Gaming Instruction: Gamification vs Game-based Learning

In instructional technology, gamification is still one the most talked about methods for connecting learners with content especially in online learning. Proponents of gamification believe in its ability to provide a better learning experience because of its “fun factor”. At its heart, gamification is the application of incorporating game playing elements like competition or point scoring to a non-game situation as a way to engage learners. The key to understanding and thinking about gamification is learner engagement. In library instruction this has often been employed through the use of digital badges where an instructional event takes place and a badge may be earned in relation to participation, thus increasing engagement.

Game-based learning however is an instructional design approach that is based on defined learning outcomes in which a game format is used to reinforce educational goals.  Game-based learning is often an authentic learning experience that uses active learning in a game-like format to help learners apply subject matter. An example of game-based learning we use in the UC San Diego Library is the Jeopardy game we use within the Academic Integrity workshop to reinforce plagiarism concepts.

Gamification and game-based learning often times blend harmoniously yet there is a discrete distinction between the two.  Of the two, gamification of instruction is the most likely to go awry in part due to its lack of learning outcomes as a grounding principle. Learners can become distracted by the chase of achieving badges or flashing icons in online learning environments and fail to comprehend presented content. To keep the gaming of your instruction on point, focus on the learning objectives first before considering elements of engagement.

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