The Erasmus+ UNLOCK project has recently hosted the online event “Educational Escape Room (EER) games in Higher Education - Future of research and practice”, with the attendance of 50+ participants from all continents, and made up of diverse range of profiles, including educators, researchers, students, and representatives of business and public organisations. Organised by the Science-to-Business Marketing Research Centre (S2BMRC) and Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS), the event aimed at dissemination of findings from the research phase carried out by the UNLOCK project consortium* as well as offering a platform for EER enthusiasts to connect and exchange experiences. Accordingly, the two expert presentation tracks focused on sharing of EER practices and research from HEI and business contexts, in France, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and Denmark.
Represented by the work package coordinator Hacer Tercanli from the S2BMRC team, UNLOCK project consortium delivered insights gained from 37 case studies and European national reports, on the status-quo of EERs in the European HEIs. In the tracks followed, the practitioner session hosted a line of EER experts who shared experiences from own contexts and led lively discussions with participants. Beverly Legilois (Montpellier Business School) started off by sharing a digital escape room she has designed and applied in her intercultural management class, aiming at students from different cultural backgrounds to get to know each other. Jasper van Winden (Utrecht University) provided insights from the EER game “Mastermind” being implemented at the UT, in the context of continuous professional development for the educators. He shared the game design framework of the EER that enables transition from the game world into the real world. Thomas Vigild (Vallekilde Folk High School) discussed his experience with an exploratory EER he designed and implemented in a Danish high school, which combines game design and pedagogical principles with realistic decorations. Rounding up the practice track of the event, Jeffrey Meijer (JGM Serious Experiences) presened about their team behaviour analysis model via serious game approaches, to help organisations with successful team-building.
In the parallel research track, presentations were given by Alice Veldkamp (University of Utrecht, Graduate School of Teaching), José Luis Gómez-Uruiza (University of Granada, Faculty of Health Sciences), and Prof. Laura Marie Edinger-Schons (University of Mannheim, Business School). Ms. Veldkamp highlighted some often understudied paradoxes within EERs. For example, one the one hand, students playing EERs have a feeling of autonomy and discovery of the puzzles, but on the other hand, it is required for the students to follow very strict organizations of puzzles. Also, student creativity is a skill often mentioned by educators as required to solve the puzzles, but puzzles do not have open-ended solutions. This paradox leads to the question, for what is the student creativity needed, to find the teacher’s programmed solutions to the puzzles? Mr. Gómez-Urquiza presented a study regarding the effectiveness of preparing students for assessments in the nursing field. The results of the study indicate that the students held strongly the opinion that the EER was useful to prepare for exams. The comparison between results from traditional exams and EERs as assessment forms was indicated as a fruitful area for future research. Finally, Ms. Edinger-Schons presented an EER where effective team problem solving was studied. The research showed that effective teams used fluid physical movements and interactions with the artefacts, and had clear and affirmative communication among team members.
Some of the key learnings and take-outs include the following:
Physical EERs in the HEIs are still in their infancy in Europe. EERs are more often driven as a bottom-up process with the educators as initiators, while the support of institutions consists of the provision of resources,
EERs in the HEIs are emerging in hybrid forms with the combination of physical and digital learning spaces, mixed groups of EER designer/ developers, and mixed groups of players,
The EERs facilitate stakeholder engagement which is extended both inside and outside the HEIs,
Targeting 21st century skills, clearly defining ILOs, acquisition of resources, and reaching out to collaborators are some of the crucial steps in successful EER development,
Lack of creativity, technical and storytelling skills; knowledge of pedagogies and game design, and time resources are among the most major challenges educators face in adopting EERs.
Building upon the findings, the consortium will resume working on developing a pedagogical framework for the educators over the coming months. For further project updates and news, please follow us at UNLOCK project website (www.un-lock.eu), and social media accounts at LinkedIn and Facebook.
(*) University of Aveiro (Portugal), Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands), Münster University of Applied Sciences (Germany), Kaunas University of Technology (Lithuania), University of Granada (Spain), Bespoke (Denmark), Advancis (Portugal) and University-Industry Innovation Network (Netherlands)