Escape First Year Biology – A Digital Escape Room Using HHMI BioInteractive Resources and How to Design One

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Brief Abstract

Have fun solving puzzles to break out of a digital escape room used to review a first-year biology module. Participants will learn about free HHMI BioInteractive resources as they experience the game and explore some of the considerations for designing their own escape rooms.


Annie was one of the founding professors at Quest University Canada, where she collaborated on the design of the innovative Bachelor of Arts and Science degree. She designed and taught dozens of life sciences courses and served as Chair of Life Sciences from 2006-2012. Annie is a case study afficionado, using story telling to drive learning. She has developed several cases published at the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science and trains faculty around North America in using cases in their classroom. Annie has also worked in science communication, serving as Vice President of Science at TELUS World of Science Edmonton. There she oversaw the development of new galleries and exhibits and programs to bring the excitement of science to the public. Now, as the head of Capilano University's lifelong learning unit, she combines her passion for and experience in formal and informal education to foster the professional and personal development of adult learners.
Tara Jo Holmberg, professor of Environmental Science and Biology, is in her 20th year of teaching online and onground at Northwestern Connecticut Community College. She teaches a wide variety of majors and mixed-majors courses in the life and earth sciences. Tara Jo is a Teacher Ambassador for HHMI BioInteractive, focusing on the professional development of high school and higher education faculty throughout the United States. She has one two national awards for her teaching and several more regional teaching recognitions. Tara Jo regularly presents at conferences and is heavily engaged in the work of in interdisciplinary professional development, specifically in the areas of technology-supported education, inclusive teaching, and culturally-relevant pedagogy.

Extended Abstract

Did your students understand the main concepts of your first-year biology course? Why not put their learning to the test by “locking them” in a digital escape room that requires them to apply their knowledge to escape? Using free HHMI BioInteractive resources, students will use the concepts they learned in your course to solve puzzles and break out of a narrative-driven escape room. Along the way, they will get feedback on their learning in a fun and “safe” way to test their understanding. Participants will try the game and the presenters will share their experiences and lessons learned from designing a digital escape room for educational purposes.

The learning objectives of the session are:

  • Gain familiarity with the free, high quality resources of HHMI BioInteractive to teach biology
  • Consider ways in which a digital escape room can be integrated into a course
  • Experience a digital escape room used as a review of a first-year biology module
  • Consider the elements of designing a digital escape room.