A battered old suitcase, which is open to revealing an assortment of clues

Play has always been a key part of how humans learn, and there is renewed interest in applying this principle in Higher Education.

Activity cards and lego pieces
Card games and lego – simple tools for playful learning


Every so often an app arrives that suits Higher Education perfectly and gives academics an opportunity to increase learning standards easily. Actionbound was developed to create public treasure hunts that can be completed individually or as a team using mobile phones. This app is extremely easy to use by both tutors and students and ‘treasure hunts’ can be created in 30 minutes and are immediately available to users.

The Digital Learning team has used this app in conjunction with the Fashion programme at WSA for student induction days as well as providing guidance for finding and borrowing resources from the Library. We have found that activities using this type of application and design are often completed more than once by students. Playful Learning Design principles encourage learners to do self-learning activities multiple times, in just the same way that computer games encourage ‘one more go’. Fieldtrips and external learning situations are perfect opportunities for using this application since academics can help direct students to important locations and items without direct input from the academic themselves.

A suitcase containing an assortment of clues
A puzzle box to solve

Escape rooms and puzzle boxes

Something that has been gaining a lot of momentum with learning designers is the use of Escape Room Learning Design. This uses the principles created for commercial escape rooms, which put participants in a specific area or situation and give them a variety of puzzles to complete that will allow them to ‘escape’. These are now a popular form of entertainment with many venues across the country.

We initially developed a demo escape room that was directed at 1st year undergraduate research methods. It was a self-contained suitcase that asked students to complete 4 different puzzles based around specific skills required for conducting effective research. The escape room activity also contains a riveting story around the evil scientist Dr Moreau, which lends the case a strong storyline as well as encouraging deep conversation and debate.

Playful learning

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