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University Libraries Learning Project Employs Game-Based Design

Fri, 06/21/2019 - 10:33am | By: David Tisdale

An initiative developed by two faculty members in University Libraries at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) aims to add game-based learning strategies to current library instruction sessions in an effort to increase information retention, and increase student confidence levels relating to using library services and resources.

“Escape from Your Library Orientation,” developed by University Libraries Assistant Professors Hali Black and Kathryn New, aims to implement Breakout EDU kits into library instruction sessions. These instruction sessions are requested by course faculty with the goal of introducing students to library facilities, resources, and services available in addition to teaching students essential research skills that will enable them to complete the research projects required for their courses.

The initiative was sponsored by a grant from the Friends of University Libraries, which enabled purchase of the kits to begin trial implementation for fall 2019. During spring 2019 finals week, Black and New used one of the kits for an escape game as a part of the library’s stress relief activities, while providing an opportunity to observe participant interaction.

Breakout EDU is an immersive platform that brings the challenges of the “escape room” game concept into an academic setting, allowing students to work together to solve puzzle and/or riddles with available hints, clues and strategies in a set time frame to achieve a common goal.

“While library instruction employs different strategies to appeal to different learning styles, this project aims to increase active learning components by using game-based learning strategies, said Black. “Breakout EDU is a great solution for classrooms and libraries to create an educational escape room in order to facilitate game-based learning opportunities, which can increase student engagement and active learning.”

Black and New saw an opportunity to use their past experience with Breakout EDU to improve their current library instruction sessions. At the 2018 Mississippi Library Association Conference, New presented her results from evaluations completed by students following library scavenger hunts at USM. The data collected from the self-evaluations show an increase in familiarity of the library resources and space.

These findings, they said, are backed by others’ research which reveals that adding games to learning strategies for library instruction can increase information retention and students’ confidence levels in regard to locating and using library services, resources, and facilities.

For more information about this initiative, contact Black at or New at