Animals in the limelight as webcams capture life in care unit

East Durham College sets up webcams to look at the animals.
East Durham College sets up webcams to look at the animals.
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ANIMALS at a college unit are being put in the spotlight as part of a new project.

East Durham College’s animal care unit has launched a new scheme to help students continue learning outside the classroom.

The college’s Houghall Campus has had the small animal unit fitted with a fixed webcam, letting people access the feed online and observe the everyday happenings at the unit.

It has already been a huge hit with the animal care students, who have been accessing it out of hours to observe and study animal behaviour whilst they are not actually at the unit.

Ian Hall, course manager and lecturer at the unit, said: “Already students are accessing the camera out of normal college hours and are tweeting their observations via our Twitter account, learning should not be confined to nine to five.

“Keeping students interested and involved with their learning is so important.”

And it’s not just students that are accessing the camera, the new technology has been receiving recognition both locally on radio and nationally at different colleges and universities.

Ian said: “We’re gaining national and local exposure about the project via our course Twitter account, as well as with the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) and several higher education establishments, such as Lincoln University.”

A member of the team from LSIS, the government-funded body backing the project, admitted it was the innovative thinking behind the initiative that lead his team to get onboard.

Mick Mullane, of the LSIS, said: “The projects we get involved with are all about promoting good practice, so when Ian came to us with the idea of putting animal care online through a camera, with the aim to help students study animal behaviour, this struck us as very innovative thinking.

“The promotion of the key concept of being able to learn effectively outside of core college time, and perhaps uniquely having a tutor available too outside of the college’s main teaching hours represents a big leap forward for electronic learning.”

The project is not going to stay confined to the animal care unit, LSIS has also made a number of handheld video cameras available to students so they can video all the happenings regarding the animals around the Houghall site.

Mick said: “The handheld cameras will be able to go in the field to record animal behaviours. Being waterproof they are also better suited to be out in all weathers – especially during lambing in the spring.”

Both Mick and Ian hope the project won’t stop here.

Ian said: “A huge thanks needs to go to the college’s IT technical team. They have fully supported the project and have already made other rooms ready for camera installations and have increased the Wi-Fi capabilities at Houghall.”

Mick added: “The project has been built with expansion in mind. The technology Ian is working with is industry-standard and could be scaled to cover other areas. The response from the students is the biggest indicator of success – the ones I’ve talked to absolutely love the technology.”

Twitter: @Sunechoschools