If you’ve ever considered adding game elements to training and corporate learning programs, you’ve probably come across these two terms: gamification and game-based learning (GBL). They may seem completely interchangeable, but in reality, there are many differences between them.
Let’s see what they are!
What Is Game-Based Learning?
In the case of game-based learning, the games are explicitly designed for educational purposes. Game characteristics and game principles are inherent within the learning activities themselves.
Do you remember those games from your childhood when you forgot about the world around you because you had to complete a mission, find your way to the treasure, or come up with an unexpected new trick to win the game? You probably didn’t even realize that with the help of these games, your mindset, skills, and abilities developed – without effort, playfully and enjoyably.
People love to play not only as children, but also as adults, and this is taken advantage of by modern adult education as well.
Game-based learning transforms training content into a game, and participants learn as they play. Thereby learning becomes active, and game mechanics challenge users to engage frequently in order to master the content.
We at DEVELOR also use this mechanism in our game-based training programs. During our Mission to Mars program, participants take part in an adventurous Mars expedition; in the Leadership inspired by Amundsen training, they follow the footsteps of the famous explorer to the South Pole while completing their leadership skills, or they have to solve a critical situation under real-time pressure during the VUCA challenge. And these are just a few examples of the possibilities.
In a game-based learning environment, users learn new concepts and practice skills in a risk-free environment. Their progress in the game portion is directly related to their understanding of the topic being trained or coached.
Game-Based Learning Improves Engagement Of Training Participants
Think about how you would prefer to learn about strategy or probability calculus – through math exercises or playing chess? Which would have a better chance of continuing the learning you started?
GBL has a significant impact on content retention and recall rates – the extent to which participants are able to recall the content of a training session or training. By making development fun, participants are more engaged, more immersed and this, again, increases learner engagement rates. With increased learner engagement, the acquisition of the training content also increases. In one study, GBL was shown to increase content retention by more than 300 per cent immediately after testing.
Because training is both fun and challenging, participants stay engaged longer. This allows even more complex concepts to be covered with game- and story-based learning.
Finally, let’s not forget about another important aspect: during GBL, participants can practice applying new skills and knowledge in a safe environment. They can make mistakes. They can experiment with different options. They can fail and stand up again. Their actions and decisions do not have any real-world business implications. Then, with the help of feedback and a thorough debrief with the trainer, they can implement these experiences into their daily life.
Gamification Applies Game-Design Elements
Gamification, on the other hand, means the application of game-design elements and principles in non-game contexts to encourage engagement: scores, badges, leaderboards, and other incentives to inspire and “nudge” people towards learning.
Gamification Builds On Our Natural Competitiveness
Here again, think back on how you felt at school when you gathered bonus points for being the first who completed the math homework; read the most books in the summer, or collected the most trash in the yard? You were proud and satisfied, weren’t you? You didn’t play a game, but still, certain game elements – like points or badges – probably gave extra motivation to you to complete the task.
Well, this is the mechanism gamification uses and what we can also apply in adult learning. By giving extra scores for completing the most learning lessons, assigning extra badges for the highest points in knowledge tests or being the most active at a training session could give this extra kick. Seeing yourself on a leaderboard and realising that you are ahead of your colleagues or even your boss gives extra motivation, especially if it comes with an extra prize or acknowledgement.
These elements can do good service in any learning program, where we would like to increase the completion rate. Especially in the case of those compulsory corporate learning materials – such as compliance, IT security or other internal policies – that usually mean a burden to everyone.
To sum up, elements of gamification draw on the natural human need to collect, compete and succeed. They help to activate people and engage them with simple content. It can also motivate a person to complete more activities – they want to beat the highest scorer, move up the leaderboard or get some other reward. The reward doesn’t even have to be tangible; rather, the psychological aspect of winning and “being better” is much more important.
How Do You Choose Between Gamification And Game-Based Learning?
The decision must be based on your organisation’s goals and needs. In most cases both elements are needed in practice, but for different content and purposes. Implementing one strategy or the other without careful consideration can have a counterproductive effect – it can make participants unmotivated and may even lead to high course dropouts.
However, if you do it right, you can expect greater engagement and happier participants. And that’s truly a win-win for everyone. Feel free to contact us if you need to consult on the use of gamification and story and game-based training.
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