Escaping the ordinary; Escape Rooms for Challenge-based Learning
Popular television shows in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s, such as The Adventure Game and The Crystal Maze, saw participants locked in futuristic locations where they were required to solve different puzzles to win prizes. Globally, this concept of a physical escape room began to emerge as entertainment in many other forms during the early 2000s, stemming from the USA and Japan (Nicholson, 2015). The overall premise is that a team of players work cooperatively to find the solutions to different puzzles to solve a code or find a key to ultimately escape the room within a specific time frame.
In recent years educators have employed escape rooms physically on campus, and online with the additional benefits of flexibility and scale as well as providing the option of being available to students synchronously or asynchronously (Fotaris and Mastoras, 2019; Lathwesen and Belova, 2021; Makri, Vlachopoulos and Martina, 2021; Taraldsen et al., 2022). These include discipline specific escape rooms as well as interdisciplinary projects, addressing wider academic skills such as digital/information literacies, through to staff development and conference activities.
Regardless of the situation, the collaborative nature of escape can encourage teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication skills and more in a fun environment. However, as with other game-based activities careful thought has to be given to the design and implementation of the room. For example, the level of challenge needs to be carefully balanced, to avoid being overly easy or frustratingly difficult to maintain engagement and interest throughout.
This chat is a precursor to an event hosted by the Learning and Teaching Academy, Heriot-Watt University, on Friday, 9th June 2023 – Escape Rooms in Education: Showcase and Celebration. This lead-up discussion is a chance for the #LTHEchat community to share their practice with and explore the use of escape rooms in learning and teaching.
Fotaris, P. and Mastoras, T. (2019) ‘Escape Rooms for Learning: A Systematic Review’, in Proceedings of the 12th European Conference on Game Based Learning. 2th European Conference on Game Based Learning, ACPI, p. 30. Available at: https://doi.org/10.34190/GBL.19.179.
Lathwesen, C. and Belova, N. (2021) ‘Escape Rooms in STEM Teaching and Learning—Prospective Field or Declining Trend? A Literature Review’, Education Sciences, 11(6), p. 308. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11060308.
Makri, A., Vlachopoulos, D. and Martina, R.A. (2021) ‘Digital Escape Rooms as Innovative Pedagogical Tools in Education: A Systematic Literature Review’, Sustainability, 13(8), p. 4587. Available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/su13084587.
Nicholson, S. (2015) Peeking behind the locked door: A survey of escape room facilities. White Paper. Available at: http://scottnicholson.com/pubs/erfacwhite.pdf (Accessed: 4 May 2023).
Taraldsen, L.H. et al. (2022) ‘A review on use of escape rooms in education – touching the void’, Education Inquiry, 13(2), pp. 169–184. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/20004508.2020.1860284.
Clare Thomson is an Assistant Professor of Digital Pedagogies & Course Design at Heriot-Watt University. Clare has worked in higher education for over sixteen years and within the field of education technology for over twenty years. She a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh researching reflective practice in medical education. Her interests focus on reflection, inclusion, digital accessibility, creativity and care. Clare is co-chair of the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) Northern Ireland members group, a Senior Fellow of AdvanceHE (SFHEA), Certified Member of ALT (CMALT) and AdvanceHE Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) 2022
Debbie Baff is a Subject Specialist (Leadership and Culture) focusing on the Digital Leaders Programme at Jisc and has over 25 years experience of working in Higher Education & the voluntary sector. An Open Educational Practitioner and PhD Student in E Research and TEL. Her research interests are in online social support and the impact on wellbeing for educators. She is co-chair of the Open Education Special Interest Group and contributes to several committees and groups at the Association for Learning Technology. An open digital badge enthusiast and keen sketchnoter, Debbie has a creative approach to learning, teaching and building communities both online and in person. Debbie is a Fellow of Advance HE (FHEA) and a Certified Online Learning Facilitator (COLF) and a member of the Research in Learning Technology and the Journal of Social Media for Learning Editorial Board.
Coral is a Learning Technologist and Design Specialist who has worked in higher education for ten years, specialising in supporting organisations to develop their Technology Enhanced Learning practices. She recently completed her Masters in Online and Distance Education, with a focus on accessibility and use of AI technologies. Her expertise includes instructional design and the integration of technology to enhance the learning experience.
Rosemarie McIlwhan is an Associate Professor of Digital Pedagogies and Practices, at Heriot-Watt University. She leads on digital pedagogy across the global university and is also the Programme Director of the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning. Rosemarie has an inter-disciplinary background encompassing law, education and development management. She has been teaching and researching in higher education for over 20 years, with a particular focus on equity, open and digital education and widening participation. Rosemarie is a member of the Research in Learning Technology Journal Editorial Board, co-host of the FutureTeacher webinar series and a Senior Fellow of AdvanceHE (SFHEA).
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