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Gamification vs. Game-Based Learning


If your company is looking to add some game element in training, chances are you have stumbled upon the terms game-based learning and gamification. They are used interchangeably in training, but a thin line exists between them. To end the nagging confusion, this article will address the difference between the two. What’s the difference?


It is the application of game-like experiences in a non-game environment. It is a training approach that uses game elements and mechanisms to motivate and engage the employee. In so doing, the trainee is attracted to the training producing the desired outcome.

Gamification works to encourage the employees through the learning process by, tracking their progress, promoting competitiveness and facilitating engagement. Corporate reward systems such as incentives, leaderboards, and badges are a good example. Employees are rewarded for a task completed.

Gamification helps employees stay engaged with the training material and also acts as a motivator since the trainee is eager to complete courses and move a level up or earn points. Gamification is inexpensive since you don’t need to create new content. You can duplicate the existing content and use it in different departments.

However, gamification is not an ideal training approach since not all the content is gamified. It is best suited for content that can be memorized rather than content that calls for constant behavior shifts. Since the content is not gamified the trainee can lose interest dwindling the effectiveness of this approach.


Game-based learning 

Game-based learning is basically the use of games or game elements for training. It incorporates two key points.

•    Learning goal: this is what the employee will learn by playing the game.

•    Game goal: this is what the employee must do to win the game.

Unlike gamification, game-based learning uses an actual game to train employees on certain skills. Gamifying the training content makes it more fun. The chief advantage of using game-based learning is that employees are able to practice and test newly acquired knowledge in an environment that is risk-free.

The progress is directly proportional to the understanding of the core content. Current level shows how far you have mastered the training material. Game-based learning improves engagement of the employee, increase in engagement translates to better knowledge retention. It also allows the training of complex concepts since it is fun and engaging hence the trainee can play the game until he or she grasps the concept of the content.

Game-based learning seeks to promote both strategic and critical thinking and support both struggling and talented employees.  The use of simulation also helps in improving both the cognitive and affective skills. This is because the employee has to synthesize and analyze the complexity of the game before taking any action.

Game-based learning provides the trainee with instant and constant feedback. This feedback helps them to refine their skills before they can use them in real-life job scenarios. A major drawback of game-based learning is that you are required to create new modules. Companies shy away from using this model since it is expensive and time-consuming.



The choice between game-based learning and gamification should be driven by the goals of your organization. Although both lead to mastery of concepts, it is prudent to gauge which will keep the employees engaged and motivated.


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