ONLINE ADVENTURES: Virtual Experiential Learning in Leadership Education

COVID-19, by all accounts, forced higher education to shift to distance delivery. As a result, faculty attempted to innovate and integrate new teaching methods as courses moved online. We utilized an online, virtual reality game to teach team decision-making as a function of leadership. In teams, learners worked cooperatively, making decisions and solving progressive parts of a mystery to advance through an escape room activity. Following the activity, learners independently completed a structured written reflection designed to guide them through the experiential learning cycle. Additionally, learners’ perceptions of the learning activity were measured using a short quantitative survey. Results were mixed, with learners indicating that the activity was engaging, but also suggesting that their team could have worked better in a less virtual immersive experience. Learners’ written reflections indicated they successfully applied their knowledge of decision-making during the activity, along with other teamwork and leadership competencies. Recommendations include providing more time to complete the escape room game and incorporating more robust team debriefing to support reflection and learning transference. Virtual reality may provide effective leadership learning experiences, particularly for groups of learners who are geographically dispersed or participating in online education.

Keywords: experiential learning, virtual reality, team leadership, decision-making, online, escape room.