A new way of learning and assessment was designed by Delecia Davids, a Lecturer in the Faculty of Education. Davids developed a game-based way of learning and assessment with the design of digital escape rooms specifically for the field of education. Elzette le Roux and Hannelie Adendorff interviewed Davids in a podcast by Stellenbosch University.
Davids explained that she accidentally came across the concept and was inspired by the Stanford d.school which had a project called 'The deeper learning puzzle buzz'. For them, it was about escaping the standardised test.
Davids said that she started working on the escape room design for education in the physical realm just before COVID-19 hit South Africa. She then was challenged to think about how this could work in the online space because physical interaction wasn't possible during the time of the pandemic. Elements of a physical escape room like a timer, puzzles, working together, clues and a lock had to be taken to the online space.
“I wanted to see if the digital escape rooms could work because I wanted to make sure my students have an enriched learning experience. COVID-19 caused an acceleration in my digital learning." One thing that has been constant for Davids in all the different modules she taught to students is pushing the boundaries in terms of assessment and using technology in innovative ways in the South African context. “The intention at the time was how do I help my students design something for their subject specialisation which they could use for teaching."
The game-based learning is about collaborative learning, solving puzzles together, communication skills and problem-solving. Davids asked her students to work together on digital escape room designs in groups of three to four. She challenged them to take their designs into the educational space and incorporate the curriculum.
Davids explained that the physical escape room elements had to be put together in one body for the online space. The screen essentially is the vehicle for the digital escape room. It is a slideshow-based design in which hyperlinks are hidden behind objects and photos. Google Forms are used to serve as locks. Davids added that the products the students produced can be commercialised or given to schools with open access. One of the outstanding assessments she received from a student is around the theme space and beyond which is part of the CAPS Curriculum.
“The most exciting of the whole journey was learning with the students and seeing them go beyond what was expected," Davids said.
Davids also do research on her own innovation and practice with the help of Dr Anthea Jacobs. They presented a poster named Using escape rooms to develop the digital competencies of Natural Science pre-service teachers at the 30th International Conference on Learning in Brazil in July 2023. Davids and Elzette le Roux co-authored a book chapter on the conceptualisation of the digital escape room as an assessment strategy which will be published soon.
Lecturer-designed escape room
Student-designed escape room
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Photo: Dr Anthea Jacobs and Delecia Davids with their poster presentation in Brazil.