The COVID-19 pandemic challenged students and instructors alike to adapt to remote teaching and learning. The challenges of the online learning environment range from rethinking group work to combating Zoom fatigue. Who better to innovate improvements to online learning than a professor of entrepreneurship?
Dr. Sadan Kulturel-Konak, professor of management information systems and director of the Flemming Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Center, saw an opportunity when she participated in the pilot of a business research-themed virtual escape room as part of a club event.
Exfiltration! A Competitive Intelligence Virtual Escape Room was developed by Sarah Hartman-Caverly, Thun Library liaison librarian to the engineering, business, and computing division, to teach business and intellectual property research skills in a gamified corporate espionage scenario. Combining patent and business filing research with analysis of real-time data, Exfiltration! challenges players to map the competitive landscape of an industry based on trends in intellectual property ownership and identification of competing companies, products and services.
Exfiltration! was built using Penn State University Libraries’ LibWizard platform, a product of library technology company Springshare. Hartman-Caverly adapted the LibWizard tutorial format to create an escape room-like experience, including challenging puzzles, hints, and a countdown timer. Kulturel-Konak and Hartman-Caverly worked with Berks instructional designer Red Yuan to integrate the virtual escape room into the online course environment for Management 425: New Venture Creation. Hartman-Caverly also wrote reflection questions and provided a feedback form that Yuan implemented in the online course on the Canvas platform.
Students were challenged beyond the demands of a typical lecture-and-quiz lesson, but many students found the experience valuable. In feedback on the activity, students recognized the importance of patent and trademark research to develop business ideas and avoid infringement of competitors’ intellectual property rights, as well as for identifying and analyzing competing products and businesses.
One student observed, “Intellectual property is what makes a company unique and valuable. Protecting this is important.”
Students also plan to incorporate customer discovery and market research into their competitive intelligence practices. “I will use my research skills before I get too invested with the product or service in order to avoid wasting time and money to ensure I am able to move forward with the new venture,” commented another student.
While many students found the escape room format difficult, some rose to the challenge. One student described Exfiltration! “like the Da Vinci code but for IP research.” Another said, “Overall it was a really great experience and I would love to do more things like this in the future.”
In addition, a case study that Hartman-Caverly wrote about developing the virtual escape room pilot has been published in the open access journal Ticker: The Academic Business Librarianship Review.