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Research Support

An overview of the support that is offered for researchers at the University of Essex.

Gamification of research support

Research support is an area that lends itself well to gamifying teaching through playful learning. Playful learning promotes positive emotions, which is widely recognised to increase learning. This is achieved in research support games through learners experiencing a sense of escapism from the sometimes-stressful world of research by putting themselves in the position of someone entirely different within the games.

With this in mind, our team has created some research support games that we can deliver to researchers, staff, or students. These games enable excellence in research through innovative teaching, and therefore our research support games truly have the Essex Spirit. See below for more information about the games we have created (so far!).

Open Access Escape Room

The Open Access Escape Room, designed and created by Katrine Sundsbø in 2018, builds upon the existing approach of using escape rooms for educational purposes, creating a narrative to enable learners to better understand the complexities of open access in a fun and engaging learning experience.

Participants after completing the Open Access escape roomWithin the game, participants solve a range of puzzles and clues to unlock the research that has been locked away by “the villain” – who is strangely similar to an academic publisher! In moving through the clues, participants gain a basic understanding of the concepts behind open access, alongside learning about some of its benefits, and what kind of material can be made open access.

In 2019, a second version of the open access escape room was developed to allow the concept to become more mobile. Both versions of the open access escape room can be found online under a CC BY Licence, meaning they can be played and adapted with accreditation. Follow the links below to find the materials, and read more about the open access escape room.

In 2020, following the need to switch to online delivery in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, an online version of the Open Access Escape Room was created by Hannah Pyman. While no longer in an escape room format, the linear nature of the puzzles was kept, as players need to solve each puzzle to get the clue to progress to the next. This version is called The Puzzling Hunt for Open Access, and is openly available to be completed online.

Copyright Dough

Copyright Dough, designed and created by Katrine Sundsbø and Hannah Pyman in 2019, gamifies copyright, an area of scholarly communication that is vital across the research career, but often overlooked and avoided due to its complexities. Copyright Dough enables copyright licences and exceptions to be explored in a more engaging way.

An example of three cards from Copyright Dough.Within the game, players are asked to create play dough models that become ‘licenced’ within the game. As these licences are discussed, we create a supportive learning environment by facilitating discussions under the guise of the characters in the game. In doing this, students and researchers understand that copyright is not black and white, and thus can develop their skills and confidence in making copyright decisions. By the end of the game, copyright becomes seen as an enabler of creativity, and not a restrictor.

Again, this game is available online via a CC-BY licence. Follow the links below to access the materials and instructions needed to run the game, and to read more about Copyright Dough.

Open Access Mystery

Open Access MysteryThe Open Access Mystery was designed by Katrine Sundsbø in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way of bringing colleagues, friends and strangers together in an online role-playing mystery game in a time where a lot of conferences and networking opportunities were postponed or cancelled.

This game is designed to be played virtually via Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or any other online platform.

The Open Access Mystery follows eight very different characters who meet at a conference. During the conference disaster will strike, and it’s up to the players to figure out who’s behind what turns out to be a global lockdown of all research. Will it be the Professor who relies on the h-index? The early career researcher with imposter syndrome? The problem solver who works in publishing? Or perhaps it’s the paranoid researcher who thinks you’ve stolen her ideas? Pay attention, not all is as it seems…

All materials needed to set up your own Open Access Mystery, including character packs and an information pack for the host, has been shared on Figshare under a CC-BY licence (see link below).

All material created by Katrine Sundsbø. All illustrations are created by Scott Willetts.