Gamifying HyFlex Learning with Digital Escape Rooms

Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) digital game-based learning (DGBL) project team gamified the HyFlex classes using H5P and Moodle-assisted digital escape rooms and improved student engagement for synchronous and asynchronous online learning. For details, please read 2023 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition. The case has been awarded the Advance HE Global Impact Grant 2022-2023. Click here to read the university news with more details.

The idea of a digital escape room in education was inspired by attending the Advance HE’s Teaching and Learning Conference 2021. The innovation was first piloted in a postgraduate teacher professional development programme with high learner satisfaction. Over two years, it has been adopted by several credit degree courses in an international university in China. Research findings have proven its effectiveness. You can watch the videos to learn more about the digital escape rooms. The videos were created by master's students majoring in MSc Digital Education at the Academy of Future Education (AoFE) at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU). In the videos, students designed their digital escape rooms for self-directed learning as part of the Students as Partners (SaP) initiative.

The XJTLU AoFE SIG grant funds the XJTLU digital game-based learning (DGBL) project as a start-up for the first three years (2023-2026). The project welcomes everyone who is working on or interested in practice and/or research about any format of digital game-based learning.

Project member list:

XJTLU students: Lan Luo, Xiaohan Chen, Liwei Chen, Guang Yang, Yuchen Lu, Yinyin Zhou, Wenruo Xu, Yuexin Liu, Zihui Zhou, Wan Meng, Liping Xu, Jiaqi Cao, Yongjia Lu, Peiyao Wang,  Lihui Ma Han.

XJTLU faculty: Na Li, Qian Wang, Tingting TayJinjin Lu, Erick Purwanto, Qianqian Zhou, Teng Ma, Yiran Zhao, Silvia Albano, Qing Zhang, Jiaqi Fu, Charlie Reis, Yiqun Sun, Yan Wei, Yao Chu, Xue Yao, Rong Luo, Yue Jiang, Lin Xiong, Qiong Ji, Yujuan Luo, Yue Li, Zhiying Huang, Pengfei Song, Samiullah Paracha, Benazir Quadir, Long Huang and Xiaojun Zhang.

External: Maria Limniou from the University of Liverpool; Centre for Innovation in Education (CIE), University of Liverpool; Henk Huijser from the Queensland University of Technology; Jinhee Kim from Old Dominion University; Xi Lin from the East Carolina University; Shujuan Zhang from Nanjing Tech University; Tao Zhang from Dalian Jiaotong University; Michael Day from University of Greenwich; Qu Shen from Xiamen University; Ruizhi Liao from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen.

(The name orders reflect the time people joined the project and/or different roles.)

Click this link to check out our events.

Hybrid Escape Room: CPT111

Download CPT111 Escape Room.mp4 [42.76MB]

Online Escape Room + Students as Partners: EDS431

Download EDS431.mp4 [291.83MB]

What is digital escape room?


Online Escape Room + Card Game: EDS433

Download EDS433 v4.mp4 [203.86MB]

Examples of the digital escape room



Whether learning can (or should) be enjoyable and gamified has been controversial in higher education for centuries. One of the biggest challenges of HyFlex learning is low student engagement. Our project is an excellent example of using advanced technology (H5P and Moodle) and creative instructional design (digital escape rooms) to gamify HyFlex classes. Our research findings provide solid scientific evidence to support the critical point: higher education can be enjoyable and gamified. Our pilot study was published in 2023 in a book chapter entitled "Using H5P to Enrich Online Learning Engagement in a Postgraduate Certificate Program Teaching" in a new book, Overcoming Challenges in Online Learning: Perspectives from Asia and Africa, published by Routledge. The details of the digital escape room design was published in 2023 in another book chapter entitled "Using a Moodle-Based Digital Escape Room to Train Competent EMI Lecturers and Instructors in a Multilingual Environment" in a new book, Multilingual Education Yearbook 2023 , published by Springer. The preliminary findings will be presented at the BERA 2023 annual conference. The project leader, Dr Na Li, has over ten years of experience with Moodle. Her research profile can be accessed at:

Due to the pandemic, some international students in different time zones choose to learn asynchronously, while local students are more willing to join synchronous learning opportunities. To support HyFlex (synchronous and asynchronous learning with different cohorts of students), we designed online digital escape rooms as part of our project, using the Moodle page activities, access restriction, password settings and the H5P interactive activities, such as the 360 virtual tour, scenario branching and the interactive book. In a synchronous learning session, students can solve puzzles, join online activities in the digital escape rooms with time constraints set by the teacher, and receive instant human feedback. In an asynchronous learning session, the system will automatically count down the time once a student starts the digital escape room. While attempting the online activities within the digital escape rooms, the system will provide automatic feedback to support students’ independent learning.

The University’s teaching development fund has supported this project for two years, and the AoFE school fund will continue to support it for broader diffusion in the coming three years. “Technology-driven educational innovations” constitute one of the University's strategic research focus. This project thus reflects current trends and the advancement of an institutional strategic focal area and can position the University as an international example.

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) is a significant international joint venture between Xi’an Jiaotong University in China and the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. The University offers approximately 100 degree programmes to over 21,000 students from different countries. All courses are taught in English except for general and basic courses. Our vision is to become a research-led international university in China and a Chinese university recognised internationally for its unique features in learning and teaching, research, social services, and educational management.


A "how to guide" for faculties

Appendix A - H5P tools card

DGBL Cards

DGBL = Digital Game-Based Learning

Click to read more details about the DGBL Cards.


DGBL Learning Design Method


Albano, S., Meng, W., Xu, W., & Li, N. (2023). Challenges and opportunities in using digital pedagogy for game-based architecture education: a case in China. xArch 2023

Li, N. (2023). Gamify HyFlex Learning with Digital Escape Rooms: A Case in China. 2023 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report | Teaching and Learning Edition

Li, N., Purwanto, E., Wang, Q., Zhou, Q., Fu, J., Albano, S., Ma, T., & Zhao, Y. (2023). Improving learner engagement using H5P and Moodle for active hybrid learning: a multidisciplinary case study in China. BERA Annual Conference 2023, Birmingham, UK.

Li, N., & Reis, C. (2023). Using H5P to enrich online learning engagement in a postgraduate certificate program teaching. In A. ElSayary & A. Olowoselu (Eds.), Overcoming challenges in online learning. Routledge.

Li, N., Wang, Q., Zhou, Q., Lu, J., Tay, T., Chen, X., Chen, L., & Luo, L. (2023). Gamifying digital learning across multiple disciplines in higher education. Global Impact Grants 2022-23.

Li, N., & Zhang, X. (2023). Using a Moodle-based digital escape room to train competent EMI lecturers and instructors in a multilingual environment: A case study in Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University. In English Medium Instruction Universities in Multilingual China: Teaching with Technology. Springer.

Creative Commons license

The first version was published on March 22, 2023.


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