It's a virtual life for students at UWE's new Education Innovation Centre

Issue date: 31 May 2011

UWE's new Education Innovation Centre will be launched at Frenchay Campus on 1 June 2011 at 15.15.

Students can now learn in simulated work and home settings thanks to a new state-of-the-art Education Innovation Centre (EIC) at the heart of the University of the West of England's expanding Frenchay Campus.

The EIC is a new 500 square metre facility, realistically divided into zones such as a lounge with mirror TV, student bedroom with x-box, work stations, ideas or meeting area with whiteboard, and tutorial area.

Among the e-learning experiences on offer – which would be difficult or impossible to set up in real life - are a flood disaster management simulation project, accident investigation scenarios using Second Life for environmental health students, and a platform to enable law students to set up law firms and take on cases representing ‘clients'. Experience of dealing with situations they will come across in their working lives will be a real boost to students' employability.

The Director of the EIC, Professor Liz Falconer, said, “The opening of this important new resource puts the student experience at the forefront of the flexible and innovative learning opportunities that UWE can offer.

“We are offering three ‘presences' – physical, virtual and web – and people will be able to work with us and interact through all three of those in rich and dynamic ways. There is tremendous enthusiasm amongst students and staff to develop new and effective methods of learning and teaching at UWE.”

The brand-new facility is being developed with support from international high tech company Hewlett Packard and its strategic partners Juniper Networks, Microsoft, Polycom and Schneider Electric. HP's support for UWE's Education Innovation Centre means that this is the first time HP and a UK university have come together to provide such a facility.

The EIC's physical space will enable staff and students to experience and develop innovative approaches to learning, wherever that learning takes place, such as at the university, at home or at work – hence the different room layouts. The virtual presence of the EIC is located in a similar space in the virtual world Second Life, where participants can experience and develop learning and teaching techniques, such as simulations that are facilitated by virtual worlds. The EIC on the web will focus on how online technologies can be utilised to facilitate and enhance learning and teaching, particularly through collaboration and active learning.

UWE has a large number of students who will follow careers in professions such as law, social work, planning, architecture and health. This development enables students to experience simulations of events and situations that are difficult or impossible to organise, before they put their skills into practice in the real world. Simulations also enable events and cases to be studied in detail, run forwards and backwards in time and be experienced more than once.

UWE's Simulations in Higher Education project was short-listed for a 2010 Times Higher Education award in the Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year category.

Last October, UWE and HP signed a five-year collaboration which is one of the most innovative partnerships between industry and academia in the UK. The agreement has already led to the creation of the four-year UWE HP Enterprise Computing Degree.

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