- Digital “escape rooms” have been used in the College of Nursing to assess learning.
- Escape rooms engage students in group work in a new and engaging way.
- Moving escape rooms online allows students to use iPads and other technologies to complete the assignment.
Innovating in the classroom often means looking to others for inspiration and support. For Christine Sayre, assistant professor of clinical practice in the College of Nursing, her first inspiration struck at the annual Innovate conference hosted by the Office of Distance Education and eLearning.
“I went to the Innovate conference and the College of Pharmacy was doing an in-person escape room and I thought that it was very cool,” said Sayre. “I immediately thought about a case study assignment in my course and how I could turn it into an escape room.”
After hosting a successful in-person escape room for her obstetric nursing students, Sayre encountered a second challenge. To move her escape room assignment online as a result of COVID-19, she looked to the experience of two fellow instructors in the College of Nursing, Kady Martini and Tracy Taylor who had created a similar experience virtually for their course on evidence-based practice. The digital escape room was envisioned as a way to assess learning while using new tools.
“Escape rooms are evidence-based, which is cool because our course is on evidence-based practice,” said Martini. “Students get exposed to teamwork and communication concepts in this unique and fun, exciting way. In addition to that, it allows us as educators to see if they understood and retained the knowledge and if they can apply it, which I think is the dream for every educator.”
To build the escape rooms all of the instructors did research into rooms created by educators elsewhere in the country and tested their material on colleagues to gauge effectiveness. While Martini and Taylor created a website for theirs, Sayre chose to use a web form. All of the instructors used Zoom breakout rooms to place students in groups.
“We spent like two or three weeks, us going through just researching,” said Taylor. “A lot of it had been done in high schools and junior highs. So that's kind of where we started looking.”
After conducting their escape room, Martini and Taylor asked their students to share feedback.
“Students shared that it was a great review for them and that they really felt like we captured the different topics and strategies and steps from class,” said Taylor. “They thought it was a fun way to work together to review since we don’t do a final exam in that course.”
The fun wasn’t limited to just the students — moving her escape room online brought challenges and also a feeling of accomplishment to Sayre.
“I mean, it was hours of work but when it finally happened I was so excited. I was like a little kid in a candy store,” said Sayre. “It's pretty exciting to see it all come to fruition and see the excitement that comes from the students getting to do something different.”
Parting advice from Kady Martini?
“If you’re considering taking a risk and trying something new I would say just do it because our students are tired of the same old thing,” said Martini. “When you offer something fun and exciting in a new way they'll appreciate it. I feel like we get stuck in some of the same old ways of teaching — the digital escape room was a great way for us to break free from that and do something new.”
Try it Yourself
Visit the Teaching and Learning Resource Center to find helpful guides for digital tools provided by the university and workshops you can attend to learn more about leveraging technology in your course.
Looking to consult with someone in ODEE? Fill out their contact form to get in touch.