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A recently published article in the HAPS Educator: the Journal of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, co-authored by Richelle Monaghan and Scott Nicholson, outlines a pathophysiology case study on sepsis, and departs from the traditional case study review by using a portable escape box game (using escape room concepts) developed to assist students with integrating their foundational knowledge.

One of Monaghan’s primary objectives is to expose students to a variety of learning approaches so that they, as individuals, can determine the best strategies to use as independent learners. Creating a context to the relevance of course information is important regardless of the teaching strategy employed. The use of an escape box in pathophysiology was able to provide this relevance in an engaging way through play, and provided a memorable learning opportunity for students.

Monaghan recently presented at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education on “STEAMing up the STEM: How and why to incorporate the arts and science in shared pedagogy” (abstract on page 53). The escape box developed for pathophysiology is an example of the benefit of integrating arts and science to assist students with knowledge acquisition and integration.

One of the ongoing goals for Nicholson is to seek ways to connect to other faculty members across Laurier. As the goal of the Brantford Games Network lab (BGNlab) is to make games to change the world, by partnering with faculty from other programs, he can spread the concepts of learning through play and games more widely. Through this partnership, practitioners in a new discipline are getting to see how use escape game concepts to make a difference.

“I enjoy collaborating, but I was surprised at how naturally our respective and quite different areas of expertise dovetailed into this project,” said Monaghan. “I thoroughly enjoyed learning from our collaboration.”

Monaghan has plans to explore team-based and experiential learning in human anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology, and how games can assist with these strategies. While a goal is to develop evidence-based, effective teaching practices, Monaghan’s primary goal is to use these strategies to create memorable and valuable student experiences. “I’ve had several students over the years attribute their learning of disease processes to their, or a loved one’s survival. I can’t think of a more impactful outcome of their learning.”

Nicholson hopes to continue to inspire faculty not only at Laurier, but also around the world, to consider how to use games and play in a meaningful way to educate. The concept of “educational games” has a negative connotation because they have been used as superficial rewards around standard classroom activity, so Nicholson wants to help educators make games that use narrative and meaningful player experiences to educate instead of rote memorization, worksheets, and flash cards.

Richelle Monaghan is an assistant professor cross-appointed in the departments of Health Studies and Biology as well as head of science programming in Laurier's Public Health program. Scott Nicholson is a professor and director of the Game Design and Development Program as well as director of the Brantford Games Network and the BGNlab.

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