Game based learning and gamification are not the same thing: here’s why

Gaming based learning (GBL) is gaining popular trend in modern corporate learning. Organisations are serious about imparting continuous learning within their working space. Despite the fact, that benefit of gaming in the corporate circle are clear in both learning and training, gamification and GBL are two different things that cannot be used interchangeably. It is important to realise that though they have overlapping features, they have a defining characteristic that apply to each.

Serious game or GBL refers to simulation or unique game that is created specifically to cater to the evident need for a group. They are designed with distinct game paths that are strategically geared toward learning objectives. They comprise immersive experience that enables learners to think and plan logically. A key characteristic feature that distinguishes GBL from gamification is the fact that it balances game playing and subject matter with the aim of retaining and applying the subject matter in the real working environment.

On the other hand, gamification can be referred as a process of applying mechanism of existing game-based elements to learning platform just to increase learners’ motivation. The key characteristic of gamification is that it is a process that takes something that is not a game and makes it a game.

These mechanisms can be applied in a form of reward, recognition achievements, and plain old competition or simply as an opportunity for self-expression. Prime gamification examples include quest2learn where entire course is gamified and Nike + games that lock high potential customers into communicating and staying in contact with the company. The game mechanic helps learners to achieve more through increasing persistence, collaboration with peers learning by repetition, and through goal orientation.

Implementing GBL is a good idea that can make use of existing games to teach content in corporate space. It also calls for the adoption of games that suits specific needs. For the purpose of learning and teaching, words games can be utilised to improve employees’ language skills and vocabulary. Also, a game such as Cluedo, which is a strategy based game that can hone logical thinking among employees.

Creating customised games is not a small undertaking; it needs more gaming enthusiasts in learning community. However, it is possible for most corporate within available timelines and budget. Comparing a readymade game that does not take more effort and money to custom made is that the later is made to suit the learning need of an organisation.

GBL can be created by introducing game-based features in already existing e-course. It can be designed to include quizzes or tests to gain points, as an incentive that motivate learners to score the highest or complete the course. This call for modification of existing content in such a way it gives a push for learning.

GBL can also be created to reflect learning platforms in an organisation. The game can be designed to reflect the primary level, advanced level or any other particular level. Gaming features, such the level the learner has attained or badges or point that can be accumulated enable learners to access more content as the learners are promoted to higher level. This feature can be integrated to social integration such that the top performer is featured in the game, and the news is shared via twitter or Facebook. In addition, redeemable points of the game can be personalised not just for the individual, but a collaborative effort of learners. These kind of GBL result into active learning within an organisation.

While GBL and gamification are closely related, they remain to be two distinct things. GBL is purely based on motivational elements of the game. On the other hand, gamification focuses on ways that e-learning is presented to learners and it has been talked about for a while now (see this article from September 2013.) However, both gamification and GBL increases learners’ engagement.

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