There is a rapid transformation taking place in the education landscape as immersive technology improves and becomes more cost-effective. UP360 partnered with Mohawk College to pioneer new frontiers in education, equipping their students with the skills they need for the future. Our collaboration focuses on integrating engaging virtual reality training into Mohawk College’s curriculum.
Extensive research has demonstrated that supplementing traditional teaching methods with immersive experiences yields remarkable results. Students who engage with virtual reality training consistently demonstrate improved knowledge retention, enhanced job readiness, and overall skill development. In line with this research, UP360 teamed up with Mohawk College to design and develop a series of educational virtual reality escape rooms for three of their programs: Nursing, Math, and LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design).
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Our goal was to create virtual learning escape rooms that would enhance engagement, knowledge retention, and skill development specifically tailored to each program’s requirements. The popularity of escape rooms in the past decade has demonstrated their effectiveness as an innovative and engaging method of learning in various educational and training contexts. The game design philosophy behind escape rooms revolves around creating motivation for users to engage in specific tasks without feeling bored or burdened. This is precisely why people can effortlessly immerse themselves in games for extended periods, often losing track of time.
We were inspired by the 2015 Movie, the Martian. Mark Wattney, played by Matt Damon, is a botanist stranded on Mars. With limited tools and resources, he needs to use his botany knowledge to survive. By combining elements of problem-solving, collaboration, and active learning, escape rooms provide an enjoyable and effective method for learning across different subjects and skills. They can be customized to meet specific learning objectives, making them a versatile tool for promoting engagement, critical thinking, and the practical application of knowledge.
What is “Competency-Based-Learning”
Competency-based learning, also known as competency-based education (CBE), is an educational approach that focuses on the mastery of specific skills and knowledge rather than simply completing a set amount of time in a classroom or adhering to a fixed curriculum. In competency-based learning, students progress at their own pace and advance when they can demonstrate their competence in the subject matter or skills being taught.
Competency-based learning theory preaches that true mastery is shown through the application of knowledge without context specific cues. This means that one’s actions are not simply automatic muscle memory and can thus be applied in unique situations without prompts.
We took this concept to heart and proposed putting students in a literal Alien environment with an escape rooms style game play. In this sci-fi environment, students must put their course knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving skills to the test in order to complete their mission.
VR Escape Rooms for Learning?
If you’ve ever been to an escape room, you know just how challenging they can be. VR escape rooms offer highly motivating gamified learning experiences, fostering learner engagement and interaction, particularly relevant in the era of online education. The summative review nature of escape rooms, where completion requires correct activity execution, provides a competitive and rewarding environment for students.
Highly Engaging – Virtual Reality (VR) provides an immersive and interactive learning environment. The Escape Room format challenges students to solve problems and apply their knowledge in a fun and engaging way, making learning enjoyable and memorable.
Emotional Resilience and confidence building – Virtual Reality technology reduces the need for physical resources, making it more cost-effective and accessible for educational institutions. Students can access the VR Escape Room remotely, providing flexibility in their learning schedules.
Cost-effective and accessible – Virtual Reality technology reduces the need for physical resources, making it more cost-effective and accessible for educational institutions. Students can access the VR Escape Room remotely, providing flexibility in their learning schedules.
Enhance retention and Recall – The immersive nature of VR stimulates multiple senses, leading to better retention and recall of information. This aids long-term learning and knowledge retention.
Real-world Application – The VR Escape Room can simulate real-life scenarios related to the specific programs, allowing students to practice and apply their theoretical knowledge in practical situations. This bridges the gap between theory and practice, preparing them for future challenges in their field.
Immediate Feedback and Assessment – As students interact with the VR environment, the system can provide real-time feedback on their actions and decisions. This allows for immediate assessment of their performance, identifying areas of improvement and reinforcing positive outcomes.
Exceptional production quality
High-level problem solving challenges
Escape EDU is the first of its kind as an escape room training tool for post-secondary programs and it’s been a pretty big success in a number of ways. Since our pilot at Mohawk College, we’ve expanded to multiple other institutions and currently have more escape rooms in the works.. To date, we’ve had over 1500 playthroughs and 97% of surveyed users found Escape EDU to be a highly engaging experience. Escape EDI is also the foundation for the VR accessible media guidelines for the Accessible Media Applied Research Lab at Mohawk. Helping to not only make VR more accessible but also, making VR tools for more accessible learning.
“Students loved the escape rooms. They added a very unique element to the curriculum that engaged and challenged them. I’m excited to grow this partnership.” – Jaclyn Nelson, Agile Project Lead at Mohawk College