Education does not stand still; elements from games are used nowadays. In a course in the bachelor Law programme, students can use an online escape room to talk to each other, solve puzzles and complete assignments. Alexander Whitcomb, operational manager of ErasmusX, is one of the driving forces behind this innovation: "It is a refreshing way of learning. The students are very enthusiastic and so are the teachers."
ErasmusX aims to help Erasmus University Rotterdam in their mission to renew education. Erasmus School of Law asked them to renew a module of the course Legal Academic Skills during the bachelor Law programme. "It is a tough subject. They want to make the subject more interesting and ensure more cooperation between students. It should also be less strenuous for the lecturers. With over 1,500 students taking the subject, it is quite intensive for teachers. And fortunately, we have all found solutions for this."
Working together in the online world
After deliberation and brainstorming, the platform Gather emerged as the best solution. Gather is a bit like a combination of the video games Pokémon and Habbo Hotel. It is very easy to spend time with others. In this case 1500 law students. "In Gather you have different rooms where you can organise meetings. When you walk up to someone, your camera turns on and your microphone opens. On the same map, different people can talk to each other without getting in each other's way. The rooms in the game are private areas where you can work with your working group, for example. If you are outside, you cannot hear what is being discussed inside," Alexander says.
It also has a lot of other features: you can use a whiteboard, add games, music and links to websites. All to stimulate collaboration. "All the stated problems of Erasmus School of Law can be solved with this: making the subject more attractive, in an online environment, stimulating collaboration and making it less intensive for teachers."
"The fun part is also that the environment keeps changing. One escape room is in an ancient temple, another in a green park or on top of a high-rise building"
Escape Room for learning
Within Gather, the team creates various escape rooms for the 'Tech Legal' module. Future lawyers learn to find the right files in the various databases. Necessary, but not very exciting. "This part is actually about repetition. The more you practise, the better you get at it. Our escape rooms make it more fun. In each room, you need the right code to get to the next room. It is easy to work together with other students. You can talk to each other, make jokes and arrive at the solution together. A fun way to learn."
Online party room
After students have achieved a learning goal, there is an online party room. There, they can play board games together, hang out and chill. "The fun part is also that the environment keeps changing. One escape room is in an ancient temple, another in a green park or on top of a high-rise building. The students are therefore always curious about the next destination."
"It is a refreshing way to learn and that in a group of 1500 students"
Enthusiastic students, teachers and creators
The first reactions are positive, especially from students. "The technique feels much more natural and fluid than Teams or Zoom. Many students say, 'I'm really getting to know my other students.' It is a refreshing way to learn and that in a group of 1500 students." Alexander hears that students are able to remember the material better. "It is also unique to learn through an escape room. It ensures that students absorb the material better. They link certain visual expressions to the subjects. This makes it easier to remember."
Ready-made package for teachers
The escape rooms created can of course also be used within other subjects. Only the puzzles themselves would have to be adapted. "From ErasmusX we indeed hope to scale it up. To make an impact on a larger scale. We are working on a kind of ready-made package which researchers and teachers can use themselves. We will of course support them."
Pride prevails after this first pilot. "I am most proud of the teamwork. ErasmusX, IT, the Learning & Innovation Team of Erasmus School of Law, the coordinator of the course and the students themselves who helped out. Together we are one big team. It was a big job with a deadline, but we just did it. On to the next educational innovation!"