Escaping into gamification: library co-op students' experiences creating virtual escape rooms

Hey everyone, we hope you have been enjoying the escape rooms launched on September 1 the Student Engagement team have organized for you.drawing of students and socerer in front of Dana Porter Librarysocerer and warrior drawing

Fall term is just around the corner and we, the Library co-op students (Akila, Elita, and Ahsan), have written this blog post to take you on a behind-the-scenes look at how virtual escape rooms are created and why incorporating educational elements into library resources is a fun way to learn!

During the spring term, we thought an enjoyable way to engage both undergraduate and graduate students was to use the concept of gamification to educate students about the many resources the Library has to offer.

"One of the great aspects about co-op jobs is experiential learning. Ahsan, Akila, and Elita were all interested in gamification and creating virtual escape rooms, so it was a natural fit to have them work on these projects. They learned a lot about the library along the way, but also the creative process, managing expectations, and time management. They all worked hard and came up with seriously fun virtual escape rooms." Mary Lynne and Caitlyn, Student Engagement Committee co-chairs

During our time away from the beautiful University of Waterloo campus, we were thinking of fun methods to help students escape the pandemic blues with a virtual escape room!

The first virtual escape room, created by members of the Library Student Engagement Committee, was “Escape from Dana Porter Library”, which laid the foundation to what would be a continued series of virtual adventures for students to partake in. Mary Lynne and Caitlyn, co-chairs of Library Student Engagement said,

"Student Engagement at the University of Waterloo Library is an important tool to connect students with Library resources and services. The spring term presented a lot of challenges and we knew our Serious Fun branding model would help us alter our events and activities to an entirely virtual format. It also guided us while creating a virtual escape room, ensuring that it was educational and fun! Escape from Dana Porter was a collaborative effort among Student Engagement Committee members, guiding students through an interactive virtual library experience."

This first virtual escape room had a catchy storyline in which you, the main character, find yourself stuck at the Dana Porter Library and must solve different puzzles to escape. If you missed it, don’t worry, you can check it out here.  

During Goose Week, Elita and Akila created “Scholar’s Library Adventure.” The story follows Scholar the Goose on a magical adventure to meet friends in eight University of Waterloo Library locations. This was one of the first projects we had ever worked on as co-op students. Working from home took a lot diligent work, endless video calls and tons of imagination to bring the story to life. To create the puzzles, we researched many other escape rooms and based our puzzles on ones we found most engaging and enjoyable. One of the ways we tried to make the escape rooms challenging was by thinking outside of the box in terms of what puzzles should be used. Many physical escape rooms can hide things in plain sight or use related objects to distract participants. But we were limited to the virtual world. With the virtual world though, we were able to create an elaborate story which helped develop our challenging puzzles as we could do things that would be limited in the real world. Like a letter maze, where we hid letters in the correct path of the maze.

crossword puzzledrawing of goose, lion, beaver, swan, moose, beatle

Two more virtual escape rooms went live this week! “Waterloo Warrior’s Wondrous Adventure” for first-year undergraduate students and “The Book of Answers at Dana Porter” for new graduate students. They are ready for Orientation week to aid students in learning more about the online library resources available to them this fall term.

Many students will be working from home this fall, and Ahsan and Akila thought it was important to highlight the library resources still available for students even if coming to campus isn’t an option. As students ourselves, we chose to highlight the resources we felt would be the most necessary for students during their education career. We did not want students to feel like they were on their own and not connected to the library. These library resources are available from home and we wanted to create awareness for them.       


-Ahsan, Akila, Elita