GAME
DESIGN

Theoretical and Empirical Frameworks

Research Findings

Strengths and Weaknesses Analysis

Design Process + User Feedback

FRAMEWORKS

Mixed Framework Approach to Drive Intrinsic Extrinsic Balance

The game uses a mix of different theoretical and empirical frameworks to achieve its goal in addition to incorporating many motivational and learning concepts from class.

THEORIES OF MOTIVATION, LEARNING, AND TEACHING

The main framework I use is Self Determination Theory (SDT) and the principles of Competence, Relatedness, and Autonomy (Ryan and Deci, 2000).

 

For Competence, the puzzles and tasks could dynamically change throughout the game. They typically start easy based on the user's settings, such as grade level. An advanced feature may ask the player to create a unique user profile where students provide more information or answer questions like their experience traveling internationally. If the user solves a puzzle within a given benchmark time frame, the next puzzle will be progressively more difficult. If the user does not solve the problem within a given benchmark time frame, then the next puzzle will be less difficult. Using hints will also factor in the difficulty of the following question. These dynamic changes in puzzle difficulty reflect a blended learning approach and will ensure the tasks match the competence levels of the users within their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), another framework I apply extensively (Brophy, 1999). The questions lie within what the student is capable of answering with the goal of pushing the student up their ZPD. This dynamic nature is a key benefit to digital assessments over traditional paper-based ones.

Educators will have the option to customize and personalize the puzzles and other variables like time to focus on specific learning concepts or assessment areas. For example, an educator may want a student to solve at least 4 out of 5 puzzles on a specific topic like fractions. This data can be recorded and analyzed after the game. Understanding a player's prior knowledge is key to the game's construction. Since students come from diverse backgrounds, the student profile and first few questions of the game will serve as a benchmark for future question difficulty that adjusts as needed. The goal is to keep the puzzles challenging enough to keep students within their Flow State (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991). Csikszentmihalyi argues that questions must be difficult enough to avoid boring the student, but also cannot be too difficult to the point where students give up. This feature would maintain this flow state throughout the game.

One could argue that dynamically changing the questions it will prevent players from achieving mastery in the game. This would then result in players abandoning the game since it would be more difficult to achieve expertise. An option to address this is creating an advanced scoring system that would consider the question difficulty, similar to other standard assessments like SATs, GREs, and GMATs. Another similar argument would be an inconsistent time score at the end - the time it takes to complete the room, which measures competition. If the questions are different for each player, then using time as a competitive measure is irrelevant. To address this concern, it should be noted that the dynamic nature of questions is a feature of the game that can be turned off. In addition to hosting standard rooms where questions remain the same for all players, educators would also turn this feature off when conducting class-wide assessments - everyone in the class plays the same game. The rooms with the dynamic feature turned off would be used for competitive benchmarking.

For Relatedness, the players want to feel a sense of belonging and connection to others while playing the game. There are a few aspects of the game design that provide these connections. First, the game themes allow players to connect to something they are interested in like Space, Cooking, or Sports. This relevancy will keep players engaged throughout the game since they are interested in the subject area. Educators could survey students to see which themes are the most popular in the class and then create teams based on those results - players who choose the same theme are placed together. Second, if players play the game as a team, they will feel a sense of belonging since everyone must work together to achieve the goal of completing the game. Additional features for team play include assigning roles or characters with unique skills or tools. Teams must work together to solve the puzzles collectively. For example, a role may be a skilled locksmith who is the only person that can unlock locks. If a puzzle requires a locksmith, that character must participate in helping the team advance through the game. Another example could include a puzzle that requires two people to answer simultaneously, such as pulling a virtual rope or communicating pieces of information to each other. This feature would help players feel connected to each other and be seen as important in helping the team finish the game.

 

Next, some questions could include personalized information to help motivate the player. Since the educator can customize the games, they could use references to real people or places to help situate the student and acclimate them to this new learning environment. An example may include using references to real people in the storyline, real images or videos from class or educators, or even using the educator as the "hint" in some puzzles. Utilizing the hint could bring up a video conference call with the educator to help guide the student through the puzzle. Finally, there will be features where feedback could be used to create a sense of belonging. For example, if a student is struggling with a puzzle, they may hear words of encouragement from peers during the game as either audio clips or messages that appear during the game. After finishing the game, the player may be asked to provide feedback to the educator, which will help boost individual morale because their feedback is seen as important to improving the experience.

For Autonomy, the user has the ability to select multiple options throughout the game, including the room theme, which puzzles to work on in the room, and in some cases, the order in solving the puzzles. Each puzzle or task will allow the player to make their own decisions, including the flow of the puzzles. Some games may be designed where players are not forced to go in sequential order unless solutions to puzzles help solve immediate future puzzles. For example, a combination lock that requires five characters could be divided into five separate puzzles that the player can solve independently. As long as the player solves all five puzzles to unlock the combination lock, the order in solving the puzzles does not matter. Players working as a team could divide the puzzles based on interest. One puzzle may be geometry related, while another puzzle may be on fractions. Students could self-select these puzzles based on interest or expertise.

Additionally, players may be allowed to choose their own time or even not to be timed at all, providing more user autonomy. Since games can be customized, the educator could, in theory, alter all the options to best fit the players in the room. If the educator knows there are students who do better without being timed, then she may alter those gameplay controls appropriately or hide them from view. Finally, other features such as selecting characters or customizing room settings could offer more user autonomy. There might even be a future option where students can create their own room and choose from a list of themed questions like geometry, history, biology, etc. The student would have the ability to test their own knowledge at their own time and pace offering more learning flexibility.

INTRINSIC & EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION

Relatedly, there are many aspects of Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation built into this game. These concepts derive from Lepper & Henderlong and Ryan and Deci.

Lepper & Henderlong's 4 C's Framework (Challenge, Curiosity, Control, and Context) overlaps with many of the attributes mentioned above in regards to Challenge (Competency), Curiosity (Relatedness), and Control (Autonomy). For Context, the aspect of situated learning environments will address this construct in allowing students to learn through real-world situations.

Additionally, considerations from Lepper & Henderlong's extrinsic motivation cautions will be taken into account. Extrinsic motivations may be used strategically in the game, such as prizes for specific behaviors in team collaboration, communication, and the fastest time. Prizes for "fastest time" will be scrutinized to ensure it does not negatively impact intrinsic motivation. Similarly, some elements of the game will be intrinsically motivating for players such as the themes, areas of assessment, the storylines, images, or assets, while other elements will be extrinsically motivating for players, like competition for the top score, prizes, recognition, and grades if used as an assessment. A balance between the two motivations will be key in keeping players engaged throughout the game.

 

Ryan and Deci's Self-Determination Theory of the interconnectedness between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation will apply here. Moving students who may not find the theme interesting from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation is one of the goals of this project. For example, if an educator is teaching Mathematics, some students may not be intrinsically motivated to learn those concepts so we may need to start with extrinsically motivation to help them start the game, then move them to be intrinsically motivated as they play the game. Using data to tap into their behaviors, such as observing what interactions they are interested in while playing, will help educators with this transition.

Some aspects of Brophy's Framework of Motivational Zone of Proximal Development also apply here.

  • Puzzles will start with what is relevant to the learner, and the difficulty of those puzzles should land within a student's Zone of Proximal Development. This is established using a learner profile and a few early benchmark questions. Students come from diverse backgrounds with diverse experiences. It's difficult to assess what information or experience a player brings to a game versus another student. These potential gaps may influence the final assessment scores.

  • Educators could use these assessments over time to get more accurate data on individual ZPD. For instance, if these games were played throughout a semester, the educator could analyze the data from a previous game to create a new game. In regards to ZPD, the question difficulty could change based on how well a student did in a previous game.

  • Hints, of which a limited number will be available for all students, will serve as scaffolding for students as they encounter more difficult puzzles. Hints may be given based on user frustration regardless of whether the student asks for them. This ensures that students do not get too frustrated and disengage from the activity.

 

Another important theoretical framework I used is Csikszentmihalyi's Flow State in order to keep the students engaged and within their own Flow Channel. I accomplish this by altering the difficulty level of the puzzles in the room (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991).

  • Puzzles frequently adjust so that they are not too difficult, which will turn students away, or too easy, which will make students bored quickly. This can easily be done in individual gameplay but is more challenging to do in team play.

  • There are different levels of hints available to players if puzzles are too difficult to solve. These hints could be static or dynamic. Static hints would have information available at any time, while dynamic hints could provide information based on different factors such as time or close answers (e.g. format is incorrect). Puzzles may have multiple hints that provide different levels of support. For instance, the first hint could be general information while the second hint could be more detailed information on how to solve the puzzle. As noted above, hints are used as scaffolding but could also help keep players within their Flow Channel. If the game detects players are disinterested because the puzzles are too difficult, the hints could automatically appear without a cost to the player in order to keep them engaged.

  • Hints could also be paid for by students using reward points. Rewards points would be distributed as extrinsic motivation and students could exchange them for more hints. Hints could also be distributed unequally to address individual learning needs. Some students with learning dis/abilities could be given more hints.

 

Potential applicaitons of Simulations could also be used in this game. Simulations may help students learn what they did correctly and incorrectly and how to improve their performance the next time they attempt the activity.

  • One example is that students can watch a simulation of the virtual escape room after they complete the same escape room to see what moves they did correctly and incorrectly. They may trigger new ways of approaching problems besides future escape rooms. This will help students reflect on what they did best and what to work on in the next game.
  • Simulations could also show how different students respond to the same puzzles. For example, simulations could be used to cater to students of diverse backgrounds (age, gender, location, socio-economic status, knowledge of themes and concepts, interests, etc.). These data points may be most interesting to escape room designers who could adjust the puzzles to make them more accessible to everyone. One example may be changing the language of how a puzzle is written, providing more aids for students with dis/abilities such as a text-reader for text written puzzles, or ensuring the content is not offensive like referencing facts about racial prejudice or inequality (e.g. removing a reference to a person in history who may have had a discriminatory view of certain people).

  • Simulations may be an important feature for educators who are customizing and tweaking puzzles. They can simulate how students will respond to the puzzles (e.g. how difficult they are) or the average time a student takes to solve a puzzle to ensure the room is designed fairly and appropriately.

  • If the escape room uses emerging technologies like AR/VR, simulations will have an important role in getting the experience right for players. A virtualizaiton of a physical escape room will have many challenging components, including interactions and communication with other players in space. Simulations could predict some of these use cases which would influence how the game is designed.

 

Aspects of Self-Efficacy (Bandura) and Growth Mindset (Dweck) are key to continously iterate the design of the rooms and puzzles to ensure that students believe they can actually escape the rooms.

  • Self-efficacy is important for students to believe that they can solve all the puzzles and escape from the room. Students who don't believe this are less inclined to participate in the activity and potentially may not even try while being in the room. Necessary primers from educators are needed before students even engage in the activity. For example, educators may talk about how everyone can beat the game, remove the timer if needed, or even give out sample questions ahead of time so players know what to expect before playing the game. Self-efficacy may be an important predictor of player success.

  • A Growth Mindset is important for students who work collaboratively with others in the same room. Some students may believe their peers are "smarter" than they are and will rely on them to solve puzzles in the room. Having a growth mindset will enable students to try puzzles even if they do not know the answer or have as deep of knowledge as others on their team. This concept corresponds to Relatedness in SDT - students tend to engage in puzzles more if they feel a sense of belonging. Establishing this connection is another goal of this game.

  • Students with a growth mindset will also be more inclined to play more future escape room games, especially if they did not complete one. This mindset will encourage them to try it again even after they may have failed.

One of the most important frameworks I use from our class is Seyedahmad Rahimi's concept of Stealth Assessments. His application of Stealth Assessments in Physics Playground was a great example of what I am trying to accomplish with this game. The ability to adjust different aspects of the game to assess students secretly is fundamental to providing alternative methods to learning over traditional classroom tools like paper-based exams.

  • There are many arguments about today's assessment methods. Some argue that assessments are great at understanding where a learner needs help, while others believe that assessments could misinterpret a student's abilities. The side that opposes assessments also argues that students who perform better typically have more resources at their disposal, which further marginalizes low-resourced students who don't receive high scores. If assessments are important in understanding individual learning gaps, recording the progression of students' understanding of concepts, and identifying individual learning needs, then a game such as this virtual educaitonal escape room would be an excellent alternative.

  • In Physics Playground, students are incentivized by solving games at different levels or completing various tasks. This Incentive System can be modeled in the virtual escape room environment. Players can be incentivized after completing games or given recognitions such as high scoreboards, badges, unlocking character assets, or other perks outside of the game, like a dress-down day at school, extra recess, or pizza parties.

  • These types of stealth assessments provide instant feedback versus traditional tools like paper comments. Receiving immediate feedback is important in learning, and the closer the feedback is to the learning activity, the better the learning outcome. Additionally, positive reinforcement is another important learning dimension, and it can also be given immediately in this structure (Markovic).

  • Physics Playground also included a Competency Model and Q-Matrix that helped align the game with the course rubric and curriculum. My virtual escape room game would model these components as questions would stem from core mathematic principles and definitions learned in class. In a cumulative assessment, there may be questions that cover a semester's worth of math concepts. The accuracy of answering these questions would play into the overall assessment score. It can be argued that since the game requires successful answers to make progress, there may not be opportunities for players to provide incorrect answers as one could do on an exam. Options to address this may involve revealing the answer after a certain number of failed attempts or after the time reaches a certain point to keep the student moving or allowing incorrect answers to be accepted that do not influence future gameplay. For example, a student could input a wrong answer and the prompt states the answer is incorrect but still allows the student to proceed to the next question. Additionally, the prompt could provide the correct answer providing instant feedback.

Brian Gravel's Critical Relationality experience explored making to solve problems could be an aspect of the puzzle designs (Gravel, 2021). Gravel posits that our relational perspectives on making shape our thinking about motivation and engagement.

  • As previously mentioned, a feature of this game could be allowing students to create their own escape room themes based on self-interests. They would use a pre-fabricated template and select categories of questions that an educator may have already provided.

  • As for educators designing these escape rooms, relational experiences could help motivate them to create exciting rooms with appropriate challenges. They can intersect their personal interests or course themes into the game design as a way to stay motivated themselves.

  • To incorporate the making or tinkering component, puzzle questions could ask players about how they would design a project or device that addresses the problem and leave the response as an open-ended answer. The answer could draw from information in the game or from personal interests. For example, if the clue was about pirates, the problem could ask, "How does the pirate move the barrels of rum from one boat to his boat?" Then, it would ask the player to describe a gadet or a sketch of a solution.

Other theories of motivation I incorporated in my game design include:

  • Wise Interventions: Clues apply some level of wise interventions by using nouns over verbs and personalizing the situations for the players. There are also features described above that could prompt the players to self-reflect on their experiences while playing. If educators use this game over the course of a semester, they could potentially apply wise interventions to change their students' behaviors and feelings about the subject. Walton shares an example of using wise interventions to make science personally relevant for students to increase their engagement (Walton, 76).

  • Self-regulation: Each puzzle has at least 2 hints that players can use at any time. Features built into the game may limit the number of hints a player can use, however, there is little discretion on when and how to use them. This would require a lot of self-regulation during gameplay. Some players may be inclined to save them for the puzzles at the end, so they may refuse to use them when they get to a difficult puzzle near the beginning costly them precious time. Some players may use them all right away, especially if they are disengaged with the activity. Others may find loopholes in the system, such as using them right away before even reading or attempting an answer just to save time. These factors may contribute to future improvements in game design.

  • Protege Effect: The educator who designed the room acts as a mentor to the players playing the game who are the proteges. Educators would empathize with the players, creating a bond between the two. Another way to exploit this theory is pairing players with mentors, such as students in the same class. Mentors would help coach mentees on how to complete the game with the best score and, in so doing, would learn how to play the game better themselves, exemplifying the Protege Effect.

  • Fanfiction: Since the game is immersive and the storylines and narratives can feel real, players may feel a sense of fanfiction at play, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. Since players are given roles in the game, some players may become these characters to fully immerse themselves in gameplay. Additionally, many of the storylines do contain facts so it makes it more challenging to distinguish these facts from fiction.

  • Stereotype Threat: It's important to think about how games influence people of different backgrounds. Since many of the themes cover a variety of areas and topics, educators and designers need to think about the players who interact with these games and adjust or censor content appropriately. Also, since many storylines could depict historical events, additional auditing may be required to ensure insensitive materials are removed from the game content. Stereotype Threats could play a role in how players approach the game. Special attention will be necessary for creating diverse teams, ensuring characters and roles are diverse, and whether any part of the assessment targets or creates biases against marginalized individuals. For example, there may be references to activities that only a certain group of people know about, such as Polo, Golf, or Fine Dining, or a player plays as a specific character with negative stereotypes. Finally, a benefit of conducting a stealth assessment versus a traditional paper-based exam is combating stereotype threats. Marginalized individuals are more likely to feel test anxiety, sometimes strengthened by test result demographics. Conducting a stealth assessment could reduce this potential factor (Steele, 1999).

Other bodies of work that not related to motivation:

  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL): The UDL Guidelines are a tool used in the implementation of Universal Design for Learning, a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn (CAST). I have used UDL Guidelines in my professional work and in many classes at HGSE. An essential aspect of UDL is providing many options for learners to address specific learning needs. UDL not only increases learning accessibility, but can be a tool to provide learning experiences to those who struggle with other forms of teaching mediums. In a digitized environment, educators have access to more options than in a traditional classroom setting. Using technologies like screen readers, auditory feedback, and multiple input modalities, learners can interact with the content in a variety of different ways. This variety of tools helps support learners and can address specific learning challenges while reducing barriers to learning. For instance, students with learning dis/abilities can focus on learning instead of factors surrounding their learning environments like miscommunication, inability to visualize content, or other inhibiting factors. A student with a vision impairment could utilize an image description on-screen during the game, a tool that is not available in a traditional textbook in the classroom. In these digital escape rooms, educators can provide these supports so that almost everyone can take them.

  • Social-Emotional Learning (SEL): SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions (CASEL). Since educators are empowered to design their own escape rooms, they can focus on these intangible aspects of learning development that are more difficult to track in traditional classroom settings. For example, using tools like eye-tracking, facial tracking, video recording, and audio recording, educators now have access to more data than ever on their students' emotional well-being. Combining this information with Artificial Intelligence (AI) could help identify students who struggle with emotional interactions or interactions with peers. Educators also have the ability to design prompts throughout the assessment to check on their students' well-being like "How are you feeling so far about this game?" or "How do you think the character feels about the issue?" These additional insights could help highlight important gaps in students' learning profiles. Finally, in team games, the educator can watch the interactions play out live without distracting the rest of the class. In this stealth assessment tool - viewing the students' cameras while playing the game - the educator can focus on aspects like collaboration and communication, which can be important as they tackle these complex challenges together.

RESEARCH & ADVOCACY  |  STRENGTHS & LIMITATIONS

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2017 research done by the Institute of Social Sciences and Humanities, Faculty of Economics and Social Development of Latvia University showed survey results of 95 participants after they had participated in this learning environment. 

  • These results underline that the educative escape room experience has a positive effect on the learners, where participants mainly feel safe, positive, inspired and responsible for their own learning.

  • Strength: Educators enjoyed developing these creative learning environments. They felt inspired and highly creative, excited, and part of the adventure.

Digital Escape Rooms as Innovative Pedagogical tools in Education: A Systematic Literature Review, Agoritsa Makri, et al.

  • Escape rooms can be integrated into many academic disciplines such as healthcare, STEM subjects, computer science, etc.

  • Strength: Designers create escape rooms to achieve an active learning environment which is said to maximize students' motivation and/or engagement and enhances learning while using or developing team-building and communication skills.

  • Limitation: Restrictions in terms of budget (cost), classroom availability (physical escape rooms need to use classroom space and must be set up and taken down during class), and a lack of time to prepare classes.

  • Escape rooms can be found in other educational environments outside of the classroom like museums and libraries.

  • From an educational perspective, Educational Escape Rooms (EERs) are linked to the methodology of gamification, as EERs are based on a game structure and design.

  • Digital EERs could be an innovative teaching approach, providing an exciting and engaging addition to teaching innovations in educational courses or programs, yet, not a lot of research has been done on DEERs to date.

  • Strength: ERs require teamwork, communication, initiative skills, as well as higher-order skills, such as critical thinking, attention to detail, and rational thinking to apply a wide range of knowledge and the appropriate methods under time pressure. The main benefits of such games are that they promote collaboration, and develop problem-solving strategies, critical thinking, and creativity.

  • Strength: It has been emphasized that the most successful teams are those composed of players with diverse experiences, skills, knowledge of the environment, and physical abilities.

  • Limitation: Designing educational puzzles is a challenging experience, since easy puzzles can become boring, while ones that are too difficult can cause frustration and high drop-out rates.

  • Current research has confirmed that millennials prefer informal learning experiences, such as EERs, due to their flexibility and because their activities generally engage and heighten their interests.

  • Limitation: The design and development of educational escape rooms for specific learning contexts is a time-consuming task.

  • Digital EERs can be adopted and can lead to cost savings and flexible learning experiences in virtual learning environments. Fully digital ERs are developed due to their cost-effectiveness, accessibility, and ease of use.

  • Four issues to take into consideration:

    • Learning objectives: These objectives aim to process the topic and evaluate the student’s learning experience and achievements, as well as find out which indicators of change must be improved.

    • Single or multidisciplinary theme: Single domain or multiple disciplines presented as part of the game experience.

    • Soft Skills: Interactive action games that can help develop soft skills such as communication and teamwork.

    • Troubleshooting: Developing troubleshooting challenges to make the game experience interesting for players.​

  • Utilizing EERs, where students are challenged to solve problems, leads to the promotion of exploratory learning and achieves the development of certain skills, as well as immersing students in the learning process.

  • By using these tools for educational purposes, students are transformed from passive receivers of knowledge into active participants in the procedure of learning, as they are invited to explore new data, accept new challenges, and solve problematic conditions and mysteries.

  • Strength: Elements of both social constructivism and behaviorism may be recognized to some extent in educational escape rooms.

  • Teachers seem to take on multi-dimensional roles, such as pedagogical, social, technical, and managerial roles. During the gameplay activity, multiple roles of instructors and designers can be identified: (a) monitoring, (b) moderating, (c) guiding, (d) facilitating, (e) providing hints, (f) encouraging, and (g) debriefing.

  • Educators observe the whole game during its process and provide formative feedback, facilitating the students to solve the riddles and unlock the door of the DEER.

  • Limitation: There seems to be a loss of direct feedback by faculty during the learning process due to the lack of proximity between staff and players.

  • An important component of EERs is the debriefing portion after the game is played. This allows participants to mentally process experiential learning activities. Its purpose is to provide students with an opportunity to self-assess and critically reflect on the game experience.

  • Strength: From the 20 studies which investigated the learning results of the students, the participants ranged from a vast majority to all perceived DEERs as effective tools that assisted them in achieving the learning objectives and/or consented to their implementation in the curriculum.

  • Strength: A correlation between increased engagement, motivation, and learning results were identified. All studies that measured both learning and motivational outcomes and reported increased academic performance also noted improved motivation, positive behaviors, and feelings, or significantly influenced learning-related attitudes, such as learners’ engagement (Neumann et al., 2020).

  • Strength: Our results show a strong relationship between improved motivational and engagement outcomes and significant learning achievements. Interestingly, in one study, participant engagement (n = 124) and perceived learning outcomes in DEERs were closely related (Lopez et al., 2019).

  • Strength: In the reviewed studies, it was portrayed that students sufficiently understood the meanings and properties of many subjects and reported positive learning outcomes. More specifically, the active acquisition of knowledge and a deeper understanding of new concepts were related to many subjects.

  • A cross-sectional pre-and post-test research design was adopted to evaluate the players’ performances (n = 74). It is worth noting that a week passed between the pre-knowledge test and the DEER game. Students’ mean score for the post-test (81%), was statistically higher than the mean score for the pre-test (56%) (David et al., 2019).

  • Strength: ERs reinforced and strengthened social interactions and peer relationships, which helped to establish a great sense of belonging in the group of players. The 21st-century skills enabled players to participate in online learning communities within an emerging network society.

  • Strength: Among the skills that were found in several studies, it can be claimed that they lead to the promotion of collaboration, cooperation, social interaction, and communication, as well as problem-solving. Improved analytical skills, such as higher-order thinking skills, creativity and imagination, entrepreneurial skills, and self-confidence skills, especially in managing medical cases, were also indicated to have benefitted from applying DERs in education.

  • Strength: Digital ERs also promote digital skills. Due to the digital transformation of society, practicing and developing digital literacy skills and ICT competencies are highlighted as the intentions of educators in integrating DERs in all educational levels and contexts.

  • It is crucial that, regardless of educational content and level, DERs in education are conceived as effective and auxiliary educational tools for understanding difficult concepts through the traditional way of teaching methods. What is more, DEERs are deemed as valuable educational tools that can be transferred to other campuses and institutions.

  • In a few studies, a great transferability of DEERs into different curricula has been reported in terms of topic subjects and levels of students. Interestingly, current research has indicated that students report high levels of engagement and motivational skills as a result of the gaming activity, leading to positive learning outcomes. This result is compatible with previous studies: that the more motivated and engaged students are, the more likely they are to achieve more significant learning results.

The Rise of Educational Escape Rooms, Zara Stone

  • Limitation: Escape rooms vary in design and style, but the basic premise is the same: People are trapped inside a space for a specific amount of time and need to solve a number of puzzles to get out. Puzzles tend to be theme-related; Turning this into a classroom activity creates a number of challenges—teachers have to grapple with constraints imposed by classroom size, facilities, and the Common Core standards.

  • Strength: Students are more likely to retain knowledge when they can apply what they’ve learned, a practice often labeled “active learning” or “constructivism” by education scholars. A 2011 study of physics teachers who changed their teaching method from a traditional teacher-centered approach to an active approach showed that learning improved 38 percent in students’ understanding of kinematics.

  • Strength: A different higher education-focused study reported that students learning traditionally were twice as likely to drop out of courses and three times as likely to leave college altogether compared to students using active-learning methods.

  • Strength: Shauna Pollock, a Toronto-based educator and the author of Creating Classroom Magic, a book about using the Disney-inspired principles of magic, safety, and courtesy in teaching, believes educational escape rooms have enormous potential to be effective in schools, since they can be adapted to any subject. “[They can] excite learners and help develop their skills, teaching them content through immersive, engaging play,” she wrote in a recent paper.

  • Strength: At the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Sherry Jones, a games-studies instructor, is admittedly receptive to games in education, but was especially impressed with how quickly escape rooms engaged students. She said they’re structured so that players instantly become active participants, with a vested interest in winning. “In games, you read materials and have a Q-and-A session,” she said. “There’s no hand holding here.” Jones believes that escape rooms will start spreading through education as a “way to make the classroom a lot more fun.” That, in turn, could create a stronger incentive for learners to engage with their studies.

  • Strength: Nicole Naditz, French teacher based in California, noted that “In life and work outside of the classrooms, solutions aren't singular, nor are they neatly packaged or synthesized into multiple-choice responses,” she said. “Breakout events prepare students for a more nuanced approach to solving problems.”

  • “The current K-12 system is obsolete,” said the Breakout EDU founder James Sanders, a former White House Innovation Fellow with a background in education and tech. So he devised a new one, using the escape-room model as a guide. Rather than breaking out of the room, players are trying to break into the box, and every lock involves challenges that create learning experiences.

  • Educational escape rooms don’t exist in a vacuum; games must align with education standards and student engagement must be supervised. “Escape rooms are a tool, but not a magic wand,” Scott Nicholson, a professor of game design and development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, said. “They can engage players in the short term but need to be paired with other activities to bring about long-term change."

Online Escape Games as an Educational Tool, Petra Ambrozova, Martin Kaliba

  • Regardless of the specific subject, escape games are perceived by students as contributing to their learning and improving their ability to delegate tasks and work as a team, whereas the time pressure, under which the participants are forced to work is considered to be an important factor associated with this teaching strategy.

  • In connection with the rapid onset of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, in the context of many restrictions, school closures or even lockdowns, it was impossible to implement the online games in a classical way. In that time, there were fully digital escape rooms using several online applications for their creation and administration which began to assert themselves very quickly.

  • Strength: By its nature, the online escape games develop digital literacy and thus can be a suitable means of a higher-level fulfillment by Bloom´s taxonomy of cognitive objective.

  • The research sample consisted of online escape games placed on the biggest Czech portal designed for sharing of escape games among teachers. The total number of games was 109, two games were not working, so the research sample is made of 107 online escape games. Only games created for school education were included, games intended for non-school institutions (museums, non-profit organizations etc) had been omitted for the purpose of the research.

    • The games have been analyzed with the use of several aspects. We were interested to know, whether the authors are often female or male teachers and whether they create game individually or they prefer a team work. In the games themselves, we were interested to know their structure, especially the use of libretto (story) and the tool used to make them work. In the area of game focus, we paid our attention to education field, in which the content was directed and the target group in terms of the age of pupils/students.

    • Based on the analysis, we can state that, there were 107 of functional online escape games created and shared by teachers during that period focused on 15 educational fields or their combination for children in lower primary and upper primary school and in a smaller number also for students of upper secondary schools and marginally for children in preschool education.

    • We had logically supposed a higher number of female authors in our sample, in the fact that there is generally higher representation of women in Czech schooling. Out of 107 games, 93 were created by females while only 11 were created by males. 3 were created with co-authors.

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  • Based on implemented analysis of our research, we can state, that online escape games differ from traditional educational escape games, not just in the absence of physical game items, but as well as in gameplay, puzzles, game design and settings.

  • There is a different role of a teacher, who comes to the game less and is only very often in the role of a creator, unlike “offline” escape games, where this role is wider and includes monitoring, guiding, providing hints and debriefing.

  • For a successful Escape Room, it is important that participants are at the centere of the story containing a consistent narrative. A greater emphasis on connecting individual tasks and puzzles with the use of at least simple story link would help the player to be more involved in the game and to motivate him/her to be more active.

  • Most games placed in the analysis database had been created with the use of Google Slides, that is easily accessible for teachers, it is an intuitive platform for creation on simple online games. On the contrary, most games often seemed “stereotypical” and the use of other online tools would have enabled to involve other technical items (such as interesting possibility by for example LMS system for creation of online escape games directly in LMS courses).

  • The vast majority of online escape games is already leaving the concept of escape, which was absolutely essential in the first generation of traditional escape games. Nowadays, participants more or less complete individual tasks, solve puzzles and gain keys to get into a next level, instead of escape. The very name of the escape game thus becomes in its essence misleading and much more appropriate name for the title would be, for example online educational game.

Digital Escape Rooms in your Classroom, Nate Ridgway

  • A digital escape room doesn't compromise the skills or content that you're trying to teach. Instead, it makes them more attractive, and thus, more memorable.

  • Recommends using the Classtime app to help build your escape room:

    • Serves as a flexible platform for students to enter a diverse variety of clues and other passwords​

    • Be used by students to self-track their "escape progress"

  • Strength: Classtime can help you create "puzzles" by utilizing their pre-fabricated design templates such as password prompts, locks, buttons, ciphers, etc.​

  • Strength: You can create and store your puzzle questions using your own question set like this Escape Room Question Set

  • You can use Classtime's teacher dashboard to measure the mastery or performance of students:

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  • Strength: If educators are trying to measure mastery, then they would display this chart at the front of the room and during the game. Students can react to their scores to achieve mastery. If they notice that they could have performed a puzzle better, they can go back and redo that puzzle to achieve mastery. This might be an excellent solution to address the challenge of mastery with dynamic questions. In my mid-term assignment, Professor Dede and Toks commented that mastery might be difficult to achieve if the questions constantly change. In this example, mastery would be achieved if they are able to solve the question within certain bounds and receive immediate feedback on it.

  • Strength: If educators were looking to measure and track performance, they would hide this chart from view. Then, educators can use the scores as part of their stealth assessment.

  • Strength: Classtime offers settings and controls to create your own questions, time, and scoring system. The following is an example of all the settings you can adjust while building your escape room using this app:

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Unlocking Student Engagement: Creation, Adaption, and Application of an Educational Escape Room Across Three Pharmacy Campuses, Heidi Eukel et al.

  • A diabetes escape room was designed and implemented at North Dakota State University and replicated at the Spokane and Yakima campuses of Washington State University. The diabetes escape room was designed to capitalize on the engagement and team-building elements of escape rooms used for both entertainment and business team-building while focusing on instructional tasks associated with the diabetes management skills required in pharmacy practice.

  • The over-arching objective of the game was to increase student knowledge of the management of diabetes through engaging learners in collaborative learning by doing.

  • The escape room provided the foundation for a live, team-based game in which the goal of the student players was to solve puzzles and use clues to escape a room in a restricted amount of time. A total of 332 students participated in the diabetes escape room across these three campuses.

  • Strength: Each student team worked in a room with a closed, unlocked door. Live video streaming was used by faculty to observe group interactions, the demonstration of medication consultations, the use of medication administration devices, or diabetic screenings. This setup is similar to the one I proposed previously to study social-emotional learning and team collaboration.

  • Strength: Overall cost to implement the activity for each site was approximately $100 for the first year and no cost for subsequent years (excluding faculty time). Faculty capitalized on design affordances to ensure successful implementation and transferability of the diabetes escape room.

  • Limitation: A considerable amount of time and effort was required to fully understand the many puzzle elements, create the puzzles from templates, and to envision how they would need to be adapted to function within structural, financial, and staffing limitations. I highlight this limitation in many of the sections.

  • Limitation: The main limitation for wide adoption of this escape room model is differences in resource availability. While initial cost is not considered to be significant (approximately $100), elements such as physical space, supplies, available class time, and facilitator availability may limit ability to implement this activity at other institutions.

  • Limitation: Another anticipated challenge is the time required for this activity. First is the initial investment of facilitator time, which takes several weeks for puzzle preparation, participant logistical preparation (scheduling), facilitator training and coordination, and many other organizational details.

Exploring Escape Games as a Teaching Tool in Educational Robotics, Christian Giang et al.

  • Strength: Recent work has demonstrated that educational escape games elicit high motivation and engagement on the part of the participants.

  • Strength: It has been shown that many participants experienced flow, a state of mind, which has been considered beneficial for successful learning.

  • Limitation: However, due to its novelty, studies on the educational significance of such activities still appear to be sparse.

  • Strength: We developed a prototype of an escape game using the educational robot Thymio and the visual programming language VPL and tested it with 61 subjects. Both quantitative and qualitative results showed that most participants highly appreciated the activity and agreed on the game’s usability for teaching. Moreover, a great majority agreed on having experienced flow while playing.

  • We, therefore, suggest that escape games provide a favorable framework for educational robotic activities, promoting particularly self-regulated and collaborative learning.

A Lab-Based Chemical Escape Room: Educational, Mobile, and Fun!, Ran Peleg et al.

  • A mobile escape room was designed and built in Israel with the theme of a chemical lab with 4 "bombs" that will detonate within 60 mins unless you neutralize them. It consisted of lab-based activities and was suitable for high schools. To date (2019), the activity has been introduced to more than 350 chemistry teachers, who then implemented it to over 1500 students.

  • Strength: An evaluation questionnaire was developed on the basis of students’ statements of their experience of the escape room (bottom-up); the results indicate that the students were highly engaged and motivated during the activity, and there was an appreciation for teachers’ efforts to run the escape room, an increased feeling of efficacy, and effective teamwork.

  • The lab activity described here is intended for high-school students in 11th or 12th grade (16−18 years old) who study chemistry as one of their majors in preparation for the external matriculation exams.

  • The resulting ChEsRm is a kit that teachers can borrow. Schools provide consumables (chemicals) from their laboratories. The ChEsRm consists of nine puzzles or challenges that are interlinked (namely, the solution of one puzzle is needed to solve another puzzle), creating a storyline or flow.

  • Research: From informal observations, we found that the ChEsRm activity was extremely popular with both the teachers and students. Teachers and students who used the ChEsRm in their school explained their enthusiasm, as can be seen in the following quotes:

    • Teacher 1: “When you see the joy of the students, their cooperation... and you hear sentences like: the most impressive chem lesson that I have had so far, interesting and fascinating, the time flew by... This is the goal of every teacher.”

    • Teacher 2: “Quiet students who were af raid to answer in class, expressed enthusiasm and leadership in their attempts to solve puzzles. They were surprised and expressed great joy and excitement when they (of all people) identified the clue and led the group in solving the problems. The students enjoyed seeing that other students who don’t study chemistry were jealous of the students in the chem class.” Student 1: “Real escape rooms are built better, but I enjoyed it more than a real escape room because we could use our chem knowledge to solve puzzles.”

  • The items in the questionnaire were developed by listening to students’ reflection after the activity. We used their words to phrase the items. The survey was done anonymously in a Google form which we provided; this allowed us to collect all the data automatically, as not all the students who experienced the room answered the survey.​

  • Strength: Most of the students felt that the teamwork and their previous knowledge helped them in dealing with the puzzles in the ChEsRm. They experienced a flow of time. Flow is a state in which one is swept away and is fully engaged in an activity. It is considered a form of high intrinsic motivation and thus lends itself to create an ideal environment for personal growth and learning.

  • Strength: Students highly appreciated the efforts of their teachers, who conducted the ChEsRm activity for them. Part of the rationale was to empower the teacher, and this aspect received the highest score of all statements.

  • An unforeseen outcome was that the activity often had a ripple effect as it became known outside the chemistry classroom. We think that the model, whereby teachers enacted the escape room (and not an outside agent), contributed to this ripple effect.

  • Strength: Students seemed to enjoy the activity and operated in a zone of flow. This enjoyment is probably due to working in a group, intellectual challenge, and the game nature of the activity. From a chemical education point of view, it is important to note that students claimed that chemical knowledge previously learned in the classroom was needed for the activity to succeed.

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This is a diagram of a map of the chemical lab escape room (sourced from literature review).

escapED: A Framework for Creating Educational Escape Rooms and Interactive Games for Higher/Further Education, Samantha Clarke et al.

  • escapED aids the design and creation of educational Escape Rooms and Interactive Gaming Experiences for staff and students in further/higher education settings. The paper first presents a pilot study that was used to assess the feasibility and acceptance of University teaching staff of embedding interactive GBL into a higher education environment.

  • The overarching pedagogical construct of the initiative is motivated by ‘learning by designing’, which is a project-based inquiry approach, exploiting the characteristics of a design process that is non-linear, iterative, generative and creative. Design thinking as a domain has crossed over to learning, where it is a “way of finding human needs and creating new solutions using the tools and mindsets of design practitioners.

  • The philosophy and purpose of the escapED program, is to conceptualize interactive experiences and aid other educational facilitators in creating their own live-action games for the purposes of education and positive behavior change in higher/further education settings.

  • Strength: Data collected from a survey of 175 Escape Rooms from around the world, conducted by Nicholson, found that the demographic data of these Escape Rooms players, indicated some noteworthy discussions. Nicholson found that the demographic data from these rooms, exhibited an equal draw of players from both genders. Of the player groups of these rooms, it was reported that 71% were mixed genders, 15% were all male and 14% were all female. If Escape Rooms and other interactive, LARP games attract a balanced gender pool of player types, then GBL designers should consider and ask, what are the elements that make these experiences truly appealing to both genders?

  • The educational objective of the pilot game was for players to develop soft skills such as communication, leadership and teamwork throughout their experience. The theme of the game was based around disarming a bomb, which was done by releasing an engineer hostage. Players were tasked to solve riddles and tests to find the key code that would release the hostage’s locks.

  • All players were observed by members of the research team at the Disruptive Media Lab via their own connection to Skype, and were monitored to observe player engagement and progress within the game and to provide support throughout the game where necessary.

  • Strength: One team, was observed to develop a strategy in which they had a designated a main communicator who would be responsible for relaying the information to the other participants in the adjoining room. Here, leadership skill is essential to ensure that information is collated and communicated effectively between the two teams.

  • Delegation of work was demonstrated as there were various interconnected puzzles and clues in the two rooms. None of the teams that participated in the pilot successfully completed the game experience, however a prize was offered to the team that came closest to completing the challenge.

  • After the experience, each player was asked to fill in a short feedback sheet that asked four exploratory questions about their experience and perceptions of escapED that are detailed below:

    • 1. Do you think escapED has any educational value?

    • 2. Would you consider using the escapED program in your lesson plan?

    • 3. What was good about the escapED prototype session?

    • 4. What could we improve?

  • Strength: From the 13 participant players, a total of 8 feedback sheets were returned with all questions answered. All written feedback exhibited a positive theme throughout in regards to the experience itself. The words; ‘Fun’, ‘Innovative’ and ‘Engaging’ were repeated throughout the feedback and some players indicated that they did not realize that 20 minutes had passed. All 8 feedback sheets stated that they could see the educational value of escapED, especially if the puzzles and theme of the experience, were worked into their taught subject matter.​

  • All feedback sheets indicated that the players would consider using escapED in their lesson plans but were unsure how to facilitate it. A few responses indicated that they thought the experience would be good as an introduction into their lessons to encourage getting to know other students.

  • Limitation: One concern brought up through a number of the feedback responses was that the participants were curious to see how the experience would work with larger groups of players. None of the feedback received suggested that there were improvements that could or should be made to the experience.

  • Concluding on the pilot trial of escapED, the authors believe that from the behaviors observed within the participating players throughout the live game experience, and from the follow up feedback gathered, that there are significant reasons to explore these types of LARP games for GBL purposes further. It is observed by the authors that from the varied backgrounds of the staff members that took part in the exploratory study of the escapED pilot game, the program could be used to create and facilitate cross-disciplinary teaching and learning scenarios that are focused on bringing staff and students together from across these disciplines to work and pool their knowledge together to solve and contribute to something greater.

  • One final aspect of the guide that was very useful was the idea of briefing and de-briefing participants. The activity was originally run by itself, however, after playtesting the activity a few times it was noticed that the participants didn’t have any time for reflection on their experience or evaluating the learning objectives which made the activity unsatisfactory. The Escape Room activity now includes both a pre-task and a post-task that facilitates participant interaction and discussion.

  • Limitation: While the authors acknowledge that the pilot sample size was small, the findings indicate that there is indeed an interest in this method, however, there is a need for a bigger study to validate support in higher education for the use of these examples of interactive GBL for learning.

  • Limitation: Other outcomes from the pilot suggest that more research and development needs to be doneto accommodate larger cohorts of students as this was one of the main concerns raised by the pilot participants. Large numbers of students (50+) were indicated by the participants as typical class sizes, so it was vital to ensure that all members of their class could be accommodated in a game experience if it was to be worked into their practice.

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This is a diagram of the framework proposed in this study (sourced from literature review).

Examining the Use of an Educational Escape Room for Teaching Programming in Higher Education Setting, Sonsoles Lopez-Pernas et al.

  • Although several studies have reported on the use of escape rooms in a wide range of disciplines, prior research falls short of addressing the use of educational escape rooms for teaching programming, one of the most valuable skills of the 21st-century that students often have difficulties grasping.

  • This paper reports on the use of an educational escape room in a programming course at a higher education institution and provide, for the first time, insights on the instructional effectiveness of using educational escape rooms for teaching programming.

  • Strength: The results of this paper show that appropriate use of educational escape rooms can have significant positive impacts on student engagement and learning in programming courses. These results also suggest that students prefer these activities over traditional computer laboratory sessions.

  • Another novel contribution of this paper is a set of recommendations and proposals for educators in order to help them create effective educational escape rooms for teaching programming.

  • One of the main blocks of this programming course is about front-end development, in which students review the basics of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and learn React, Redux and React Native. React is a JavaScript library for building web user interfaces. React Native is a framework that allows building native mobile applications using React. Lastly, Redux is a JavaScript library for handling the application state that can be used with React and React Native, among other technologies. The aim of the conducted educational escape room was to reinforce the most important concepts covered in this block of the programming course.

  • The main motivation of the course staff for introducing the educational escape room was to increase the low pass rate (56%) that this block of the subject had in the previous year through an activity capable of successfully engaging students.

  • The educational escape room was offered to all the students of the course as an optional but graded activity. It was not mandatory for students to participate, but it counted around 5% toward the final grade of the front-end development block. The activity was graded on a scale of 0 to 10. Students who attended the escape room earned 7 points just for participating in it and, in addition, those who were capable of successfully solving all the puzzles in time were given the 3 remaining points.

  • The educational escape room was conducted in December 2018, a few days prior to the final exam. Of the 136 students enrolled in the course, a total of 124 attended the educational escape room. This figure represents around 91% of the students enrolled in the course and nearly 98% of the students who took the final exam of this block of the course.

  • The educational escape room was conceived as a hybrid experience in which students had to solve a combination of computer-based and physical puzzles in a limited amount of time while immersed in an engaging narrative (which is detailed in section III-C). The puzzles of the escape room were arranged in a sequence in such a way that each puzzle unlocked the next one (section III-D describes each of the puzzles used in detail).

  • Insight: In educational escape rooms, it is essential to prevent students from getting stuck at one puzzle for too long. Otherwise, students can get bored, frustrated or even angry. In addition, this may be detrimental from the pedagogical point of view since it keeps students from attempting all the puzzles. In this experience, we decided on an innovative approach for managing hints. Instead of giving hints for free or at the cost of a time penalty, we decided to adopt an approach in which students have to earn the right to get help from the instructors by passing a small quiz delivered through a web application.

  • Strength: This approach fosters that students review the theoretical content of the course, complementing the practical programming skills the escape room aims to improve. An interesting feature of the hint application developed is that the pool of questions can be easily modified through a configuration file without a need to have strong technical skills, making it straightforward to reuse the same application in subsequent editions or even in educational escape rooms conducted in other courses.

  • Strength: Performing the escape room for many students at the same time decreases the time investment for the course staff. Besides, it prevents students from receiving information about the activity from other students that performed it before.

  • Strength: In this experience, instead of forming large teams, students were told to team up in pairs which, to the knowledge of the authors, has not been attempted in any preceding educational escape room experience. Prior research substantiates the belief that pair programming increases learning outcomes, reduces student frustration, and improves the overall quality of the resulting code. A recent study carried out on people’s behavior in escape rooms also found that teams comprised of two people saw fluctuation in terms of leadership, whereas in large teams the same person usually kept the leading role throughout the activity.

  • The educational escape room was designed to last two hours, the typical duration of a computer lab session. Thus, students had two hours to solve all the puzzles.

  • Insight: The puzzles were designed to be of increasing complexity, the last puzzle being the most difficult one. In fact, in spite of following a sequential path for the whole escape room, the last puzzle had an open structure in order to increase intricacy.

  • Research: Students’ opinions on the performed educational escape room were collected through an online survey that was conducted immediately after the end of the activity. This survey included some initial demographic questions, a set of opinion questions, and a list of statements with which students needed to agree or disagree using a 5-point Likert scale.

  • The main aim of this study was to evaluate the students’ perceptions of the conducted educational escape room. In order not to influence these perceptions, no pre-test was conducted prior to the beginning of the activity.

  • Insight: Performing a pre-test and a post-test would have allowed obtaining a quantitative measure of learning effectiveness. However, this intervention could have caused an impact on the students’ motivation since filling a questionnaire is perceived as a cumbersome task by many of them. Moreover, having a randomized control group was not possible in this study due to ethical reasons and the university’s policy. Therefore, in this case study, learning effectiveness was assessed in a qualitative way by asking students about their self-perceived increase in knowledge.

  • The evaluation survey was completed by a total of 84 students, who volunteered to do so at the end of the activity. This sample represents 67.7% of the 124 students who attended the educational escape room. Of the 84 students of the sample, 61 were male (72.6%) and 23 were female (27.4%). The mean age of respondents was 22.2 with a standard deviation of 2.9.

  • Strength: These findings indicate that, although females seem to have reservations with regard to games in general, the escape room attracted students of both genders equally.

  • Strength: The results of the survey conducted in this study show that students had a very positive overall opinion on the educational escape room (M = 4.3, SD = 0.8) and thought it was a fun experience (M = 4.2, SD = 1.1).

  • Strength: Students’ prior interest in games proved to be no harbinger of their opinion on the escape room since no correlation was found between these two variables. A percentage of 90.5% of students stated they would recommend other students to participate in the escape room and 95.2% claimed that they would like other courses to embrace similar activities.

  • Strength: The satisfactory outcomes obtained for student engagement confirm the initial hypothesis of the present study that educational escape rooms can be an excellent way to foster motivation in programming courses, as foreshadowed by the results shown in prior works from other disciplines.

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This is a table of the survey results from game participants (sourced from literature review).

  • Strength: In regard to learning effectiveness, students stated that the escape room helped them improve their knowledge of the course materials to some extent (M = 3.4, SD = 1.2). These results were consistent with previous studies, which also found that educational escape rooms have the ability to improve students' knowledge on a specific topic.

  • Strength: Interestingly enough, all the students that reported very high learning outcomes also rated the activity as extremely fun. In fact, a moderately strong correlation (Pearson’s r = 0.62, p < 0.001) was found between student engagement and self-perceived learning effectiveness.

  • Strength: When compared with the computer lab sessions performed in the course, students declared that they prefer the escape room over a lab session (M = 4.5, SD = 0.9) and that the learning outcomes are somewhat higher in the former (M = 3.7, SD = 1.3). These results are consistent with previous research works, which established that students feel more engaged and obtain slightly better learning outcomes in educational escape rooms than in other practical activities.

  • Limitation: A few students also stated that the hardest part was knowing what to do first and that further guidance was needed at the beginning. This finding is consistent with those of prior research.

  • Limitation: A couple of students complained about not knowing if a certain error in the provided software application was intentionally introduced as a part of the escape room or was accidental, which added difficulty to the whole experience.

  • Strength: Overall, most students left very positive comments in which they wrote that they thoroughly enjoyed the educational escape room experience and that they would like more hands-on activities like this one. They remarked they wished other courses undertook similar initiatives and thanked the course staff for taking the time to organize the activity.

  • Limitation: The first valuable lesson learned is that it is of crucial importance for educational escape rooms to provide students with strong initial guidance since the initial confusion may cause them to lose a significant amount of time at the beginning, which may lead to frustration.

  • Limitation: Based on the results obtained from our educational escape room experience, we strongly recommend combining computer-based and physical puzzles when designing an activity of this kind in a programming course, which has proven to be an effective approach in other disciplines as well.

  • Limitation: An important decision in the design of an educational escape room is how the activity is going to be evaluated. This is a concern that arises with gamification approaches in education. One option is to offer the educational escape room as a non-graded activity. However, making the activity count for a grade could be beneficial in order to motivate the students to review the corresponding course materials in advance, which is a key factor in the success of educational escape room experiences.

  • Insight: By gathering accurate information about an educational escape room activity, teachers can assign grades based not only on its final result (i.e. which teams solved all the puzzles) but also on the individual learning objectives met by each team and/or the achievement of specific milestones.

  • Insight: Taking all these into account, teachers should carefully decide the grading scheme to be used in educational escape room activities and clearly explain said grading scheme to the students before the activity.

Concluding Thoughts on Research

In conclusion, the research findings suggest that Educational Escape Rooms are a valuable teaching and learning tool that educators should explore, especially in regard to complex topics or subjects that are difficult to teach in a structured learning environment. The research overwhelmingly suggests that the outcomes are significantly positive for both learners and educators. Even with all the limitations mentioned above, the numerous benefits suggest educators at least attempt to try this method of teaching.

Many of these points were integrated into my Escape Room design as well as in my Overall Assessment and Areas for Future Improvement found in this section: Overall Asssessment.

There is an abundance of research out there supporting escape rooms as an educational tool. I focused on the following literature reviews and case studies and provided significant research points, data, results, and important information that was offered in the body of work.

Escape Room as an Educational Tool, Gabi Steinprinz

  • Escape rooms can be used as a way to build empathy through narratives such as reliving the stories of local immigrants in an area

  • There are four main elements they focused their research on:

    • Topic according to learning needs and creating a narrative on that topic​

    • Responsibility to the learner (and letting go by the educator as much as possible)

    • Diversity of tasks and puzzles for different talents and learning styles so that all participants can contribute and learn

    • Debriefing as a reflection on learning

  • Strength: An educative escape room allows participants to discover things on their own. The educator takes the distance needed, supporting learners by setting up the room and only visiting it when asked by the participants.