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Darn It Professor...!

Using the Escape Room Format for Information Literacy -- A Hands On Workshop Presented at The Collective, Spring 2019

Library Buy-In

Engaging Library Stakeholders

When implementing an innovative program like an Escape Room, you'll need to have buy-in from everyone involved, including upper admin. Strategies for engaging library administrators who may be hesitant to give the go-ahead on an Escape Room project include:

  • Proving Instructional Value
    • Point to escape room and gamification literature
    • Have a few learning objectives linked to ACRL Frames already prepared
    • Identify opportunities for assessment
  • Identifying Fruitful Collaborations
    • Play up opportunities to strengthen ties with campus/community partners and extend your libraries' reach
  • Making it Relevant
    • Demonstrate how it furthers your library's critical thinking or information literacy initiatives
    • Tie it to larger strategic plans, QEPs, university missions, etc.
  • Making it Feasible
    • Prepare tentative budgets, timelines, & staffing schedules
    • Run a low-stakes pilot

Targeting a Specific Audience

Targeting a Specific Class  Round Target with Arrow and Blue Generic Board Game Pieces in Center of Target

You may design a game to support a particular course, or set of courses (a sequence within a major, for example). This may help guarantee an audience for your Escape Game. It's important in this instance to communicate with the faculty teaching these courses as soon as possible! Invite them over to view the game, its set up, and the specific clues. Tie some of the clues (if possible) to a specific unit or skill set being covered in the course. Be sure to emphasize that you view this as a partnership with the faculty to provide a valuable active learning experience for their students. If you realize after the game design, as we did with our Blind Willie Escape Room, that you just happened to design a game that supports a specific course, do NOT be afraid to still contact the professor. Our First Year Experience Professor was thrilled with the game and the way it ran parallel to his First Year Experience Theme, History of Bulloch County. He added the game to the required assignments of his students, and helped us sign students up in groups of four over the course of a month. The activity took place outside of the regularly scheduled class, so working with the professor and the students to come up with dates/times was essential. 

Even if the faculty will not require their students to participate in the game, you may still want to pursue a possible *extra credit option for the students. Many faculty are happy to offer a little extra for an activity they feel is a valuable learning opportunity. Be prepared to sell that learning value by having assessment ideas already planned, and offering to share those with the faculty. This way, faculty are not simply providing credit for attendance. You will be offering proof that students were engaged in critical thinking and synthesis of valuable concepts. 

Targeting a Specific Group

In some cases, you may decide to design a game for a particular student population. This guarantees an audience, simplifies scheduling game runs, and makes it so you can tailor your game to meet the expressed needs and interests of said audience. If you decide to pursue this approach, reach out to the group/program coordinators with an initial proposal to gauge their interest. If they are willing to collaborate, commence the game design and establish your delivery timeline! 

In the FSU Game Designers' experience, we geared our first Escape Room towards Freshman Interest Groups, or FIGS. After we pitched our idea for offering an immersive learning experience that would enhance students' research skills to the FIG Program Coordinator, she gave us the contact information for each FIG Leader. We then began scheduling with those Leaders interested in having their cohorts participate. Scheduling was made simple because the FIGs met at a set time each week for their required colloquium hour and Leaders provided their class sizes, so we knew how many groups to accommodate for and exactly when they were coming. In addition to the Leaders providing accountability and extrinsic motivation for the students, they were also essential in delivering our assessment tool, guaranteeing our ability to measure students' changes in skills, knowledge, and attitudes. 

Open Sign Up Event

Open Event  white background image with different colored hands raised

You may design an Escape Game and simply run it as an Open Event available to anyone willing to sign up. This approach requires the same marketing strategies used for any program you run, and Marketing is the key word in this sentence! You have to get the word out, and get the word out every way possible. 

  • Flyers (digital/paper)
  • Social Media
  • Targeted Emails
  • Pop-Up Library Advertising
  • Word of Mouth

Be prepared to sell the event as fun and exciting! Think to include some sort of take away for students. Set up a photo op with some fun props and print the images for students. Make buttons that students can wear as badges of participation. Host a friendly competition and keep track of the fastest escape times. This type of event might work to center around something students are already excited about. 

  • Halloween or Valentine's
  • Homecoming
  • Pop Culture Reference
    • Game of Thrones
    • Stranger Things
  • Recent News Events
    • Fyre Festival
  • Other Special Celebrations
    • Banned Books Week/Intellectual Freedom
    • Archives Month
    • National Library Week
    • Black History Month/Women's History Month, etc.


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All materials prepared for and directly part of this guide are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike (CC-BY-NC-SA) license.