Guest post – DigiLearn: Escape room challenges (creating opportunities to build community in a fun way)

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Author: Maria D Iglesias Mora, Lecturer in Hispanic and Foundation Studies

At the start of this academic year, with having to deliver many of the activities during Welcome Week online, educators had to reinvent themselves and to find new ways of creating team-building activities and virtual scavenger hunts for the new students to socialise before the first teaching week.

I decided to teach myself how to create a very basic escape room. I chose OneNote for this purpose. This is how I did it:  

I started by opening OneNote from Office 365, typed the name of the new Notebook and pressed create. The new OneNote was created and opened in OneNote online. It might be a good option to shift from OneNote Online to the full version of OneNote (open in Desktop App).  

Then, right clicked on “Untitled Section” on the left side and chose Rename to give each section a name (Example: Lock 1). I then added additional sections by clicking +Section.

Then I was ready to start adding the information (instructions) on a page for each section. Here, I was able to include text, or insert links to a video.

Once the information was added on the page in each section, I proceeded to “lock” each section. To do this, I just right clicked on the section tab; then, chose Password Protection and added the password (i.e. the answer to the question/task).

It would be useful to note that the password for the section should be the solution/answer to the task on the previous section. Remember that your 1st section will have to be kept unlocked. Alternatively, you can give the students the password to the first section to get them started. You may want to annotate all your passwords in a separate document in case you end up forgetting them. 

Finally, once the sections and pages were created and password protected, I was ready to share the challenge with my students.  

The students were given instructions to figure out how to solve this challenge in small groups asynchronously, i.e.  they had time to work through the different clues and tasks at their own pace.  The information they were presented with helped them figure out how to unlock each section. See below examples of the questions they had to ‘unlock’:

As students keep guessing the answers (passwords) to unlock each section, they will be able to find their way out:

Once the students managed to get to the end, they were presented with a badge as prove of their achievement.

The first attempt has been well received and the students seemed to enjoy taking part in this challenge. It has fomented team cohesion from the very beginning. 

These challenges can enhance engagement, as well as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration in a fun non-threatening way. The escape room I originally created was ideal as beginning-of-the-year team building. It has given me the confidence to add these types of challenges to my groups of students every few weeks so that they can socialise outside the classroom time as well as maintaining the sense of community within their cohort.

In the future, I intend to keep using them to help the students with reviewing of concepts, mid and end-of term revision or even end-of-the-year projects.

Check the Microsoft site for more information and some Free OneNote escape room templates.


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