Escape rooms are all the rage in online education, and for good reason. Research shows that gamification can boost student engagement, help students absorb the material, and increase classroom participation. And as every teacher knows, any educational tool that helps your students not hate the lesson is worth its weight in gold.
So how do you make a virtual escape room? Most teachers reach for Google Forms. It’s free, available to anyone in the G-suite, and plays nicely with Google Classroom.
Google Forms is a good tool for building basic escape rooms, but the design process can be a little finicky. That’s why we’ve created this step-by-step guide to walk you through exactly how to create and share your own virtual escape room.
A digital escape room is just like a physical escape room, but instead of finding your way out of an actual building, you make your way through a set of virtual challenges by solving puzzles.
They usually involve a story that encourages students to escape the room, like finding the keys to unlock a dungeon or defeating all the beasts in a haunted house.
There are two main types of digital escape rooms.
Lock and key style rooms are the most popular choice for educators. These escape rooms require students to work through puzzles to find codes, which act as virtual "keys" to digital "locks."
Lock and key style rooms are easy to incorporate into almost any lesson plan. You could have students find a key by close-reading a passage, finding a particular date in a history book, or completing a series of equations to get a digit code.
If you’ve ever played a choose-your-own-adventure game, you’re familiar with branching-style escape rooms. Students answer questions that present a choice, like whether to march through a misty forest or return home. The option they choose informs the rest of the story.
Branching-style escape rooms are a lot of fun, but they’re harder to incorporate into a lesson plan. They're also harder to make in Google Forms because of the weak (and clunky) conditional logic.
Since it’s the more popular of the two, we’ll walk you through how to make a lock-and-key style escape room.
When you’re building an escape room, you need plenty of space to explain the story and create your puzzles. Unfortunately, you can't squeeze all that into the Google Form itself.
You’ll need to use another tool to create the puzzles and tell the narrative of your escape room. If you’re using Google Forms, Google Slides is your best bet.
Escape rooms can be group class activities or solo homework assignments. They can assess a student's comprehension of the latest science lesson or the last history chapter.
Before you create your puzzles, you'll need to decide on your content and lesson plan. We leave that to the experts.
Lesson plan in hand, head to Google Slides and open up a new blank project. Use the first slide of the project to explain the story of your escape room. For our example, students will need to find the secret codes to unlock doors in a haunted mansion.
After you’ve explained the concept, it’s time for your first clue. It’s best to list each clue or puzzle as an individual slide. For our example, students will need to complete a word scramble to get the code.
Each slide of your presentation will correspond to a question on your Google Form. Whether students are at home or in the classroom, they’ll work through the puzzle on the Google Slide, find the answer, and input it into Google Forms to see if they’re correct.
Having to work with two platforms is a little clunky, but if you’re committed to using Google Forms, it’s realistically the only option.
Once you’ve finished making your puzzles in Slides, you’re ready to create the actual escape room. Start by opening a new form, navigating to settings, and toggling on Make this a quiz.
Label your quiz as you like, and include any directions your students might need in the description. We suggest using this space to remind students to follow along with the Google Slides presentation.
If there isn’t one already there, click the two-bar icon on the right to add a new section. Each question in your Google Forms escape room will be its own section.
Your first section should correspond to the first clue in your presentation. Title the section with the appropriate puzzle number, and include any instructions in the description.
Select add question and choose short answer from the dropdown menu. There are 11 question types to choose from, but an open-text answer type is best at replicating an actual escape room experience. (Think of inputting a code in a safe, or whispering a secret code to a guard at the door).
When your students complete puzzle #1, they will input the access code in the answer field below.
Want to level up the difficulty? Put a time limit on how long each puzzle is visible. It’ll add a little pressure, and force students to pay attention to the slides.
Click the three-dot icon at the bottom of your section and select response validation. This will open up a menu where you can input the correct code for the puzzle. If there’s more than one correct answer, list them all here.
Whether your codes are made up of numbers or letters, be sure to type them in exactly. If you make a mistake, your students won’t be able to progress through the escape room, even if they solve the puzzle correctly.
Adding answer feedback to your fields is a great way to offer additional clarity. You can congratulate students for answering correctly, or guide them in the right direction when they give incorrect answers.
To add answer feedback, click on the blue answer key icon and select answer feedback. You might remind students that case matters when typing in their code, or give them a hint about how many digits are in the correct answer.
Your clue is finished, the corresponding Google Form field is complete, and you’ve set the correct answer. Now it’s time to do it all over again.
Select the two-bar icon on the right to add a new section. Repeat the steps three to five and connect your Google Forms section to the appropriate Google Slides puzzle.
The size (and style) of the room will depend on your grade level and class length. For those new to these types of activities, start with a shorter escape room— somewhere around three to seven puzzles.
Under each section, there’s a dropdown menu with navigation options. For lock and key escape rooms, simply select continue to next question. If you were making a branching style room, this is where you’d create your diverging paths.
Escape rooms are a finicky beast. For your students to be able to complete them, everything needs to be just right. Your slides need to be clear, your codes need to be in the correct case, and your conditional logic settings need to be extremely specific.
Rather than bore you with paragraph after paragraph about how to adjust your settings, we’ve compiled this bulleted list. Just hop into the settings tab and toggle the following options accordingly.
Before sharing your escape room with your students, preview the quiz to make sure all your codes are correct. When you’re happy with it, you can choose to send responses to a Google Sheet or have them sent to you via email. You can also choose to embed your form on a website, or have it closed at a certain time.
🤯 New to Google Forms? Check out our ultimate guide to Google Forms to become a pro in no time.
Making even a basic escape room in Google Forms is a chore. Between the multiple tools you need to use and the clunky logic, you’ll run into more than a few roadblocks along the way.
This is the most obvious roadblock of the bunch. Because Google Forms is a rudimentary form builder, it doesn’t have the features you need to house your puzzles within the escape room itself.
Creating your puzzles in Slides works, but it’s not exactly a streamlined process. It means more work for you, more links to sort through, and more visuals to present to your class. It can also disrupt the learning process.
Let’s say you’re presenting the escape room to your class, and working through it in small groups. You’ll need to wait for everyone to complete the puzzle before moving on to the next one. Students who need more time will feel pressured to hurry up, while speedier students might get bored and disrupt others.
It’s a lose-lose situation and one that could be avoided entirely if you could just include the puzzles in the form. Sigh.
An online escape room is supposed to be fun. If you just wanted to assess your class, you could make a basic quiz or assign an essay. The whole purpose of the activity is to boost engagement, gamify content, and have a laugh along the way.
With so few customisation options to choose from, your Google Forms escape room is doomed to look a little drab. You can change up the background colour, add a basic header image, and toss in a few pictures—but that’s about it. There’s no way to embed videos as clues, play music, or create an escape room that doesn’t look so... Google Forms-y.
Escape rooms run on conditional logic. It’s what allows students to open virtual locks, choose their own direction, and progress through the puzzles. To make a successful virtual escape room, you need to acquaint yourself pretty intimately with conditional logic.
With Google Forms, that’s a lot easier said than done. You’ll need to go through every question, section, and answer individually to add the appropriate rules. There’s no control board to oversee your branching options and assign logic from one place.
It’s a clunky process. And because Google Forms’ conditional logic isn’t exactly easy to understand, you’re likely to make a few mistakes along the way. Buckle in for the endless tinker, preview, test, and repeat cycle. It’s going to be a long one.
Paperform has a solution for every one of the roadblocks above. In addition to being a more robust form builder in general, Paperform is way better equipped to make a virtual escape room that will actually impress your students.
Just take a look at this one to see for yourself.
With Paperform’s doc-style editor, you can create even the most complex puzzles and clues, all from one place. Click anywhere on the page to add text, images, or videos explaining your puzzle, then drop in a page break and get right into the first clue.
There’s no need to fuss with extra platforms. But if you’d like to connect with another app, we’ve got over 3,000 direct and Zapier integrations to choose from. You could connect with Discord to send students who escape the room to a winners channel, or those who are struggling to a collaborative one.
Unlike Google Forms, Paperform is extremely customisable. Every colour, font, image, or button you see on the page is entirely changeable.
You could even make use of our built-in image editor to add hidden clues to images, or create a custom congratulatory image of your students escaping the room. To get started, select one of our over 650 unique templates, or create your own from scratch.
When it comes time to add the “escape” to your room, we make it simple. Our conditional logic is both more advanced and easier to use than that of Google Forms.
All Paperform logic conditions are listed visually in plain English, so you can create even the most complicated branching questions without getting lost in the weeds. And if you do find yourself stuck, our customer support team is waiting to help you, 24/7. Just click on that blue chat icon to find out.
Want to make the digital version feel even more like the real escape room experience? Consider using a Dropbox direct download link to make an interactive image like we've done in the embedded form. When students click it, they’ll receive an actual “key,” which they can upload to unlock a given door.
With Paperform’s advanced logic and easy-to-use interface, you don’t need to stick with a lock-and-key style puzzle out of necessity.
Want to make a Harry Potter choose-your-own-adventure style escape room? No problem. How about a fantastical Percy Jackson themed room complete with clips from the movies? We can do that, too.
When you choose Paperform, you get a whole lot more than a form builder. You gain access to a digital Swiss army knife of tools capable of automating more of your busy work, from gathering feedback to scheduling meetings to yes, creating awesome virtual escape rooms.
We design features to make your life easier, so you can focus on the stuff that really matters.
Ready to make an escape room that will leave your class smiling? Give Paperform a go today with our 14-day free trial, no credit card required, and let your imagination run wild.
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