The Virtual Escape Room Experience at Purdue

virtual escape room

How Purdue RecWell created a virtual escape room experience using Purdue trivia and knowledge relevant to university students.

“Think out of the box.” How many times have we all heard this phrase? For the climbing and challenge area at Purdue RecWell, this phrase became a reality for fall semester planning with the creation of an online “Virtual Escape Room Experience.”

At Purdue RecWell, Traves Freeland serves as the assistant director of Climbing and Challenge. With the climbing wall and challenge course being offline for fall, Traves was able to create our very own virtual escape room experience using Purdue trivia and knowledge relevant to our university students.

Rules of the Virtual Escape Room

Groups meet using a provided link through ZOOM. The rules of the game are explained in the first meeting, where groups are then separated into breakout rooms. Teams will navigate through a website with nine locks that need to be unlocked in order to escape the room. Each lock has a task/puzzle/clue that must be solved to move on. The experience takes about an hour to complete.

Connection in Creativity

We typically provide team building programming for student organizations and academic departments on campus through our outdoor challenge program. None of our team building could be done in its original manner, so we had to think outside the box and come up with a way to maintain creative connection with our members. The escape room concept has been trendy with this target audience of Gen Z so it was worth the risk to create an experience we already know they have interest in.

Pieces of the Virtual Puzzle

We first experimented with virtual team building, which we discovered was challenging and limited as it was difficult to have more than six people interact and try to observe team dynamics that could be reflected on. We accepted team building in a virtual world may prove more difficult to figure out than what our budgets permitted. We then decided to investigate more team bonding experiences — nothing was off the table. The goal was to get them in the same space and motivate them with a challenge that made them work together.

Freeland discovered the work of Michelle Cummings, the creator of Training Wheels, a resource for building teams. She had put together a template and a walk through of how to build your own scavenger hunt. We then went through her workshop, used the resources provided and made it unique to Purdue by deciding to change the name to “virtual escape room” to connect it with something students already know.

Create a Virtual Escape Room on Your Campus

Michelle has created a great walk through and that’s where we recommend you start the process. There is a free Google resource called “Flippity” that allows you to host your own scavenger hunts and escape rooms at no cost.

This process has been a lot of fun and in our fall semester, we have seen over 200 participants in our virtual escape rooms. For more info on cost and setup of our virtual escape room, click here. Feel free to email Traves Freeland, traves@purdue.edu, if you need any tips or advice on how to get started.

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Jenny Strickland is the former interim senior assistant director for integrated communications, student development and fitness at Purdue University.

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