Monday, November 29, 2021

Build a simple escape room for learning

Is it Catalonia or Spain? Oh yes Spain! 3 more minutes.... Yes, Spain is good! I hear how everyone is engaged in the game during the mini online escape room. We organized a meetup about online escape rooms for learning and the 45 participants of the meetup start with experiencing an escape. 
A great gateway into escapes for learning. For example, you immediately experience how smart it is to build up the information, always small bits of new information. And how important clear instructions are. For example, the first sentence is: 'choose someone from your group who will read the story aloud'. This immediately helps to maintain the group's attention. Tip: do you also want to try this escape room in Dutch built by Monika Theron van het Centre for Innovation at Leiden University. Click here

Escape rooms are hot, also within L&D

Escape rooms have been popular for years, in the Netherlands the DOME from Bunschoten is now number 1 . Only 35% escape from it within an hour. Relatively new are digital escape rooms, with a learning goal. A digital escape room is perfect for more experiential, game-based learning. They can be played individually or in a group. In this blog I'll focus on simple escape rooms. There is of course a difference between extensive flashy designs and escapes that you can build yourself in an afternoon. 

But are escape rooms a powerful learning tool or hype? From a white paper by Ijsfontein:
"Several pilot studies have shown that an escape room offers opportunities for assessments and can positively contribute to learning or introducing new knowledge/skills and to repeating or putting teaching material into practice. It ties in with an active learning and working environment in which the emphasis is on experience, application and collaboration"

Escape rooms fit in with the new trends of playful learning, homo ludens and serious gaming, and of course in the old, trusted tradition of active learning.

An example: Mondrian Escapes

Karin Winters of LearningRocks has made an escape about media literacy:the Mondriaan Escapes. The aim is to make teachers media literate in a playful way. The story is that the education inspectorate has been abolished, instead a media literacy inspectorate has been set up. Participants are challenged to decipher an email address of the inspection. To this end, every day a new assignment was placed online. The incentive is that you can win a free workshop. The escape was well received, but it is important to be available during the escape period and/or to give hints and tips. Not everyone interprets the assignments in the same way and you have to avoid that participants get stuck. 

The aim is to learn about media literacy. Incidentally, Escape the silence was an example of an online group escape, the Mondriaan escapes an individual escape. Both are possible, depending on your goal. Hybrid forms are also possible: where participants are at the same location, but also get started online via keys with QR codes, for example.

Tools to build a simpel escape room

You can already get started with the tools in your own organization. The two examples use van Google forms en Google sites. These are simple tools which already serve the purpose. There was a question about a platform like LearningStone. Actually you can build an escape room in any platform if there is a function to assess contributions by participants. If you can enter text and questions where you only proceed to the next assignment with a correct answer, you can use it. You can also embed Google forms and sites in your LMS or site. Other tools:

Tips to get started with a simple online escape room

Monika and Karin share their tips to get started. First of all, it is important to get to know your target audience well. It gives you a clue to how complicated/easy it must be. It is not the intention that you first have to be very digitally skilled before you can participate. If necessary, you can come up with something with well-known tools (eg a Microsoft Teams session) and pen and paper. Check out the 10 steps you can take.
Seven more tips:
  1. Start with the goal and come up with a story - your storyline
  2. Be very clear in your instructions
  3. Test the escape room, people can interpret puzzles differently
  4. You can assign roles, for example the role of reading the text aloud
  5. Choose to run the escape with or without a moderator. If there is no moderator, you have to be clear where hints can be found to prevent people from getting stuck. Moderating takes more time, but has the advantage that you can give valuable feedback and help with reflection.
  6. You can also use existing games or modify existing formats. This saves a lot of (thinking) work!
  7. Designing an escape room is a creative process - this is fun to do with a team in a brainstorm
More in the presentation by Monika Theron.

How to start building an escape room?

The first step is to formulate the learning objective and to consider the difference between 'need to know' and 'nice to know'. Then make up the story. In addition, you can also google what already exists and you can use without developing it yourself.

How labor intensive is it to develop an escape? And how do you make it more than a gimmick?

It doesn't have to be labor intensive - it actually involves turning your learning materials into puzzle form. Instead of flat questions and quizzes, it becomes a puzzle. This of course takes time, but it is a lot of fun to do. You can use the escape room for multiple groups / years. Another tip is to have students build the escape room. The next group of students can then play the game. 

How digitally skilled do you have to be as participant? When to use it for learning or use an alternative?

You have to take the level of digital skills of your participants into account and the goal. If the online tools get in the way of the learning process, it is better not to do it, or to simplify your tools. Suppose the goal is to get to know each other, then you can perhaps get to know each other in a different way in a game. You can also opt for simple tools, such as using pen and paper.

Read about escape rooms