An immersive learning experience like no other….

Last week, we were very lucky to have been invited to Police Scotland College, Tulliallan, for an immersive learning experience like no other….

Like a traditional school trip, staff and students from the Psychology, Criminology, and Forensic Biology programmes gathered on a coach to be taken to the beautiful Tulliallan campus. On arrival, we split in to four groups and were given an identity that would be ours for the rest of the day: Police Scotland, the Scottish Government, the UK Government, and the Military (and other services).

Before we started, we had no idea what to expect. We knew we were there for some ‘anti-terrorism’ training and a ‘live simulation’, which led many of us to believe we’d be running around or hiding in cupboards! However we had received an email from organiser Alex McIntyre, requesting that we wear business dress…how would I be able to run and hide in heels? This left us confused, nervous, and a little bit scared! I opted for comfortable flat shoes…just in case.

In reality, the experience was about the strategies and focus of each of the groups, and the activities were based in the Hydra Suite, where each group was provided with a room that was monitored from the control room by Police Scotland staff. The Hydra Immersive Learning System was developed by Professor Jonathan Crego of the Hydra Foundation. The systems helps Police Scotland look at all things regarded as a Critical Incident (

Within our rooms, we were fed information about a simulated (pretend) major incident in a fictitious town*. Our task throughout the day was to work in our groups in order to form priorities, ask questions, and to make decisions based on both the information available and our given roles. We even had to deal with the ‘media’, with someone from each group being interviewed on camera. I was in the Scottish Government group, and some of our main concerns were the safety of the public, reducing panic, and managing the media. We had frequent plenary sessions where all of the groups came together, and the responses were thoroughly discussed with the Police Scotland training staff.

The staff of Tulliallan were fantastic (as shown by their response to the #runningmanchallenge). Their superior knowledge, kind manner, and humour made the day extremely interesting and enjoyable. We all learnt a great deal about the responsibilities of each group in reaction to an attack, and gained an appreciation of how complex yet efficient an emergency response can be. What we experienced was a tiny snippet of what the Hydra Immersive Learning Suite can provide, but we all left with an understanding of how valuable a training method it is.

We hope to maintain and build our ties with the staff at Police Scotland, Tulliallan, and thank them very much for having us.

*Details have been purposely vague throughout this piece – its top secret!

Lindsey Carruthers