Wednesday, December 05, 2007

BTEC/Skillset or both?

BTEC are an examination board who fall under the
Edexcel brand. Edexcel are a learning organisation who offer many vocational and general qualifications. The BTEC syllabus for Interactive Media is quite a vast document containing the required outcomes and content for each unit of study. They also provide advice on how to deliver each skill and give further guidance such as helpful websites and further reading exercises.

Skillset on the other hand are a Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industry. They are jointly funded by both the industry and the government and aim to make sure the industry has the right people with the right skills. From my point of view as a student they provide a helpful set of National Occupational Standards which state what skills you will need to work in the industry. This is quite wide ranging from Core Skills that are needed in each sector of the industry through to more specific areas such as “Manage Intellectual Property Rights” and “Design Electronic Games”.

The obvious difference between the two is that BTEC is an educational authority whereas Skillset is directly linked to the industry. This means that they both have quite different aims which both need to be taken into consideration by students leaning Interactive Media. The main aim of BTEC is to educate and train students to enable them to pass the course by meeting a selection of learning outcomes. The main aim for Skillset however as stated previously is to make sure the industry contains the right people with the right skills.

The BTEC syllabus contains learning outcomes for each unit with the aim of providing students with certain skills. The outcomes are quite broad however so can be interpreted in a number of ways. A good example of this is in Unit 22: New Technologies in Interactive Media. One of the learning outcomes for this unit was “Using new technology, produce a proposal for an interactive media product”.

The Skillset Standards are much more focused however. A good example of this is on Unit IM7: Code Scripts To Provide Functionality For Interactive Media Products. This section states “Some industry-standard languages you might use are Flash ActionScript, JavaScript, VBScript, Lingo for Director, Perl and PHP”. BTEC do attempt to do this by stating “At the time of publication, the following programming languages would be suggested for use CH, JAVA, Visual Basic, JAVA Script”. This is not a must however and the new technology learnt depends on the discretion of the course leader.

Another main difference between the two is that unlike BTEC the Skillset Standards do not state how you would learn skills or provide additional support. The BTEC syllabus provides instructions on how each unit would be passed and provides support materials such as helpful books. One problem with this however is that the BTEC syllabus has not been updated since March 2005. This may mean that the support materials given are no longer appropriate. Due to the fast moving nature of the Interactive Media industry I feel that more regular updates are essential in order to maintain relevance with the industry.

I feel that relevance with the industry is a key concept when comparing BTEC with Skillset. The main aim of BTEC is to give students the appropriate qualifications to gain employment. The main aim of Skillset however is to make sure the industry remains competitive by containing people with the right skills. I think that they both compliment each other very well and both need to be taken into consideration by Interactive Media Students.


Craig Allington said...

I too agree with the IM7 unit from Skillset comparing against BTEC's standards.

I made a similar point in my blog and I think that for an educational body to not even state such vital skills should be taught and to merely suggest they could be taught is ridiculous.

Craig Burgess said...

On a course such as ours I don't thin k that there is a lot of room for learning many coding languages, but I believe XHTML and CSS is vital, both of which we have been taught.

Like I said on Chris' blog, we could have easily spent two years just learning how to design and that probably wouldn't be enough.

Further coding languages are something that we should all be striving to learn in our own time, or at least developing an understanding of them beyond the typical "it's a coding language" reply.

It's vital as a web designer especially to have a detailed appreciation of other languages such as PHP et al. I don't think learning bits of Actionscript would go to waste either, as it's just another feather in the cap for employment.

Ben Waller said...

Thanks for your comments. I agree CSS and XHTML are vital and it doesn't matter how good a designer you are because if you don't know how to use CSS and XHTML you are unlikely to gain employment in this industry.

I have recently touched on PHP and Javascript as part of our On The Job assignment. I feel this will really benefit me in the future as I have a much better understanding than I did several months ago.

Richard said...

I never really thought that the references that BTEC have given might not be relevant anymore because it hasn’t been updated. I just saw the references as a good point in the document, and didn’t look to closely at what they were a reference too.

Looking at your other blog comments I would agree with both. I have no experience with any other code except XHTML and CSS. But I think I may try and learn the basics of PHP in my own time because it does seem to be mentioned more and more these days. I think the more areas we know when looking for a job, even if it is only at a very basic level, would be a great advantage to us.

Marc Pugh said...

I was really surprised to see the amount of job roles available for an Interactive Media Designer. I thought there were merely 2 options for us. Print and Develope. I soon realised there are tons of other things.

I am glad that we seem to be achieving most of the skills required for jobs. I really should start to look at the roles more carefully and start to think about my career more. The Skillset really opened my eyes.