The University of South Wales is the first institution in the UK to pilot a new virtual platform for delivering Hydra simulations.
Hydra methodology has long been embedded in the training of police and emergency service personnel for critical incident decision making, and its simulations have been conducted at USW for almost a decade. Hydra is now a core feature of many undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
The new platform, termed Hydra Presence, will be led by the Hydra Foundation – established by Professor Jonathan Crego, developer and owner of the Hydra training tool – with academics and technologists at USW acting as the lead educational team.
It will allow staff to conduct immersive simulations for their students in a virtual Hydra simulation suite, using mobile devices, tablets and virtual reality technology. The platform will also allow students to receive learning materials, engage in real time decision making and attend debriefing sessions in a virtual world, all without leaving their homes.
The platform is being tested and developed in collaboration with staff from the Hydra Foundation, National Crime Agency, College of Policing, London Metropolitan Police, Border Agency and Home Office.
Dr Dean Whitcombe, Hydra Simulation Manager at USW, said: “Being the only university in the UK to be working on this project demonstrates our commitment to delivering the highest quality simulations for our learners.
“In the near future, our students will be able to take part in immersive simulations using mobile and virtual technologies, taking away the need to physically be on campus. Being involved at such an early stage provides a plethora of research opportunities for our staff and we hope to make a significant contribution to the evidence base supporting simulation practice and pedagogy.”
Professor Jonathan Crego MBE, Director of the Hydra Foundation and visiting Professor at USW, recently published a LinkedIn article on the detail of the Hydra Presence platform.
He added: “We chose USW to be the first to trial this new approach. With its two Hydra suites and a wide range of Hydra exercises, the University has demonstrated a huge commitment and creativity with Hydra and its use with students, backed by strong and validated research methodologies considering its student impact.
“The COVID-19 crisis, together with considerations for the ‘new normal’ and post crisis consequences for learning, make these new methodologies even more relevant. USW is well placed to evaluate and partner with the Hydra Foundation in the evolution of these new methods and we look forward to some exciting research.”
Mike Edwards, course leader for the MSc International Security and Risk Management at USW’s International Centre for Policing and Security, said: “Against the backdrop of global uncertainty, the innovation demonstrated by the Hydra Foundation, supported by a strong network of public and private sector partners in the development of Hydra Presence, will underpin the unprecedented experience offered by USW to its students and international partners.
“The blended use of virtual and real-world immersive learning will strengthen our ability to enable multi-site collaboration of teaching and learning, thus strengthening opportunities for all.”
Initial testing of Hydra Presence has already begun, with the aim of USW students being able to experience the new platform in 2021.