Day 1a: Co-creating an escape room to help students develop graduate attributes

Concrete Maze
Maze” flickr photo by zetazone  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Sarah Honeychurch, Matt Offord, Nick Quinn, Matthew Barr, Helen Mullen  

As academics and colleagues with a shared interest in Game-Based Learning (GBL), we have set up a GBL scholarship and research group and have been enjoying talking about the potential of using games in our teaching in order to help students to develop their graduate attributes (building on Matthew Barr’s PhD research ). 

One thing that we were keen to do, but too busy to initiate, is to actually develop some games for ourselves. So when we saw the ASBS student internship funding we made sure we applied, and over the summer of 2021 we were lucky to employ a fabulous AccFin graduate to work with us an collaboratively develop a game to use in ASBS courses. We decided to use Principles of Management, a large L1 UG course, as the first course to develop a game for, as Matt Offord was the course co-ordinator and already included games in his learning and teaching, so he was keen to work with our intern and create something bespoke for his course.  

As keen believers in the power of staff-student partnerships, we wanted this project to be led by our student intern. So we put together some of the reading that had inspired us, including an article by Rachelle O’Brien and Scott Farrow, and formed a sub-group with two academics (Sarah and Matt O) to act as sponsors for the project and the student intern as development lead and content developer. After an initial briefing meeting to scope the project out, we gave her free rein to develop an escape room. 

She chose OneNote as the platform for the game because she appreciated how useful this had been in helping to organise her work in her honours years, and wished she had been introduced to it right from the beginning of her academic career. She also decided to design tasks that she had found useful in her freshers orientation and adapt them for online use as well as working with the course co-ordinator to build in course-specific tasks. The end result exceeded all of our expectations. We embedded the escape room into the course VLE (which had a section for games and social activities) and also made it a core activity by setting it as a group task in an early synchronous lecture, thus emphasising to all students how important an activity it was.  Students logged into Zoom for the lecture, and were then allocated into breakout rooms to collaboratively crack the puzzles. 

Garden maze with hills in background
Finding their way through the learning environment and peer relationships is challenging for level one undergraduates

We also set up an online survey and collected feedback from students at the end of the game, which 86 students completed. We have not completed a full analysis of the results yes, but it is clear that students enjoyed the game and would like to see more activities like this in their formal courses.  

“It has been a useful game to do to get to know others on the course and know a bit more about the university.” 

“They are really enjoyable and definitely make the online learning environment more engaging.” 

We will be writing all of this up more formally as journal articles and conference presentations, and of course we are planning to modify this game for use in other courses. If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can see a version here.  

Song of the Day

Steeleye Span: ‘Gaudete’

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