The Hydra methodology and simulation suite (hereafter Hydra), was developed by Professor Jonathan Crego. Hydra simulations have long been used for training and educating police officers in critical incident decision making. This unique learning and teaching environment has historically been confined to police and fire service headquarters with only six Hydra suites installed within UK Universities.
A standard Hydra suite would consist of a control room, syndicate rooms and plenary room. Simulations typically begin in a plenary room where participants receive general information about the exercise and instruction on how to use the technology within the suite. Participants would then enter syndicate rooms where they receive information in the form of text, audio, video and documents. All information is shared in line with a pre-constructed storyboard, which is designed by academics and technologists. Participants are typically presented with timed tasks and are expected to complete these using the electronic decision log contained within the Hydra user interface. Participants would periodically return to the plenary room where their decisions and rationales are openly discussed with subject matter experts. Participants are monitored throughout.
In 2011, a single 6-hour Hydra simulation was integrated into our BSc Police Sciences degree. From 2012, staff across the University were given the opportunity to use the Hydra suite for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. In the current 2018/ 2019 academic term, more than 1000 hours of simulated learning activity has been scheduled in subject areas such as Policing, Social Work, Nursing, Engineering, Chiropractic, Geography and Public Health. These simulations include a mixture of activities such as group-based decision making and problem solving, interviews with role actors, presentations and critical reflection.
The adoption of Hydra simulations throughout the University and FE Colleges has led to a dramatic change in how module and course content is delivered. Student feedback has revealed that Hydra simulations have improved their decision-making and that this type of learning environment should be integral to their course. Of note, post-exercise reflection and discussion between academics and Hydra technologists has played and continues to play a crucial role in how Hydra simulations are created and implemented into other subject areas.
Student subject knowledge, experience and personality traits influence levels of immersion and engagement during simulations. Also, the academics experience of running and facilitating simulated activities significantly impacts the overall success of an exercise. Logistical issues such as timetabling restrictions, cohort sizes and existing module learning outcomes and assessment criteria, often dictate the length and complexity of simulations. These factors must be considered by academics and technologists when designing, implementing and running simulated activities.
Finally, the implementation of other technologies and applications into the Hydra suite (lecture capture software, voting applications and VR headsets) make this learning environment distinctly different to traditional Hydra suites and provides a unique learning space within the University. This innovation has been formally recognised and won a number of excellence awards within the University it serves for facilitating collaboration and using technology to promote interdisciplinary learning within an environment of mutual respect.
The text above summarises work conducted throughout the University and FE Colleges. All resources and references will be presented at the conference. However, if required, we can forward publications from staff who have used Hydra simulation at the University.