College links with Twycross Zoo for immersive learning
Wednesday, 6 December, 2017

A recent college trip saw animal management students from Solihull College & University Centre visit Twycross Zoo for a collaborative learning experience.

81 students and 5 staff members visited the animal enclosures, were given tasks, and studied in on-site classrooms, also known as the ‘Discovery Centre’. The College’s Learning Technologies team (LT) attended the excursion to create some innovative and informative 360 degree virtual reality videos within animal enclosures.

The all-female elephants at the zoo will be moving to Blackpool Zoo by early 2018 in order to allow the animals to breed, to help to ensure the long-term survival of the endangered species. At Twycross Zoo they do not have the resources to house an adult male elephant and as breeding is essential for the survival of the species the elephants will be relocated. The elephants will be transported in specially designed crates each weighing 10 tons that will provide them with necessary comfort and safety during their journey. Using a 360 camera placed within the crate, students were able to witness a view from an elephant’s unique perspective. This helped them to establish the animal’s welfare within enclosures and the crates. The videos created will prove invaluable in teaching other students with virtual reality back at the College.

This innovative learning is part of the college’s continuous strides towards immersive learning across subjects. Protecting animal welfare by creating less need to be in the enclosures and still being able to study animals up close is a proactive step on behalf of staff and the zoo.

The college’s Head of Learning Technologies, Reza Mosavian stated “It is great to work with such innovative curriculum teams and key partners. With the rise of virtual and augmented reality, we are keen to be at the forefront of developments. We are all on a learning journey but are very excited by the opportunities it can provide.”

As well as the 360 degree filming at the zoo students also got to actively involve themselves in creating ‘Christmas presents’ for the animals. Creating Christmas hampers of food for the animals they were able to work alongside not only elephants but gibbons and lemurs too. Students planted trees in the elephant enclosure and were able to witness the animals eating them.

This move uniting hands on learning with virtual experiences and expanding upon educational technology is part of an ongoing initiative within Solihull College & University Centre. Animal Management currently use augmented reality to study animal cells. Using Google Expedition students are able to observe blood streams and cells projected onto a table in order for them to view cells up close creating a truly immersive experience.

Zoo representative Nicky Judd said of the experience “Twycross Zoo is incredibly proud to support the education of our community and our team of educators are passionate about inspiring people of all ages to understand the challenges that animals face in the wild. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit from Solihull College students who spent their day focusing on how we care for the animals at the zoo, including discussing animal welfare, nutrition, and enclosure design. We look forward to more visits from the College and hope to work closely with them and their students in the future.”

To find out more about the college’s courses including animal management visit www.solihull.ac.uk