Gamification vs Game-Based Learning: Know the Difference

By December 18, 2017 Education
Gamification vs Game-Based Learning

Gamification vs Game-Based Learning: Know the Difference

Guest post by Amber Wilson 


The term ‘gamified learning’ and ‘game-based learning’ are often confused, not just by teachers but also by students. The use of games in learning has increasingly become popular, not just in the corporate institutions but also in schools. But are they being used in the right way?

From a scholastic point of view, the wrong use of these buzzwords can negatively impacts the learner or even the learning process itself. This includes implementation, adoption, and practice. Usually, there is a need for proper training to get started. In this post, I explore in detail, not just definitive terms but also goals, objectives, and examples of gamification and game-based learning.

Definitions and differences between gamification and game-based learning

Any educator seeking to be decisive when it comes to imparting knowledge about these subjects must do so while steering clear of any confusion brought about by game-based and gamified learning. One should learn as much as possible to then teach how each should be best adopted. The same equally applies to a learner.


Differences based on goals and objectives

Educators should be able to clearly explain the differences between these two terms, because deciding on which one is more applicable to a situation is important.  And because every learning activity is tied to goals, objectives or purpose, game-based and gamified learning can be differentiated based on the same.

Gamification objectives and goals

In corporate institutions, gamified learning is usually implemented for enhancing innovativeness of employees, fine-tuning their skills to reduce errors, enhancing collaboration and mental wellness.  In the classroom, it is designed to motivate learners and enhance their passion in certain subjects. Here are useful practical examples and resources based on expert opinion.

Game-based objectives and goals

Here, it is about subjecting learners to tasks that enable them to acquire new skills and concepts. This means that their progress in playing games is linked to their understanding of the subjects.  This particularly applies to students.  In the corporate world, it is all about training for better interpersonal relations, formulation of policies, team-work, and awareness creation.

Example situations where game-based learning is preferred

Education technology has seen the introduction of numerous approaches to shaping learners into professionals based on skills they learn. Learners play games which enhances their participation in the subject. It is a robust way of curriculum development through e-learning resources.

An example suitable for school settings is the word-game. This is aimed at enriching students’ vocabularies which they can then apply to writing tasks. At corporate levels, it is used to fine-tune employees’ cognitive abilities. A game like Cluedo is an excellent example.

Note: The actual playing of games in game-based learning is what differentiates it from gamified learning – where the emphasis is on the incorporation of playing mechanics alongside the content.


Differences based on whether there is direct use of games or not

To start with, a decision on whether teachers should use game apps, or simply implement elements that are inspired by these games determines whether they’re using game-based or gamified learning.  The latter involves incorporating elements of a game being added unto a nongame situation. Game-based learning, on the contrary, is all about using certain games to inspire outcomes in learning.  This post on The Knowledge Guru gives more insights.

Examples where a gamified approach is an ideal approach

A good illustration of how to use gamification involves an adventure that comes out of learning activities. Students create playing characters using programs such as ClassCraft. The points or rewards they obtain at every level are meant to make learning more engaging. When students help other students complete certain tasks, there is enhanced collaboration.  These practical approaches to gamified learning shed more light unto what is feasible and what is not within the classroom environment.

The 3D GameLab, extensively researched by high profile edtech experts and teachers at Boise State University, Chris Haskell, and Lisa Dawley, is another way in which this subject has been looked into by respected scholars. In this game, students are led on a quest to earn points or badges as they progress through different levels. The gaming apps are loaded with content based on the curriculum’s learning objectives and goals. This is a departure from hardcopy learning materials, such as books, to e-learning activities. It is all about developing and deploying thrilling approaches designed to engage learners through the tasks presented to them.

Other examples include the use of e-quizzes. A learner is required to earn scores before receiving rewards in the form of incentives.  Karl Kapp, an expert author of several publications on technology in education – particularly on gamified and game-based learning, reflects on a number of issues ranging from practical cases to the state of gamification in learning.  Here are some of his golden insights.

Note: The aspect of gaming software should be taken into account as a major distinguishing factor from game-based learning. Content for learning is incorporated in the software.


In conclusion, selection of what learning approach to take should be premised on the benefits and objectives explored in this post. Teachers who want to adopt these new approaches to education technology should get the proper training. There are a variety of fully certified gamification programs and workshops to choose from.


About the Author

Amber Wilson is an educator, edtech fan, technophile and an editor at . She is convinced that modern technologies are the keys to the minds and hearts of teenagers. Being a mother of two almost adult sons, she knows a lot about gaming and the way it can be used in the educational process.

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