make sure that teachers can make better estimates. Perhaps given the parental and institutional pressure that teachers are under, along with different learner performance between prelim and final - it is too hard a task. SQA has done its bit around Understanding Standards.

SQA has data on the reliability of estimates at school level and I am certain that SQA's initial response was based on sound evidence. In this, and ultimately the change of tack, they follow the instructions from the government.  SQA staff and the 15,000 appointees  ( who are mainly serving teachers ) do their utmost to make the system fair for all. 

Some observations - 

A decision has been made that will be very popular with learners and teachers , it looks as though it has almost cross party support. The government was never going to have an easy decision on this. 

Should the system now accept that teachers make these national assessment decisions ? ( I think  the view is that this is perhaps a one off ( I'd like to see more robust decision making moved here )  . No one, least of all the learners were prepared for what has been an incredible year, an upward drift of 14% across the board, does create a credibility problem , but who knows perhaps lots of learning was happening in lock down and schools and local authorities had to put in long hours creating their orders of merit.  Neatly too it creates a cohort of learners for Higher Education when overseas numbers are down.  Perhaps it just highlights that exams  are not really about quality control just quantity management for the tertiary sector.  It probably mirrors what is happening in the Higher Education sector - where grade inflation is much more of a reality - and when the  dust settles it will have ballooned this year. Please press, don't roll out the usual elite moaners and fixers from Higher Education about the school and college system - they have zero credibility on standards. 

What is clear and to restore learners faith in the system is that learners need a better means of evaluating their performance against national standards. The wide variances between school estimates and the original awards need tackled. It is an opportunity to revisit the whole exam system - roll on ,  roll off digital assessment for all is within reach along with digital portfolios of evidence.  Local Authorities , Education Scotland and the GTCS should take a much closer interest in teacher decision making. It is only recently that the GTCS started recognising teacher engagement in national assessment work as a critical part of CPD and often it is the schools with fewer SQA appointees that have the most divergent estimates.  Perhaps a starting point could be a comparison of previous years performance based on exams and this year's based on estimates. What was this year’s secret sauce ? 

The credibility of the national assessment system, whatever its future shape, is everyone's responsibility and it is ill served by political slagging matches and press hysteria.  I think we are still  not in a place where we can say the academic year ahead is without more uncertainties. 

In the meantime , I wonder how the more market driven education system of England will cope with a similar crisis, A stars all round I wouldn't wonder.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Active Summer with Fresh Challenges Ahead.

How do you measure what has been a challenging time for all ? 

It's not been the end of the world ( translation of my French surf shirt ).  My lock down beard 
(recorded in zoom and teams meetings)  has now gone and we are getting ready for the new session. Here are some links that reflect our work over the summer and our preparations for the new session. It is not the end , nor the beginning of the end of blended learning , it is just the start of a very different and much more learner centred form of education. 


We are ready with a new online standard for all,  and much more summarised on the LTA Blog Site . This is a summary of some great work across the Learning and Teaching Academy team , it has been a real team effort.  

I wrote a paper in April/May about the landscape we are all in,  and I've been fortunate to get pieces in the May Edition of Teaching Scotland.  I've linked my  CoVid posts for posterity

What is certain is that we are planning well - what is less certain are the challenges that lie ahead. 




Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sign Up for Scottish Association of Learning Technology SIG Event with a difference 22nd of June


Learning technologist in a University , College , local authority schools or other learning environment ? 

Could you please take a few moments to upload a video of yourself talking about what has helped you with the transition to remote learning and teaching, either from an individual or institutional perspective?

Don't be shy - we want to hear your voice ! 
If you are really shy - wear a disguise ;-) 
Is that asking for trouble ;-) 

And look forward to seeing you in person at the ALT Scotland SIG 
Please also remember to register for the event:

If you are reading this message - could promote the event within your institutions too that would be great!

Very best wishes,


ALT Scotland Special Interest Group Co-Chairs
Joe and Vicki



Dr Vicki H.M. Dale,   University of Glasgow
Joe Wilson MA, MBA , DipEd , PGCSE City of Glasgow College


Monday, June 01, 2020

Busy , Busy , Busy



I started trying to record what the new Learning and Teaching Academy has been up to on a weekly basis . I can't really believe this is week 10 of the lock down . 

I'm just about to push around a newsletter that is testament to all the hard work put in by teams and staff across the College.  June will be just as busy with virtual events across the College and nationally .  Hoping to finalise details of an ALT Scotland Special Interest Group meeting for end of this month - this week. 


( with thanks to Tom Duff) 

Here is a wee list of what we have achieved in 10 weeks.

  1. On day college closed we had advice in place for teaching , support and students on working remotely.
  2. We moved all support on line - our inbox every day has now dealt with around 1500 support requests ( at 27/5)
  3. We immediately rolled out Zoom as a practical delivery tool for teachers and provided associated support.
  4. We’ve run 2 webinars a day covering critical systems and support – with more than 950 staff attending sessions . Through online booking platform and we've had great feedback.
  5. Our offer has tracked staff demand – initially focusing on communication tools , now focusing on assessment and evidence gathering tools and we will focus on learning design to make courses more digital and blended for start of next session. ( we are using our own version of ABC Learning Design. 
  6. We have continued both to support a number of commercial projects like https://www.offsiteready.com/  and have won more commercial funding during lock down – and we are still bidding for new business. ( we are just about to roll out a UFI Project - watch this space) 
  7. We documented our approach and it has been picked up as good practice and will feature in a future GTCS Magazine.
  8. From 17 March we have offered a digital first library service with advice, support, guidance and access to resources for students and staff.
  9. We have designed, developed and launched the Learning and Teaching Academy online presence. Re-branded existing pages and building whole new libguide platform and creating a wordpress site and created a suite of short instructional videos and guides for staff working remotely.
  10. Our team has offered an online landscape to enable and support teaching teams to deliver online. With daily learning opportunities such as webinars to online learning courses that encourage and exploit digital technologies such as Teams, Zooms and many educational technologies and software.
  11. The LTA has successfully created a team ethic that is centred on supporting academic development and enhancing teaching and learning within City and beyond.
  12. We just managed to squeeze out a Jisc Digital Insights Student survey - which I know will give us some valuable data on how learners are coping in lockdown.
  13. We are now well positioned to start the real work of transforming delivery at City of Glasgow College in a new working landscape.
In amongst this I've  continued to support the College Scotland's #DigitalAmbition work now morphing into a more directed bit of work to deal with the immediate crisis . I've to completing data gathering for feedback to be in this week. 

Also managed to present  on a CDN/Jisc Virtual Bridge Sessions along with some of my colleagues. 

whew ! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

#OER20 Still reverberating around kitchens and home offices around the world.

The  #OER20 conference was an interesting experience . It was brilliantly switched from face to face to becoming a wholly on-line conference in a matter of weeks and it proved to be a great experience on many levels. What a great achievement by ALT team who have even shared the methodology they employed to run the online conference.

The #OER conference always has great speakers and explores a broad range of open educational practice from around the globe. In some ways with us all sitting isolating in different parts of the world and beaming into home offices , kitchens in my case ,  it seemed to emphasise the global nature of open educational thinking and practices.

I'm guessing we were all balancing our institutional commitments. I've reflected these in some earlier posts and workload and on-line meetings did get in the way of some of the sessions I would have liked to tune in to.

The on-line conference grew from it's usual physical size of around 400 delegates to 1300 delegates , the social hangouts and back channels allowed some of the networking and chatting that is a critical component of the learning that comes from a conferences, though I have to say I missed the mingling and meeting old friends and new.

It was topical and on the ball and even managed to have its own Blackboard Collaborate Bombing - it's not just Zoom, it  can happen on any platform folks.


I've embedded the conference playlist here ..




You can sneak a peak and many of the attendees who completed a splot and played social bingo.
As Lorna Campbell succinctly highlights

Please note, the OER20 conference wasn’t just free as in speech, it was also free as in beer, so if you participated in the event, either listening in to the presentations, or even just following the hashtag online, please consider making a donation to the conference fund. Every little helps to support ALT and cover the cost.

Our own session went well ... without rehearsal we summed up what we have achieved through a collaborative partnership around a shared G-Suite for Education - and the travails of getting staff to work in the open. You can find a recording of session and be your own judge.  The site is in transition to NMIS and Strathclyde University and is currently not sitting on it's usual domain - the resources are open and reflects well on what was a real team effort and a development that I think breaks the mould in Scottish education at least.

And finally delighted to be chairing next year's conference along with Lou Mycroft and Louise Drumm . Wherever the conference physically happens and I am hoping we can bring it to Glasgow ,  I know it will be very different.

I look forward to shaping it with the ALT team and my co-chairs.

In meantime I have three days off - I mooted this with rest of family,  I am going on a camping trip into my suburban back garden.  Initially, they thought I had finally cracked , but I think they maybe joining me. Now is the time to think differently folks.







Thursday, April 02, 2020

A week in learning technology #Clickview #OER20


So update we ran 10 webinars last week and over 250 staff tuned in .Between the learning tech and library team we dealt with over 1000 inquires through help desks and social media.  We now have around 700 staff across teaching and support with an active zoom account and we look good to go. 

In between the full on workload I managed to support a Clickview Online Conference presenting to some 418 colleagues across UK. It is worth checking out video, not for my input , but for the excellent overview of ClickViewYou will find out in session how we are using ClickView - many of our own staff have not yet embedded this in their teaching.  That's the next target - we have just started rolling out Click-view Training . I am publishing this a bit prematurely simply to show a workshop how to embed publicly available click-view content . 


In this current week ..

We’ve worked out that the wider community need some Zoom training so we are opening that up - offering free seats to the public - to make sure staff in front line services are confident Zoom users. We will open up our subsequent offers too.

I wonder what other colleges and universities could open up for to colleagues across public sector - we are now living in a remote working, on-line world.

Our own programme is expanding, having covered key communication channels, we are adding ClickView Training and for some Microsoft Teams training and we’ve added an online booking system - to make sign up easier.
And we are planning on building around a community of practice https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/teach-online while promoting the bridge initiative from CDN and jisc . Tomorrow we are creating a What's On Page to capture more of the on-line events and training that are available to the College staff across the UK and beyond.


And I delivered a paper on how we harnessed google sites to deliver a national programme at #oer20 on Wednesday - Blackboard Collaborate this time globally 1200 delegates making this biggest #OER conference yet . Special thanks to my co-presenter Dr Lewis Ross and in the background Dr Julian Hopkins , John Casey and colleagues who supported delivery of this project including Jim Hannigan at SDS . They included a nice platform for delegates to introduce themselves https://oer20.socialbingo.oerconf.org/participants/joe-wilson
I borrowed the meme from Clint Lalonde .

I'll post later on fabulous online #oer20 experience and some exciting news.
In meantime this is what's making us laugh this week.




Monday, March 23, 2020

Remote Working Across Large Scottish College

Sunday on a remote beach near Glasgow - self isolating 

At City of Glasgow College, this is what we’ve been busy doing.

Last week, as the College closed to face to face teaching, we jumped from developing more blended approaches to full on , online learning.

Our priority has been working on improving communication between lecturers and their students. It has been a real team effort from shaping the offer to communicating across the College. 

  • We’ve prepared and published guides for teaching staff , support staff and students around all the systems we have in place for remote learning.
  • We’ve changed the way we can be contacted and how we deliver our support services for those who run into technical challenges or simply need some online support.

We’ve always had a rich set of training and support resources around blended learning. To this point they have mainly been used by those who wanted to pioneer new approaches to learning and teaching. Behind the scenes we are refreshing parts of this but mainly we are just reminding folk what is there already.

This week we are rolling out a webinar programme. Two sessions a day, 10-11am and 2-3pm. A cycle of :

  • Reminding staff by running webinars on how to use enquirer, our MIS system, to send emails and sms messages to class groups and individual students.
  • Showing staff who haven’t been using forums inside their Moodle courses. How to set one up and how to make use of it to engage with learners.
  • All sessions delivered by Zoom with additional training for staff on how to use Zoom with their students. We anticipate Zoom is our new face to face.
We can deliver most digital skills remotely. But the digital divide is wide , staff and students don’t all have reliable internet connections or devices capable of coping with webinars. We have some staff who are really just learning what our systems can do for the first time.

Some of this links back into our Moodle and is unavailable to those outwith College but I hope process and some of guides are helpful to others.

Remote learning guides:

Support staff :: Lecturing staff :: Students :: Staff Help guides and videos

Learning Technologies Help

I think this will be similar pattern to most further and higher education institutions. When this process is finished I don't think we will be going back to the bad old world.  

If I had one wish it would be that SQA applied some of the same rules they have just applied to end the School session . Universities seem in main to have found ways to wind down for the year , schools have effectively ended - we need a tidy national way to close off the end of year for students in Colleges across Scotland. 

As an end piece here is a good commentary on what happens when on-line learning goes wrong.  We need to keep expectations realistic .