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QCF Level 3: BTEC Specialist
Guided learning hours: 60
The aim of this unit is to enable learners to understand the components of computer systems and develop the skills needed to recommend appropriate systems for business purposes and set up and maintain computer systems.
At some stage most IT professionals will have to set up and customise a computer system or systems. To do so effectively they will need to understand the components that make up computer systems. The operating system interacts with the hardware and software components in order to make a functioning machine.
In this unit learners will consider a range of hardware and come to understand the technical specifications of components. There are a number of different operating systems, despite the dominance of the Microsoft operating system, and learners will explore at least one other. In terms of software, the operating system itself often provides utility programmes that assist the user in managing the machine. Other third party software utility programmes such as virus checkers are also used extensively. This unit considers both types of utility software. 1.1 explain the function of computer hardware components
IT professionals will often be asked to recommend systems for varied user needs. There are many different manufacturers of computer systems and each manufacturer produces a wide range of models with different specifications. Deciding which particular model is appropriate for a given situation depends on a variety of factors. These factors are explored in this unit so that learners can make informed choices when recommending computer systems.
IT professionals also need to develop the skills required to install and configure computer systems. A large part of this unit will involve practical work in installing hardware components and software, configuring systems to meet specific requirements and testing to ensure a fully functioning system is produced
In order to pass this unit, the evidence that the learner presents for assessment needs to demonstrate that they can meet all the learning outcomes for the unit. The assessment criteria determine the standard required to achieve the unit.
Unit 25: Computer Systems
Understand the components of computer systems
1.1 explain the function of computer hardware components
1.2 explain the purpose of operating systems
1.3 explain the purpose of different software utilities
Be able to recommend computer systems for a business purpose
2.1 recommend a computer system for a given business purpose
Be able to set up and maintain computer systems
3.1 set up a standalone computer system, installing hardware and software components
3.2 configure a computer system to meet user needs
3.3 test a configure computer system for functionality
3.4 undertake routine maintenance tasks on a standalone computer system
3 Understand the components of computer systems
Internal system unit components: processors; motherboard; BIOS; power supply; fan and heat sink or cooling; hard drive configuration and controllers eg SATA, IDE, EIDE, master, slave; ports eg USB, parallel, serial; internal memory eg RAM, ROM, cache; specialized cards eg network, graphic cards
Peripherals: output devices eg monitor, printer, plotter; input devices eg camera, scanner; cabling eg coaxial, optical, twisted pair
Backing storage: types eg disks, pen drives, optical media, flash memory cards; portable and fixed drives; performance factors eg data transfer rate, capacity 1.1 explain the function of computer hardware components
Operating system software: operating system examples eg LINUX, Windows, DOS, MAC OS; command line and GUI operating systems; operating system functions and services eg machine and peripheral management, security, file management; device drivers; features eg ability to customize, support for connectivity of portable media, security, stability and reliability, ease of management, associated utilities, cost and support for the user.
Software utilities: security eg virus protection, firewalls; clean up tools eg for removal of cookies, internet history, defragmentation; drive formatting
Considerations for selection: cost; user requirements eg software to be used, network sharing, need for maintenance contract, outputs required, need for integration with other systems eg home entertainment; processing power, storage capacity, accessibility for disabled users, the ICT competence of the intended user, training requirements
Connect and set-up: equipment eg monitor, printer, modem/router, keyboard, mouse, speakers, microphone, RAM, hard drive
Install hardware: components eg graphics card, sound card, CD/DVD drive
Install software: operating system software eg Windows; applications software eg Microsoft Office; security software eg virus checkers, firewalls; device drivers; create appropriate directory/folder structures
Configure: BIOS configuration eg setting a BIOS password, editing power management options; editing anti-virus configurations; editing the desktop eg icon size, font size, colour, background, icon choice; creating start-up options; setting file sharing/permissions; creating and reconfiguring application toolbars
Testing: functionality eg software applications open and work as intended, default folder settings are correct, desktop shortcuts go to the right place, the correct device drivers are installed, the correct paper sizes are set for printing, menu options work as intended, the correct date and time are set
Routine maintenance: organisation and naming of files; back-up procedures eg online, off-line; backup media; automatic scheduling and deletion of unwanted data; archiving; defragmentation; deleting temporary files; cleaning hardware eg keyboard, mouse, display screen equipment (DSE), ventilation grills; replacing consumables eg printer paper, ink or toner cartridges; replacing damaged component
The way in which the content is ordered can guide the delivery as outlined in the outline learning plan.
To start with, learners could research the different internal and external hardware components of computer systems and develop their own ‘Dummies Guide’. They should be encouraged to investigate cutting-edge technology, not just the safe options. This can be supported with practical sessions where learners can see and handle the components. A stock of redundant or superseded components is a useful aid.
Facilities will need to be available for learners to practise installing both hardware and software components as outlined in the unit content. Note this is for stand-alone machines. This needs to be done under careful supervision, not least to ensure longevity of resources. Health and safety must be a priority and learners must be taught how to work in a safe manner. It should become second nature for learners to take appropriate precautions using static mats and wristbands when handling hardware components.
Health and safety issues relating to electrical appliances and use of tools also need to be addressed. 1.1 explain the function of computer hardware components
One possible strategy is for learners to first work on ‘dead’ computers, or even just components not in a casing, before progressing on to a ‘live’ machine as their skills develop.
Learners will need opportunities to practice configuring systems to meet specific requirements. A variety of requirements should be covered as outlined in the unit content.
Good practice in planning and recording testing should be developed as practical work progresses.
While it will be natural to concentrate on the operating system in use in the centre, learners must be given the opportunity to work with at least one other system, and understand other operating systems as outlined in the content.
A range of software utilities should be investigated. Learners will be familiar with virus protection and firewalls and useful research can be undertaken to discover the latest threats and barriers. It may be difficult for learners to use clean-up tools on the centre systems but they should understand the range and function of these tools.
Once a basic understanding of components is in place, learners can start researching component costs and compatibilities. It can be useful to compile a comparative table, which will help when it comes to assessment.
Using case studies will help learners to understand how to select a system set up for a particular user requirement. As many different scenarios as possible should be used. Commercially available computer systems should be investigated and assessed for compatibility as well as considering building a system from its component parts
The outline learning plan has been included in this unit as guidance and can be used in conjunction with the programme of suggested assignments. The outline learning plan demonstrates one way in planning the delivery and assessment of this unit.
Topic and suggested assignments/activities and/assessment
Introduction to the unit
Components of computer systems:
Assignment 1 – Decoding the Jargon
Installing and testing hardware:
Installing and testing software:
Assignment 2 – The Best Solution
Assignment 3 – Setting up the System
The suggested assessment of this unit is by three assignments as summarised in the
Programme of Suggested Assignments (PSA) table. 1.1 explain the function of computer hardware components
For 1.1, evidence such as diagrams or photographs with clear supporting notes will be sufficient. An alternative form of evidence is a web page with hot-spots over different components explaining what the components are. The communication between components must be identified. It is possible that everything could be identified within one diagram.
Alternatively, learners could give a demonstration to the tutor with documented questions and answers or undertake a short test. However, if a test is used, learners must show competence in all areas of the unit content and not just achieve a certain percentage. Potentially a detailed diagram or poster supplemented by a short test would be appropriate.
For 1.2, learners should outline the basic functions of operating systems in general, explaining how they are used to facilitate users.
For this assignment learners will need to be given a detailed business requirement. This need not be the same as that for the installation assignment (see below), indeed separating the two may give more scope for varying the detail given to learners and allow for more unusual requirements to be included.
For 1.3, a table is an appropriate format for structuring the information. Learners are required to give one example from each category of software utilities defined in the content.
For 2.1, learners could present the evidence as a report or presentation. The choice of components should be briefly explained but may not make reference to all the user requirements. It is important that the final specification includes all the necessary hardware and software components for the system to work.
Ideally, the same business requirement will be used for this assignment. However, that may not be possible, in which case another scenario can be used to match the hardware/software available for installation.
For 3.1, learners must install at least one hardware and one software component in a stand-alone system. This is best evidenced with a witness statement or observation record and screen shots. Learners must use suitable safety equipment/tools and pay due regard to health and safety issues.
For 3.2, learners must configure some basic system settings, such as left and right mouse buttons, power-saving options, screen resolution, desktop theme, font size, default language setting, default folder locations etc. They may have needed considerable prompting to do so. This is best evidenced with a witness statement or observation record and screen shots
For 3.3, evidence will be provided by a test plan and subsequent test results. Screen shots may be relevant. Any test failures should be explained, with reasons.
For 3.4, evidence will be provided by a short report with screengrabs.
The table below shows a programme of suggested assignments that cover the assessment criteria in the assessment and grading grid. This is for guidance and it is recommended that centres either write their own assignments or adapt any Edexcel assignments to meet local needs and resources.
Decoding the Jargon
A business manager has asked for a presentation on computer components for staff development purposes.
The Best Solution
You are to recommend a suitable hardware and software configuration for a specific business requirement.
Setting up the System
Install, configure and test system components.
Perform routine maintenance.
Test records. Report.
This unit forms part of the BTEC in IT sector suite. This unit has particular links with:
Setting up an IT Network
Maintaining Computer Systems
This unit maps to some of the underpinning knowledge from the following areas of competence in the Level 3 National Occupational Standards for IT (ProCom):
4.1 Systems Architecture
4.3 Human Needs Analysis
4.4 Systems Analysis
4.7 Systems Design.
Learners will need access to practical resources and suitable technology, they can also use simulators or multimedia tools to gain prior experience before handling ‘live resources’. 1.1 explain the function of computer hardware components
The use of vocational context is essential in the delivery and assessment of this unit. Learners will require access to computer equipment to enable them to gain a practical awareness and enable them to apply their knowledge and understanding in a practical situation.
There is a range of organisations that may be able help centres to engage and involve local employers in the delivery of this unit, for example:
Anderson H and Yull S – BTEC Nationals IT Practitioners: Core Units for Computing and IT (Newnes, 2002) ISBN-10 0750656840, ISBN-13 978-0750656849
Fulton J – Complete Idiot’s Guide to Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 4th edition (Alpha, 1999) ISBN-10 0789722062, ISBN-13 978-0789722065
Knott G and Waites N – BTEC Nationals for IT Practitioners (Brancepeth Computer Publications, 2002) ISBN-10 0953884821, ISBN-13 978-0953884827
White R and Downs T – How Computers Work, 9th edition (Que, 2007) ISBN-10 0789736136, ISBN-13 978-0789736130
Journals Computer Weekly Which? Computer
www.bized.co.uk www.computerweekly.com www.wrx.zen.co.uk/magazines.htm
When learners are …
ICT - Using ICT
Plan solutions to complex tasks by analysing the necessary stages
specifying suitable components to meet user requirements
select, interact with and use ICT systems safely and securely for a complex task in non-routine and unfamiliar contexts
connecting hardware safely to a computer system, testing for
ICT - Developing, presenting and communicating information
combine and present information in ways that are fit for purpose and audience
explaining and justifying choices to a business
Mathematics - Representing
identify the situation or problems and identify the mathematical methods needed to solve them
setting up, configuring and testing a mobile communications device to meet a defined need
English - Writing
write a range of texts, including extended written documents, communicating information, ideas and opinions, effectively and persuasively
creating written reports for the assignment.
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