August 16, 2021

Game-Based Learning vs. Gamification

Dana Bernardino

If you’ve been looking to revitalize your training materials, you’ve probably heard the terms “gamification” or “game-based learning” (GBL). While the two might sound quite similar and are sometimes interchanged, they do have their differences. Since the two have entered popular culture, there have been many debates and misunderstandings about what they are, what they are used for and what makes them different.

While they both combine games with learning, the main difference lies in how game elements are included in the learning experience. This distinction is what leads to a vast difference in learning outcomes when you compare the two. 

The Definitions and Their Differences

Game-based learning and gamification do sound very similar but they are ultimately two different approaches. 

Games-based learning involves an active learning experience within the framework of a game. It will have specific learning objectives and measurable outcomes. It uses games to teach a specific skill and takes the content of your learning material to make it more fun. It typically requires a higher degree of peer interaction and will offer feedback on performance. The games in GBL are designed to understand the content within a real-world context. It promotes user engagement and is a type of active learning strategy.

One main drawback with GBL is that, because new modules need to be created specifically for it, it can be quite expensive and time-consuming to implement. Game design can take a while to map out and test. This can act as a significant barrier to companies. 

On the other hand, gamification is the addition of game mechanics to a non-game experience in order to increase motivation, engagement and enjoyment of the subject matter. Gamification techniques  are used for the purpose of promoting these specific desired behaviors in order to drive learning outcomes. The game elements themselves are separated from the learning content. They can be points, badges or leaderboards which are used to create gamified lessons or activities. 

The biggest difference between them is their application and their implementation. In GBL you would fully integrate games into the educational content. You could say the entire class is turned into a video game. Gamification simply uses elements from games to incentivize rewards or for making progress. 

Applying Game-Based Learning

Gamification is the practice of applying engagement software to existing content in order to help motivate employees. This can be as simple as adding levels or progress bars to content which already exists but it can also be more complex by introducing points systems or leaderboards. Some more common applications of gamification include onboarding, collaboration, or new product innovation. 

The main focus of gamification is to increase engagement. Gamification mechanics appeal to human needs to collect, compete and succeed. They help wake the brain up and get employees engaged and motivated using simple training content. As Peter C. Brown highlights in his book “How Learning Really Works”, our brains can’t retain information and knowledge by watching videos, reading manuals, or listening to hours of training sessions over Zoom. Gamification on the other hand, is a great motivator for employees to complete more training courses, or to beat theirs or others high scores, to move up on the leaderboards or earn rewards. 

Plus, since you won’t need to create completely new content, gamification is more accessible than game-based learning. It is quicker to implement and is inexpensive to apply to your current training platforms. 

However, keep in mind that gamification is not the best strategy for every type of training. It is best used for content that can be memorized or does not need huge behavioral shifts. Since this training content is not gamified it will not be as engaging. So it must be simple and easy to understand. If the content takes too long for employees to complete, engagement levels will drop and effectiveness will be reduced.

Ready to Level Up Your Team?

If you’re looking for a convenient and easy way to gamify your training content then look no further. 

1Huddle offers cloud-based employee training programs where you can easily upload and customize your training content for a seamless training experience. All of your employees will have the ability to access their training anywhere, anytime, at the push of a button. This helps make training engaging and kept up-to-date. You can use our game platform to measure their performance and make key decisions on where you should take your training next. 
Do you want to learn more about how 1Huddle can help you level up your own workforce? Request a demo today.

Dana Bernardino, Manager of Digital Marketing at 1Huddle

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