As with the design of all educational games, creating a good educational escape room is not easy but involves getting the right combination of fun and playability coupled with the intended learning outcomes embedded in a way that is seamless and doesn’t detract from the game play.
It is this balance of fun and learning that is crucial to the design of an effective educational game and can only be achieved by designers who have the right mix of educational and game design skills, and time devoted to prototyping and testing. The advantage of an escape room is that they are simple to mock-up and test, and can be tested in parts rather than as a whole. Developing video games is outside the expertise of most teachers, but escape games can be created by anyone with an imagination. With the right approach and experience almost any escape room can be turned into an educational process, but the role of the educators is to manage, coordinate and monitor this process purposefully keeping the learning goals and objectives in clear focus.
There are a number of pedagogical reasons why playing educational escape games offers a valid and engaging approach to learning. The following are reasons connected to the development of so called transversal or soft skills:
The very fact of playing an exciting, time-dependent immersive game may be engaging for many learners (although not all) and the physical real-world nature of the game offers an immersive play experience that is motivating for many people. Moreover, a well-designed Educational Escape Room is likely to nourish Intellectual Curiosity, which is a STEAM highly required skill.
Escape rooms offer the opportunities for groups of students to work together to solve puzzles, gaining the benefits of knowledge and insights from others. Good escape rooms are designed in such a way that they cannot be solved alone (for example they need two people in different spaces to solve a code) so that players have to communicate and collaborate in order to solve the puzzles.
Many of the problems and puzzles that players face in escape rooms require them to think differently from their usual mindset and combine objects and ideas in novel ways. This type of thinking is an important underpinning to creativity and innovation.
Escape rooms present a variety of different types of puzzles from codes, cyphers and traditional puzzles, to finding or manipulating objects and complex digital puzzles. Players are presented with a variety of problems that they have to solve, gaining skills in thinking through problems and developing approaches to solve them.
Resilience and Flexibility
which players also develop as they make multiple attempts to solve puzzles in different ways, and creativity as they come up with different novel solutions.
is also at stake in a time-based challenge. Together with collaboration, this can promote overall personal resource management.
As all these skills are achieved in a larger or smaller scale experiencing any escape room, what can actually make almost any escape room educational is the time spent on debriefing in which the participants are guided through a thought process where they have a chance to consciously realize what they have achieved and how it has been done. This helps to develop one of the most important type of skills in the modern education system – metacognition skills.
Apart from these transversal skills escape rooms offer a high potential for initiating subject specific learning in this case STEAM. The mechanics of Escape rooms is based on puzzles, tasks, quizzes etc., so that it is somehow natural to integrate content items into a game. Every step of an escape room can be designed to stimulate or test specific knowledge or abilities, making it an effective learning setting also for subject-matter content.
Such STEAM skills as statistics, argumentation and data–driven decision making, so desired in STEAM education but take little or almost no place in a traditional STEAM classroom, are constantly applied while collaboratively doing the puzzles, as the participants are to make a right decision based on the statistics, arguments and data collected.
To draw the conclusion on the importance of educational goals and STEAM skills acquisition, the whole idea, the concept of an Educational ER lies in connecting the academic needs of a subject with instilling in the students the 21st century abilities and intelligences.