Game-Based Learning vs. Gamification

game based learning boy playing educational math game

Game-based learning involves using actual games to teach specific skills or concepts, while gamification incorporates game-like elements, such as points and rewards, into non-game contexts to enhance motivation and engagement. Gamification adds game elements to traditional learning activities. Both are teaching strategies to enhance the learning experience, increase engagement, and improve retention of information. In essence, they both use game principles to make learning more enjoyable and effective. However, there are some differences.

Game-based Learning (GBL) is when learners use actual games to acquire knowledge or skills. Think of it like playing an educational video game that teaches math or history.

Gamification, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily involve playing a game. Instead, it’s about taking game elements from games, like points, badges, and leaderboards, and applying them to non-game situations, like in a classroom setting or a workplace training module. It’s a way to motivate and engage people by making tasks more game-like.

Neither Game-Based Learning nor Gamified Learning is universally “better” than the other. The best choice depends on the learning goals, audience, and context. GBL is more suitable when an immersive learning experience using actual games is desired. Gamification, on the other hand, is great for adding game-like elements to traditional tasks to boost engagement and motivation.

Turning a Traditional Game into an Educational Game

While traditional games, like board games or card games, usually aren’t made to enhance student learning, tweaking them with a learning goal turns them into game-based learning tools. Take a deck of cards: if a teacher uses it for students to practice mental addition instead of just playing a regular card game, it becomes a learning experience within a game framework.

Turning a traditional game into an educational game involves adding learning objectives and aligning gameplay elements with those goals.

  1. Identify Learning Objectives: Determine what you want players (students) to learn. This could be factual knowledge, a skill, or a cognitive strategy.
  2. Choose the Right Game: Select a traditional game that aligns well with your learning objectives or has the potential to do so.
  3. Integrate Content: Modify game elements, rules, or tasks to incorporate the educational content. For example, instead of just collecting properties in Monopoly, players could answer questions related to a subject each time they purchase a property.
  4. Provide Feedback: Offer immediate feedback on performance. This can be through the game mechanics itself or externally (e.g., a teacher or software giving feedback).
  5. Align Rewards with Learning: Ensure that progress and rewards in the game are tied to the understanding or demonstration of the learning objective. For example, players might earn extra points in a word-based board game for using vocabulary words they’re currently studying.
  6. Test and Refine: Play the game with a few students to see if they are learning and engaged. Gather feedback and make necessary adjustments.
  7. Provide Reflection Opportunities: After gameplay, engage students in discussions or reflections about what they’ve learned and how the game helped in the process.

The goal is to strike a balance between fun and learning. The game should be engaging enough to keep students interested while delivering educational content.

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