Capturing the imagination of students and engaging them in everything the library has to offer is particularly important for university libraries at the start of each new academic year and during orientation week. The challenge for library staff is working out how to renew orientation activities so that they stay fresh and relevant to new students.
In 2016, the La Trobe University Library piloted an engaging and interactive new orientation activity to help students to get to know the library. Our new approach brings together the digital and physical environments by capitalising on the internationally popular game, Escape Rooms. Escape Rooms are a live puzzle game where players are locked in a room, and need to find clues and solve puzzles to ‘escape the room’. Escape rooms’ popularity around the world is reflected in their consistent #1 ranking in the TripAdvisor ‘Fun Activities’ category. La Trobe University Library took the Escape Room concept and transformed it into a blended online and physical orientation game for teams of students to learn about key library services. Escape Room at the Library is an example of how game design has potential for increasing student engagement with the library in online (Walsh, 2014) and physical spaces (Angell & Boss, 2016).
To implement Escape Room at the Library, the Library team:
The popularity of Escape Room at the Library completely exceeded the Library’s expectations. The game continued after O-week and ran for a total of four weeks with 714 registered participants. The popularity of this orientation activity was an unintentional by-product of making learning fun and interactive. The success of Escape Room at the Library was also demonstrated in the post-game survey:
In addition, of the 20 learning outcomes addressed, 16 were met by over 80% of respondents.
The goal of Escape Room at the Library was to design an intrinsically-motivated activity similar to a library tour, that required minimal staff facilitation, that immersed students in the digital and physical worlds, that could be done at any time and which would maximise student engagement. This case study demonstrates how the principles of game and puzzle design can be used to enhance discovery of library services and programs in a blended environment. It is an approach that could be applied to a range of library settings.
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