Sunderland College’s innovative 360-degree teaching and learning environment has been shortlisted for a prestigious international award.

A state-of-the-art ‘Innovation Space’, which is part of the college’s multi-million-pound redevelopment programme at its Bede Campus, is a finalist in the Education Project of the Year category at the Europe-wide 2022 Audio Visual News Awards.

The old hall in the campus’ 1920s main building has undergone a complete refurbishment – backed by a £3 million T Level Capital Fund application – to upgrade its facilities and offer ‘unparalleled learning opportunities’ through the latest cutting-edge technologies.

At the heart of the world-class Innovation Space is the fully integrated seven-metre cylinder with full wraparound wall and floor projection which creates shared VR environments for students studying a range of vocational subjects including health and social care, construction, engineering and game design, while also supporting the delivery of digitally informed therapies for young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

Looking to take its educational environments to the next level and to prepare students for the world of work, college leaders worked closely with industry leaders Igloo Vision whose unique expertise helped guide Bede Campus’ digital transformation.

Dan Fitzpatrick, Digital Skills and Learning Innovation Strategic Lead at Education Partnership North East, which includes Sunderland College, said: “We are delighted our Innovation Space has been shortlisted at the AV News Awards. How we innovate when using technology is vital to our digital strategy and curriculum, and we are committed to providing the most up-to-date learning experiences for our students.

“The Space is being integrated into all our curriculum areas. Staff can give their students a fully immersive experience that relates to their course and the industry that they will go in to. We can bring anywhere in the world onto campus. Our students are inspired by the possibilities and have a desire to create and collaborate when they are in the Space. They feel extremely privileged to have this excellent resource at their college.”

Since its installation in winter 2021, the Innovation Space has been used for existing and new classes – including the recently launched T Level qualifications – allowing teaching staff to innovate their approaches to provide better learning experiences as well as increasing student engagement, retention and aspirations.

The cylinder also offers a space for better work experience placements by transporting students to real-world settings for training and experience such as construction sites, factories, hospitals, sports stadiums and offshore wind farms, and strengthens local employer partnerships.

Theo Penty, Head of Educational Business Development at Igloo Vision, said: “Here at Igloo, we’re really excited by the new install at Sunderland College. This is our first educational installation of a cylinder with floor projection, which provides students with a flexible and dynamic teaching space that can deliver fully immersive learning.

“Sunderland College’s commitment to innovation is a great fit for us at Igloo. Inspiring students with our immersive technology is what we’re all about, and we’re delighted Sunderland College chose us to take its educational offering to the next level.”

The AV News Awards ceremony will be held on Tuesday 10 May 2022 at the Fira de Barcelona where the winners will be announced.

Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

(Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19