Building Community By Breaking Out

  • Debra Sprague George Mason University
  • Dawn Hathaway George Mason University


Location: Dewberry Hall

Students today expect to be actively engaged as part of the learning process. They want the opportunity to develop skills required by their future employers, such as problem-solving, collaboration, and building community.

Since 2007, escape rooms have become increasingly popular as a form of entertainment and tourist attraction across the globe (Kolar, 2017). Escape rooms engage teams of players in discovering clues, solving puzzles, and accomplishing tasks toward a specific goal in a limited amount of time (Nicholson, 2015). More recently, educators have recognized escape rooms as a game-based learning strategy with the potential to encourage learners “to think differently, unconventionally, and from a new perspective” (Wiemker, Elumir, & Clare, 2015, p. 55).  Research indicates that escape games have the potential to build skills such as collaboration, communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership, listening, conflict resolution, and varied social dynamics (Pan, Lo, & Neustaedter, 2017).  Additionally, escape rooms can be themed and address any content area, making them appropriate for classroom settings.


To capitalize on the escape room model in education,  Breakout EDU developed an immersive learning games platform with access to open source materials to support the creation of classroom escape challenges and scenarios for learners of any age.  Breakout EDU also developed and sells physical escape kits, or "breakout boxes,"  that include a variety of components such as reprogrammable locks and multilocks, UV lights, invisible ink pens, and a locking box to simulate an escape room environment. 


The escape room model has gained momentum in P-12 settings (Chambers, 2018), but use in Higher Education is less evident.  As teacher educators, we were first introduced to Breakout EDU at a conference on information technology and teacher education where we participated in several escape challenges and experienced the skills promised in the literature on escape rooms.  We implemented Breakout EDU challenges in our own practice with similar responses from our students, particularly related to team-building, engagement, and social dynamics. In this workshop, we provide an opportunity for attendees to participate in a team-based Breakout EDU adventure to unlock the promise of escape rooms for Higher Education. Participants will learn how to integrate game-based learning, through the use of Breakout EDU, into their courses.  They will become familiar with the resources available and will discuss ideas for how Breakout EDU can be used in their subject matter.

Author Biographies

Debra Sprague, George Mason University

Dr. Debra Sprague is an Associate Professor in the College of Education and Human Development. Her research interests focus on the use of technology to support teaching and learning, game-based learning, and emerging technologies.

Dawn Hathaway, George Mason University

Dr. Dawn M. Hathaway is an Assistant Professor in the Learning Technologies in Schools program at George Mason University. Her current research and teaching centers on the development of practicing teaching teachers as designers of instructional practice that effectively uses technology to support future ready learners.

4:15pm-5:30pm POSTER SESSION (Group B- 4:45-5:15pm)