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Delivery of Vocational Computing at Level 3. Paul Simmons & Paul Tanner Newcastle-under-Lyme College. About NULC. General FE college with 6 th form centre – around 3500 full timers. New build opened 5 years ago.

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Delivery of vocational computing at level 3

Delivery of Vocational Computing at Level 3

Paul Simmons & Paul Tanner

Newcastle-under-Lyme College

About nulc
About NULC

  • General FE college with 6th form centre – around 3500 full timers.

  • New build opened 5 years ago.

  • Have seen rise in numbers in computing (around 220 learners expected next year).

  • Wide catchment area – all north Staffordshire and areas surrounding.

  • Some students still have low expectations – some challenges involved.

  • Area doesn’t have the tradition of further study etc.

Paul tanner
Paul Tanner

  • 11 years at NULC in range of roles

    • Leader for L3 BTEC & HND

    • Involved in delivery of GCSE ICT and Specialist Diploma.

    • Cisco Academy Instructor (previously CCNP)

  • 7 years industrial experience

    • Network support & maintenance

    • Lead project engineer

    • Some internal training

  • Degree in Computing Science

Paul simmons
Paul Simmons

  • 7 years at NULC

    • Leader for L1 and L2 Computing Courses

  • Specialisms

    • Software development in Python

    • Web Development using HTML5, CSS3 and PHP

  • Degree in Software Development

  • Currently studying MSc in Computing

Vocational computing at nulc
Vocational Computing at NULC

  • Last academic year (2013-2014):

    • 12 students on ITQ Level 1

    • 36 students on First Diploma IT

    • 130 L3 students across the 2 years.

    • Max group size around 20 - 23

  • 8 staff with various specialisms across computing and IT spectrum

Subjects covered by our courses
Subjects covered by our courses.

  • Software and games development

  • Website development

  • System analysis and design

  • Networking

  • Computer hardware and maintenance

  • Graphics and animation

  • Database design and Development

  • Communication and employability skills

  • General office skills at lower levels

General issues seen
General Issues seen

  • Problem solving skills

  • Technical knowledge – should be addressed by new curriculum (not just programming though).

  • Resources

  • Expectations of what computing actually means!

  • Scenario selection

  • Employer contact

P ositives

  • Most students want to learn

  • Most completing go on to excellent careers.

  • Over 50% go to Uni / HE courses.

  • Wide range of options

  • Vast majority of students want to attend and enjoy their time on the course.

  • Good outcomes – most exceed targets set.

Delivery of programming
Delivery of programming

  • Choice of language

    • Python

    • VB

    • MiT App Inventor (To be used in 2014-2015)

  • Methods of delivery

    • Tutorials

    • Videos

Lesson learned in teaching programming this year
Lesson learned in teaching programming this year

  • Use of more detailed examples of code

  • Delivery of tutorials

    • Smaller chunks of delivery

  • Checking understanding of Maths

    • A lot of code written relied on knowledge of Maths

  • Use of visual aid, analogy and metaphor to help with syntax and concepts.

    • E.g. Explanation of { } within programming languages

  • Use of consistent scenario

Y ear 1 of using raspberry pi to teach level 3
Year 1 of using Raspberry Pi to teach Level 3

  • Used for teaching controlling systems

    • Primarily practical approach, used RPi to simulate control systems. Used tutorials

    • Final Project – Simulated home control system for disabled user

Home control system for disabled user
Home Control System for Disabled user

  • Brief: You have been asked to design a home control system for a disabled user. The system should automate processes such as turning on lights and opening curtains. You should consider a range of different processes you could automate using several different types of sensor (e.g. Temperature).

Outcomes thoughts of 1 st year of raspberry pi
Outcomes/thoughts of 1st year of Raspberry Pi

  • Total set-up cost including components for the project: £2700

  • Project was “a bit abstract” but gave students a good opportunity to explore sensors

  • Some technical issues with Raspberry Pi

    • Interference of motors

    • Wiring circuit to available outputs

    • Problems with connecting Pi to display

      • HDMI to VGA

      • HDMI to DVI

Next year s project
Next Year’s Project

  • You are working for a household appliance manufacturer who are looking to get into the automatic vacuum cleaner market and have asked you to design and create a prototype for their device. Using the Raspberry Pi as a base, you have to make a prototype for the device.

  • Company has asked for two versions:

    • A manually controlled version using a GUI based application to control the device. This should allow the user to control the device by entering instructions into a form using text boxes, drop down lists and buttons.

    • An automated version which can navigate itself. This should use at-least 2 sensors (e.g. Distance sensor, Light sensor) and outputs (e.g. Motors, LEDs) and should be able to navigate a space.

Raspberry jams
Raspberry Jams

  • 3 Raspberry Jam run so far

    • 60 people at first

    • Approx 30 people at 2nd and 3rd

  • Used EventBrite, Facebook and Twitter to promote

  • General structure:

    • Lightning talks

    • Demos

    • Tutorials

  • Issues arisen so far:

    • Encouraging speakers and demos

    • Timing issues

Some raspberry pi resources
Some Raspberry Pi Resources

  • MagPi Magazine -

  • Raspberry Pi Geek -

  • PiWeekly -

  • Python -

  • Raspberry Pi User Guide (Eben Upton)

  • Learning Python (Mark Lutz)

  • Programming the Raspberry Pi: Getting Started with Python (Simon Monk)

Delivery of networking hardware modules
Delivery of Networking & Hardware Modules

  • Range of units at all levels covering:

    • Hardware aspects

    • Tech support

    • Networking and communications

  • Popular options – not just for those wanting tech support roles.

  • Can lead to Uni and Apprenticeship opportunities.

  • One main “lab”.

  • Latest kit not really needed.

  • Raspberry Pi can be used in these areas also.

Kit requirements
Kit requirements

  • Basic tools + UTP cable making kit.

  • Screens, base units, mice, keyboards.

  • Does not need to be the latest, greatest, most expensive kit.

  • Have seen these units delivered in spaces in “normal” computer rooms.

  • Networking – some kit available on eBay if you can purchase through this method.

  • Again, doesn’t need to be latest.


  • Hardware – elements of systems, connectivity.

  • Health & Safety – safe use of electrical devices, ergonomics

  • Software – installing, updating, removing, licencing.

  • Networks – basic terms such as bandwidth.

  • Protocols and models – OSI v TCP/IP, IPv4, IPv6.

  • Services and types of networks – WiFi, Ethernet, 3G, 4G.

  • Availability and use of different networks in differing situations.

Cisco academy
Cisco Academy

  • BTECs allow vendor units to be included

  • Cisco units included this year for first time – but Cisco have now changed their curriculum.

  • Access to Packet Tracer simulation tool.

  • IT Essentials programme would not fit better.

  • Units available to accommodate Microsoft vendor modules also.

  • Currently working with company to develop these options to investigate opportunities for delivery.

Progression routes
Progression routes

  • L2 students

    • 50 – 75% progress to other courses in organisation.

    • Most progressing to L3 computing do well – exceed target grades.

  • L3 Students

    • 50% progress to further study at HE

    • Some move to other L3 subjects (5 - 10%)

    • 20 – 30% progress to apprenticeships.

Our challenges
Our challenges?

  • Maintain success & numbers as more offerings.

  • Improve figures and offer where possible and appropriate.

  • New assessment guidelines

  • Changing curriculum

    • maybe some of our courses won’t see changes in time to meet needs of those studying new school curriculum.

To summarise
To summarise

  • Popular courses

  • “Computing” seems a more popular term than ICT?

Any questions and contact info
Any questions and contact info

  • Tel: 01782 715111

  • eMail:



  • Twitter:

    • @NULC_Computing

    • No Facebook presence for courses with students under 18 – one group for HND.

  • Questions?