Gamification vs. Game-Based Learning
The terms gamification and game-based learning may sound synonymous when thought of in the training or learning context but are different. Gamification can be defined as the process of adding game elements in a non-gaming environment. On the other hand, game-based learning is the process of imparting knowledge and teaching skills using games as a tool. Let’s illustrate the processes those two definitions mention. And later, we will have a look at how they differ from each other in terms of aspects other than their structure (nature).
Gamification is done by integrating gaming elements into a learning environment (e.g. LMS). Some of the gaming elements are leaderboard, quiz, award etc. These game elements are not a part of the learning material. The learning material and gaming elements remain two separate entities. Broadly, gamification is done in a couple of ways. One is embedding elements like quizzes etc. in the learning material (course). Note that the actual leaning material still does not change when game elements are embedded in the course(s). The other way is to add gaming elements in the learning platform, like leaderboard, badges etc. So, logically, the entire program or course for which game elements get applied becomes one big game. As users progress in that ‘game’ they earn badges, their names show up one the leaderboard etc.
A game-based learning experience is created by building games that deliver learning objectives. The users gain the necessary knowledge and learn skills by playing games. In this case, the learning material itself is a game(s). A program or course is generally a series of games that users have to play. Typically one game would cover a topic or module. These games could be independent of each other or a sub-part of one big game that covers the entire course. In the latter case, each sub-part forms one level of the big game. As users complete one game (learning module), they go up a level.
Let’s move to a comparison between the two. There isn’t much of a variety available in gaming elements. The gamification process remains largely restricted to leaderboard, quiz, badges etc. So gamified content may fail to motivate users once the sense of newness recedes. Whereas, there is no capping on the number of unique games that can be designed, so users’ interest can be maintained by ensuring diversity.
Gamification elements are independent of the subject matter. They can be used for courses belonging to any domain. So, it is easy to gamify learning material. A game can impart knowledge or skills only for the topic for which it was created. As a consequence, it takes a lot of time, effort, and expertise to develop game-based learning content.
Gamification measures and quantifies success. It does not improve the learning material’s quality. Which, motivates for completing the learning objectives. The transition from conventional courseware to game-based learning material improves the learning resources’ quality. It makes the learning material more engaging.
Gamified content does not provide opportunities to experiment and see the consequences of incorrect actions. Game-based content simulates real-world scenarios. It gets users to perform real-world steps to progress in the game. That way, users develop a better understanding of the subject matter and become aware of the consequences of incorrect actions.
To summarize, adding gaming elements to a non-gaming learning delivery/management system is known as gamification. Creating courseware that has games is called game-based learning material. Gaming elements are limited in quantity, independent of subject matter, and easy to integrate. Game-based learning modules are potentially unlimited, specific to learning objectives, and developing them is a demanding activity.