E-Learning Module

Unit 1 Grain 4
Setting the game mode
60 minutes

The objective of this lesson is to introduce the area – mode as part of the participants’ step in the framework of educational Escape Room design.

By the end of this grain, participants should be able to:

  • Understand the different types of modes for an educational escape room
  • Choose the most suitable game mode
  • Set their own game mode

The module will work through the process of designing an educational escape room from scratch.

Following the stage process suggested from the Trans Disciplinary Methodology by Arnab & Clarke, the Participants step is broken down into five areas for educators to consider at the start of designing their educational escape room.

1. User Type: User needs assessment is carried out to determine player demographic and educational needs.

2. Time: Length of experience. Can be short experience of 15 minutes or a longer experience that lasts multiple days.

3. Difficulty: Consideration of intended users to scale difficulty of puzzles for different levels of players such as college students, undergrads, post grads, doctorates and staff.

4. Mode: Choose mode of experience such as; Cooperation based: Players work together to solve/escape the experience vs Competitive based: Players compete to be the first to figure out the objectives.

5. Scale: Choose number of participants the game is to be designed for.

In Grain 2 we explained the first area – User type.

In Grain 3 we continued with explanation of area 2 Time and 3Difficulty.

In Grain 4 we will explain area 4 – Mode

Mode: Variations on Escape Rooms

There have been a few attempts at varying the escape room experience.

Competitive Escape Rooms

Teamwork is the focus of escape rooms; however, there are rooms that take advantage of the player’s competitive nature. Some facilities have the ability to have teams play against each other in identical rooms, with the winner being the one who escapes first.

Others may put teams against each other in completely different rooms.

Competitiveness is an element to be present, as students have to compete against other groups in order to escape the room. Nevertheless, in this competitiveness, they will have to rely on their group members, as there might be some tasks that not everybody in the group will be able to solve. Another viewpoint emphasizes the teamwork and cooperation rather than competitiveness. Furthermore, failure (a meaningful characteristic in competitiveness) is a possibility that might take place and should take place in order to learn.

Score Based Escape Rooms

A facility can attach a score to the escape room, with allocated points based on tasks, time and penalties. For example, a room may deduct points for requested hints, or a room may give bonus points for unlocking bonus secrets within the room that are not part of the core puzzle path.

Large Scale Escape Event

Multiple teams play all in the same room (or rooms) at the same time within the given time limit. Although the teams are independent of each other, there is a minor competitive element where they try to solve the challenge in the fastest amount of time.

Defining the two teaching strategies – Collaboration and Competition

The cooperative classroom

Students are usually divided into small groups and encouraged to work together to maximize their own learning, as well as the others’ in the group. Activities can include children reading their work aloud to each other, commenting on and editing each other’s writing projects, using flashcards to help each other study spelling words or multiplication tables, and working together on a larger project such as a science experiment, a history presentation, or the analysis of a social problem.

Children learn important cooperative social skills that they will need later in their working livesIt can be hard for a teacher to accurately evaluate the progress of individual students
Students can actually learn better, when they also help teach other studentsStudents may not be motivated to excel if they know their classmates will do whatever work is needed on a project
Children who might be left behind in a more competitive environment can be brought up to speed by their peersStudents can become frustrated when their individual efforts go unrecognized

The Competitive Classroom

Sometimes called individualistic learning, the competitive classroom is the more traditional form of learning. Students study alone and complete their own assignments while trying to learn the presented subject matter. Tests and quizzes measure each student’s progress, and letter grades or percentages are given for both assignments and tests. In this type of setting, students may become competitive with each other for the best grades and for your recognition.

Children face the real-world challenge of competitionSome students may become frustrated and even apathetic if they fall too far behind the rest of their classmates
Students are encouraged to do their very bestEarning high grades and teacher approval may come to be seen as more important than actual learning
Independent thinking and effort are encouraged and rewardedGetting along with others is de-emphasized
Children can still work in teams, but compete against other teams 

Is there a middle ground?

Like life, nothing in teaching is completely black or white. Given that competitive and cooperative teaching strategies each have their advantages, both could be incorporated into a classroom.

As teams who compete against other teams will create the escape games, a key component to this learning opportunity is the combination of competition and collaboration. “Among the advantages of the competitive approach we may cite: interactivity, collaborative work inside the group, active participation, challenge versus duties, and motivation for the students to explore their own topics” (Burguillo, 2010, p.12). These beneficial advantages are common to the world of gaming, as they form a key motivator within most games. Cagiltay et al.’s (2015) research supports this as they found that “incorporating the gaming element of competition to a game-based learning environment improves learning outcomes and motivation of participants. As a result, game designers should incorporate the element ‘competition’ to the games they create to facilitate learning” (p. 40). There are also many benefits to encouraging the development of collaboration as the benefits involve “supportiveness for partners and increase in helping behaviours. These practices also helped many students overcome their shyness and led to improved participation” (Ciampa, 2014,  p.93).

How to Balance Competitive and Collaborative Learning

We have heard a lot about collaborative learning in recent years, but almost at the expense of another, equally important concept: competition. We believe that today’s students should be service-oriented, cooperative, intellectually humble, and less individualistic in their educational pursuits. However, we have been speaking as though collaboration and competition are mutually exclusive, and they are not.

Some of you will say that competition harms learning. In fact, Alfie Kohn has been saying it for years: “One after another, researchers across the country have concluded that children do not learn better when education is transformed into a competitive struggle. Why? First, competition often makes kids anxious and that interferes with concentration. Second, competition does not permit them to share their talents and resources as cooperation does, so they cannot learn from one another. Finally, trying to be Number One distracts them from what they are supposed to be learning. It may seem paradoxical, but when a student concentrates on the reward (an A or a gold star or a trophy), he becomes less interested in what he is doing. The result: performance declines.”

Nevertheless, competition is a fundamental part of human nature. The way we teach our students to view and respond to competition, though, needs to change. We need to present collaboration, for example, as a competitive advantage. Teachers need to start rewarding students for empathy and good listening skills, not just homework completion.

Competitive learning not only means doing everything you can to succeed individually, but also being receptive to the needs of society. Ten years ago, success would have meant earning your degree, knowing how to ace an interview, and having a great business idea. Now it may mean pursuing an alternative education path, knowing how to develop soft skills and work well with others, and considering the value of social entrepreneurship. Here are our strategies for becoming a competitive learner:

  • Use innovation, not knowledge, as a competitive advantage
  • Be able to solve problems collaboratively
  • Understand how to build your presence
  • Cultivate a multi-disciplinary outlook
  • Be intrinsically motivated
  • Don’t be afraid to fail
  • Believe in a culture of service
  • Actively improve your memory
  • Be committed to digital literacy
  • Record your own learning

Trying to incorporate both cooperative and competitive teaching strategies into a single class requires a lot of commitment and effort, but if that is best for your class, give it a go!

Escape room games allow you to polish your skills as a team player and help you indulge in an hour of carefree, productive games in which you have to solve puzzles and get out of the room by solving certain clues.

Materials and Resources

Clarke, S., Peel, D., Arnab, S., Morini, L., keegan, H., & Wood, O. (2017). EscapED: A Framework for Creating Educational Escape Rooms and Interactive Games to For Higher/Further Education. International Journal of Serious Games 4(3), 73-86. https://doi.org/10.17083/ijsg.v4i3.180



Pan, R., Lo, H., & Neustaedter, C. (2017). Collaboration, awareness, and communication in real-life escape rooms. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems

Bassford, M. L., Crisp, A., O’Sullivan, A., Bacon, J., & Fowler, M. (2016). CrashEd–A live immersive, learning experience embedding STEM subjects in a realistic, interactive crime scene. Research in Learning Technology, 24(1), 30089.


Q1. The advantages of the competitive approach are:
a. Improvement of the learning outcomes and motivation of participants
b. Supportiveness for partners
c. Students can learn from one another

Q2. The teacher’s feedback to participants on how well they collaborated is called:
a. Structuring the task
b. Debriefing
c. Monitoring the group performance

Q3. What does competitive learning mean?
a. Do everything you can to succeed individually.
b. Be receptive to the needs of society.
c. Be able to solve problems collaboratively.
d. All of the above

Q1: a
Q2: b
Q3: d