What is Gamification and Is It Different Than Game-Based Learning?

Designing Digitally


What is Gamification and Is It Different Than Game-Based Learning?

Anyone close to the education community in any capacity has probably heard the terms “game-based learning” and “gamification.”

There is a fair amount of confusion about game-based learning and gamification. Some assume they are the same thing and others have a vague notion that they’re different, but aren’t really sure how. Either way, they are often used interchangeably.

Though they share common characteristics, they aren’t the same thing. They have distinct differences. It’s important for anyone who is involved in elearning course development to have a solid understanding of both.


Before launching into a description of the attributes of each, it’s necessary to define each term.

  • Gamification is described as adding game elements to a nongame situation. The idea is taking something that is not normally a game and giving it game-like elements. Incentives, rewards, and levels are all examples of gamification.

It’s important to take an in-depth look at the elements of each.


One way to look at gamification is that it is the basis for the whole structure of a learning program. It’s the overarching process, not just a solitary event. Here are some other characteristics of gamification:

  • Normally integrates badges, awards, and achievements

  • Takes time to see the full effect

Game-based learning

Though it may be utilized frequently as a part of a learning course, it is a series of one-time events. Take a look at the elements of GBL:

  • Each game has a specific learning objective

  • Learning happens during the gameplay

  • Encourages problem solving and critical thinking skills

  • Simulations can also be a part

  • Expectation is that knowledge gained will be able to be used in the real world

Elearning course development

Now that the differences have been explained and there has been an examination of gamification and game-based learning, it’s time to explore what it all means for the development of an elearning course.

  • Keep the focus on the learner. The goal is for the learners to reach their learning objectives.

  • Keep the content relevant. Keeping the focus on real-world scenarios will ensure the game is useful.

  • Good design is key. The whole experience will be a failure if it isn’t based on a solid design.

The goals are the same

Both gamification and game-based learning are striving for the same goal--the learner’s engagement. There is an overlap of intention in that arena. The guiding force behind both is to provide a learning experience that is successful for the learner.

This is true, whether it is in the context of students in a school or employees going through a corporate training program. Engaged, interested learners are successful learners who meet the goals set for them, as well as the goals they are motivated to set for themselves.

Contact Designing Digitally Inc. to learn how gamification and game-based learning can be utilized in your company to increase employee’s skills, improve productivity, and increase profitability.