Using an online escape room as a formative assessment tool during a lecture on HIV: a case study.




playful learning, online escape room, formative assessment, gamification


Escape rooms are becoming prevalent in their use as a form of playful learning and gamification in higher education, often used for a multitude of purposes to enhance students’ higher education learning experiences. Whilst studies have reported their valuable uses in a range of contexts, they have often focussed on undergraduates and fewer have explored their use in formative assessment practices. This case study seeks to address this gap by exploring the perceptions of postgraduate students in completing an online escape room activity as a form of formative assessment during an MSc lecture. Postgraduate students from the School of Psychology at the University of Surrey were invited to complete an online escape room as a form of formative assessment and took part in a follow-up qualitative survey to explore their perceptions of the activity not traditionally used in their course. The results from the case study showed that (1) the escape room was viewed positively by students as a novel and creative formative assessment practice, (2) the role of peers was important in the design of the assessment approach, and (3) students welcomed challenge and mastery of the learning outcomes and activity. This case study demonstrates initial positive findings about the use of escape rooms for formative assessment and advocates for further research to be conducted in this area. We also encourage HE teachers to think about how such practices could enhance students’ learning experiences in their own teaching contexts. 

Author Biographies

Stefano Licchelli, University of Surrey

Stefano Licchelli is a PhD student in Health Psychology at the University of Surrey and trainee Health Psychologist. His PhD focuses on health and wellbeing in older people living with HIV. He has recently published a qualitative study on how older gay males living with HIV make sense of their health and how HIV has affected them over time. Stefano has volunteered for several different sexual health charities in England and Italy such as LILA, the Terrence Higgins Trust, and ArciGay. He also works part time as a Research Governance Assistant within CUH.

Laura Barnett, University of Surrey

Laura Barnett is a Lecturer in Higher Education at the Surrey Institute of Education, University of Surrey, UK. She gained her PhD in Cultural Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University in 2018. Her research interests broadly relate to the sociology of education including inclusion and inequalities in higher education. She is passionate about using and sharing playful learning approaches in her teaching. Laura is a Senior Fellow of AdvanceHE (Higher Education Academy).


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How to Cite

Licchelli, S. and Barnett, L. (2023) “Using an online escape room as a formative assessment tool during a lecture on HIV: a case study. ”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (27). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi27.952.



Case Studies