A young woman wearing a VR headset pointing at the camera

The Great Escape – Showcasing digital tools via an escape room experience

By Oliver Moore and Tracey Webb, Bournemouth University

Learning Technologists at Bournemouth University (BU) have been exploring the concept of escape rooms and how they might be used to promote innovative technologies to staff. At our recent internal Fusion Learning conference, we took the opportunity to run our escape room prototype, incorporating both online and classroom activities, during one of the sessions. Our goal was to showcase the various digital tools and technologies available to staff at BU, and to inspire them to create their own escape rooms or immersive learning scenarios. The aim was to demonstrate the capabilities of the tools, keeping the content relatable and engaging for participants, whilst also highlighting the potential of escape rooms in education.

To achieve this, we incorporated several different technologies into our escape room. We used AI generated ‘mission brief’ videos, 360 degree photos with interactive elements to provide a realistic and interactive backdrop for remote exploration; virtual reality (VR) headsets to demonstrate the potential for immersive environments; and the H5P interactive content authoring tool, to add an extra layer of engagement and problem solving for participants. We integrated all of this into our Brightspace VLE, structuring the escape room using Brightspace’s tools and functionality (such as release conditions linked to quizzes), to stagger content. By solving the puzzles and completing tasks using the digital tools, participants were able to experience how some of the digital tools within the BU toolbox could be used with Brightspace.

The text 'Mission Briefing' is above an image of a video screen shot of a man in a labcoat who is standing in a white room with tables and computer equipment.
Bournemouth University (2023)

Creating a narrative

When it comes to building fuller experiences like these, it can be difficult and time consuming to build a cohesive narrative and also prioritise learning content. The narrative was critical for maintaining engagement in the scenario and creating a sense of fun. The narrative was also functional as it created a flow which made sense to the participants. Escape rooms are often put together in a way that directs participants by anticipating their decisions and outcomes. Anticipating these decisions and outcomes is a lot easier when a course of action makes narrative sense.

Our narrative was shaped around the digital tools we wanted to promote. As the common thread was technology, we framed our narrative around topical issues surrounding AI and ChatGPT. We drew on pop cultural themes and references (e.g. HAL from Space Odyssey) to reinforce the relatability of the content and to support an understanding of narrative points. We found ways within the narrative to purpose the use of each digital tool; whether it was the live 360 footage acting as ‘CCTV’, or using the ‘Image Juxtaposition’ content type from H5P to create a ‘password encryption’ puzzle.

Question 1 (1 Point) is written above an image of a keypad. The keypad is black with neon blue numbers. It states: Enter Code. There is a text input box underneath the image.
Bournemouth University (2023)

Using Gamification to embed learning

Estimated time for completion of the challenge was thirty minutes. Gamification worked well to engage participants in this slightly more involved learning experience. Participants were fully motivated to undertake each activity and unlock each level. They collaborated well within their teams (but did become quite competitive against the other groups). The narrative we’d devised was complex, but that helped foster a logical way to progress through each element, and so participants connected well with the story. In fact, the game became the priority and the learning was incidental. Brightspace was effective in scaffolding each task and clearly mapped progression through each stage.

We added a debrief module on our processes, spelling out exactly how each task was created and the tool that was applied, with links to further guidance. Participants who completed the escape room would therefore have a reference point to return to if they want to adopt any of these approaches in their own teaching.

the text 'Launch key incorrect' is above an image of a green computer screen with the word error in red.
Bournemouth University (2023)

Reflection and next steps

We had some very positive feedback during the session and believe we achieved our intentions of raising awareness of some of the digital tools available to staff at BU whilst also instilling ideas for their potential application in teaching and learning. The escape room was pitched at the right level; it was challenging but still fun, and no one became disengaged. Resource wise, we hope our escape room demonstrated to staff that a large budget isn’t required. Any colleagues wishing to incorporate any of these activities in the future can lean on the support of their Learning Technologist. The creation of the escape room was time intensive, however it proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable process which was fun for both the educator, and the participants. Playing up to the limitations of ChatGPT in an AI themed story, and adding niche jokes that might be missed was fun, especially when participants recognised the nuances.

The escape room was designed for a face to face conference situation and worked well in that environment, but we want to explore now how we might improve the sequencing of tasks; to enable multiple groups to complete challenges at the same time, without crossover. We are also currently working on adapting the escape room to create an inclusive, fully online version to engage with other members of our staff community. The same tools and tasks will be included, with the aims and learning outcomes adjusted to be accessed asynchronously. The original escape room will continue to be used as a showcase, and we’ll look for further opportunities to demonstrate this with groups of staff.


Veldkamp, A., van de Grint, L., Knippels, M.C. and van Joolingen, W., 2020. Escape education: A systematic review on escape rooms in education. www.preprints.org/manuscript/202003.0182/v1

Woods, B., 2023. Game Over or Game: Knowing when Gamification is Right for your Course [online]. E-Learning Heroes. Available from: https://community.articulate.com/articles/game-over-or-game-on-knowing-when-gamification-is-right-for-your-course [Accessed 19 July 2023].

Clapton, W. (2015) Pedagogy and Pop Culture: Pop Culture as a Teaching Tool and Assessment Practice, www.e-ir.info/2015/06/23/ pedagogy-and-pop-culture-pop-culture-as-teaching -tool-and-assessment-practice/ [Accessed 20 July 2023]

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