Last year, Samantha Clarke and myself worked on a project designed to enhance the induction experiences of students in the Media and Engineering disciplines. Working with a small pilot group of new students to the University across both subject areas, we designed, produced, and delivered a number of location based scavenger hunts as orientation and induction tools.
Prior to the project, induction activities on the whole tended to focus on didactic, lecture-style talks to pass information to new students. As we know, this type of knowledge transfer is not only inefficient, but usually dry, dull, and uninspiring. The last experience we want to provide to new students at a modern, forward-thinking University is to be un-inspirational.
The solution we developed drew on live-action interactive fiction and the practice of scavenger hunts common in US universities. Working with the relevant academics and other staff, we designed two narrative driven induction experiences, one for masters level and one for undergraduates.
The experiences designed involved the production of a number of physical props which supported an adventure based narrative – a quest which relied on team work and communication. Each prop was designed to support an activity related to induction. For example, a bundle of fire wood was used to build imaginary bonfires to share stories around – in the process allowing students to get to know one another. This playful approach to induction was designed to communicate key information about student support services whilst simultaneously providing a bonding opportunity for new students from diverse backgrounds to get to know one-another.
Students were randomly grouped, before conducting a series of small challenges which provided clues to follow around the campus. At each location, new props were revealed, and new challenges received for the groups to complete. Competitive elements were further built in to the experience to encourage team bonding and engagement.
Informal feedback from students was excellent, with the approach to content delivery well received by many involved. The playful approach to inducting students into Higher Education proved such a success that elements of the scavenger hunt have been picked up and embedded across future induction activities.
You can find out more about game based learning by visiting gamify.org.uk.