Our Reasoning

The majority of students and academics we consulted agreed that a student-led exploration of Edinburgh should be included in this course. Students who said they would be interested/very interested in exploring the city as part of a course on Edinburgh comprised of 65.7% of the survey respondents. This idea also received enthusiasm among focus group participants, with many suggesting that such an exploration would improve students’ spatial awareness and appreciation of the city they live in.

Students and staff also advised that explorations be conducted in groups to promote in-person student interaction on a predominantly online course. The importance of student interaction was highlighted in the survey, with 73.3% of participants saying they would take an interdisciplinary course to interact with students from different disciplines. We therefore devised a plan for how students enrolled on the course would go out in groups to explore various places in the city. This would be through two exploration methods:

  1. A game based-exploration
  2. An activity-based exploration

Photographs from our own walking tour of Edinburgh. We followed one of the routes provided by the Curious Edinburgh app.


Our Reasoning

After speaking to a number of academics with expertise in game-based learning, we decided to include an element of competition and playfulness in the student-led exploration. This would entail the students solving riddles and/or clues based on the street and surrounding areas they will be exploring.

How will game-based learning improve the experience of a student-led exploration?

  • There is a possibility that if students are incentivised by the chance of a reward, they might be more engaged with the activity at hand. The issue of student-engagement is a particularly important one since the exploration will be student-led rather than tutor-led.
  • An element of friendly competition will most likely foster a sense of community and team spirit among students. The act of working together towards a common goal will not only promote valuable teamwork skills but might also give students the feeling that they belong to a tight-knit unit or team.
  • Finally, by encouraging students to work collaboratively to solve clues, the game-based walking tour will stimulate necessary offline interaction among students.

How will students learn from the game-based exploration?

  • Students will learn from physically exploring the city; from taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the spaces and places they come across.
  • Students will learn through answering the riddles, questions, and tasks that they are given as part of the game-based exploration.
  • Students will learn from working within a diverse, interdisciplinary team. By listening to their peers’ unique perspectives, they will learn to decode questions using techniques and skills drawn from different disciplines.
Our Idea

We have therefore devised two possible models for a game-based exploration. These are as follows:

Model 1: Offline
  • Students will be given a list of clues, tasks and riddles at the start of their group exploration. The answer to each clue will be a specific place, building or object on a map, found in the street and/or surrounding area they will be exploring.
  • There will be 20 clues altogether that progress in difficulty from start to finish. This is to ensure that it is sufficiently difficult for students to complete the whole game within the two-hour time frame.
  • Alongside this list, students will receive a map with a red line demonstrating the route that they should take. Importantly, the pit stops (the answers to the clues) will not be identified on this map.
  • The list and map will either be posted on the Learn site or emailed to students the morning of the activity.
  • Students will then be responsible for figuring out the answers to each clue, and for deciding the order that they visit each place.
  • Students must then take selfies at sites that they believe answer the clue. They will then upload these images onto an online platform. This will be done after the walking-tour is complete so that individual groups cannot see where others have been.
  • The group that unlocks the most clues by taking selfies at the greatest number of correct sites will receive an award. If there is a joint-winner, then there could be a tiebreaker to decide who wins the reward.
  • The winning team and runners-up will receive some form of reward.
Model 2: Online
  • Students will use the app ‘WallaMe’ for this game-based, group walking tour.
  • Course organizers/tutors will hide messages in ‘walls’ posted on specific sites in the city, that only students enrolled in the course can access. These ‘walls’ will take the form of text, images or a combination of both.
  • Students can only access these ‘walls’ by physically going to the geographical locations where they are pinned.
  • Each ‘wall’ will hold the clue to the next site that students must visit. Students will only know where to go next once they have figured out the previous clue. In this way, the game-based walking tour will act like a treasure hunt.
  • The first location that students must visit will either be posted on Learn or emailed to students the morning of the exploration.
  • To make it easier, the clues will progress in difficulty with the first 10 questions being easier than the last 10 questions. Another idea is that ‘walls’ could hold more than one clue, so that if students are not able to figure out the first clue then they could have the chance to answer the second.
  • Students must either take selfies at each site and upload them to an online platform or must post their own ‘walls’ at each site they visit on the treasure hunt.
    • If the first option, students will only upload selfies after the tour is complete so that individual groups cannot see where others have been.
    • If the latter option, students will upload these ‘walls’ during the tour, since they are only visible to people who are already at the correct location.
  • The group that unlocks the most clues either by taking selfies or posting ‘walls’ at the greatest number of correct sites will receive an award. If there is a joint-winner, then there could be a tiebreaker to decide who wins the reward.
  • The winning team and runners-up will receive some form of reward.

Finally, we thought up some example clues that could be included in a game-based walking tour of the Royal Mile. These are as follows:

Wealth and Power: Who wears the Crown?

  • Start with the place where Dun Eidyn was originally inhabited, that has stood on a volcanic plug for near two millennia.


Knowledge: EnlightenED

  • If you have found this journey difficult thus far, perhaps rubbing this person’s toe will enlighten you with some rational thought to guide you through.

Answer: Statue of David Hume

People: Everyday Edinburgh

  • Head over to this well to pay your respects to the valiant women who were outcast from society and killed at the hands of King James VI.

Answer: The Witches Well

Life and Death

  • Go to the place that was once a tollbooth but now documents the lives of everyday workers, from bookbinders to brewers and candlestick makers.

Answer: The People’s Museum

Building Blocks: Building a city

  • Tucked away within a close you will find one of the world’s first skyscrapers and one of the best surviving exemplars of Edinburgh’s infamous tenement architecture.

Answer: Gladstone’s Land


Our Reasoning

Like the first game-based exploration, this activity-based exploration is designed to promote in-person student interaction within interdisciplinary groups. However, unlike the first game-based exploration, this tour will encourage students to walk more slowly, engaging more intently with the places, spaces and people they come into contact with.

How will students learn from the activity-based exploration?

  1. Students will learn from working within a diverse, interdisciplinary team. By listening to their peers’ unique perspectives, they will learn to think in novel ways.
  2. Students will learn from physically exploring the city; from taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the spaces and places they come across.
Our Idea
  • The groups will be given a choice of which street to explore. 
  • Students in the group will then be given a list of suggested activities to complete during the tour.
  • Students will only have to complete one activity each. It is up to them whether they would like to each focus on different activities, or whether they would like to all complete the same one. Creativity and individuality will be encouraged.

Finally, we thought up some example activities that could be included in this second exploration. This was based on inspiration from the Third Space project at the University of Edinburgh: 


These are as follows:

Green Spaces

  • While walking around outdoors, explore the green spaces and wildlife in your area (or the lack of it). Reflect on your experience of being in these kinds of spaces. What do you feel and why? Try comparing and contrasting this experience with other places you have visited in Edinburgh or elsewhere. Also, think about how these spaces affect your experience as a resident of Edinburgh.


  • Find a place to sit and observe people walking by you. Try and note down things related to the everyday behaviour and practices of people. You might want to explore the connections between people’s behaviours and practices to the places they are in. Also, think about how your own behaviour and practices are influenced by the street/area you are exploring.
  • You could wish to continue these observations in a journal over the next few weeks as well.

 Favourite Places

  • Tell us about the place you find most meaningful in your exploration. This might be as magnificent as a building or as simple as a park bench or coffee shop. What makes it so special? Who frequents this place, if any?
  • Perhaps ask a local person to name what they think to be the most meaningful place as inspiration. Ask them to describe it and explain why they find it so significant. You might want to go to that place and talk about your own perception of it.

Mapping Streets

  • Choose a starting point in the street you are exploring. As you explore the list of places given, note down the directions you are traveling and which connected streets you walk along. How do the streets intersect? What objects and features did you notice on the connecting streets? Try drawing a sketch map showing how these objects and features are positioned in relation to the street.


  • Pick a place to eat anywhere on the street/area and describe your experience. Reflect on this experience by thinking about the connection between the origins of this food and Edinburgh and the local or global significance of this food. Also, think about the broader relationship that food plays in your life in Edinburgh.
  • P.S: Don’t limit yourself to a finding a fancy restaurant – explore all kinds of options including local supermarkets, takeaways, cafes, street vendors etc!

Hyperbolic Depictions

  • Describe the street/area you visit in a hyperbolic way. For example, as a fairy-tale story, as an alternative history account, as a poem, as a machine part, as a plant, as a math equation… anything you can think of!
  • Be sure to explain why you have chosen to depict the street/area in the particular way you choose.


  • Create your own activity. This could be a combination of the above, or something entirely different – the choice is yours!
  • Remember to think creatively and really engage with your surroundings. You might also want to reflect on your own personal experiences of the spaces and places that you encounter.
Additional Considerations

We have also discussed how these explorations could work administratively. These considerations are listed below:

Group Allocation

  • In each learning block, students will cover two streets/areas and will, therefore, be given the option of choosing which street/area they want to explore as part of their group activity.
  • Students will decide their groups through an online sign-up on Learn set up to limit the number of spaces available to students from the same colleges so as to maintain interdisciplinary groups.
  • They will base this decision on which street/area they would most like to visit. E.g. Students who are keen to explore Street A will form one group, while students more keen to explore Street B will form another.

Group Numbers

  • Each group will contain around 8-10 students.
  • Numbers will be guaranteed by the online sign-up on Learn. Once one group is full, another will be automatically created for students to sign up to.
  • Tutor intervention will only be required if there are not enough students in one group or uneven distributions based on students’ disciplines. In this instance, students might need to be shuffled around to make numbers more even.


  • There will be a set time-slot for the game-based exploration, e.g. 2 hours on a Wednesday afternoon. This allocated window will be the only time that students have to unlock as many clues as they can.
  • The second group exploration can be completed at any time during the week. It is up to the students to find a common time that suits them best.

Further Resources

  • Links to further resources that might aid the walking-tour experience will also be posted online. Examples include app-based walking tours such as Curious Edinburgh, and Litlong, as well as YouTube videos, articles, podcasts and images.