Many buzz words and phrases are used without fully understanding what they mean. In particular, this applies to “gamification” and “game-based learning”. These educational strategies have much in common and both can improve the educational process but, nevertheless, they are not identical like twins. It is worth not mistaking one for the other. In this article, experts from Pro-Papers have explained the difference. Read attentively to understand which one of these two approaches you need.
What gamification is?
This term applies to all teaching models using gaming elements in a non-gaming environment to stimulate desired behavior, increase the importance of processes which are usually regarded as minor, stimulate competition, make lessons more engaging, and help young people to track their own progress.
Please note that students do not play board and video games. There are no toys in a class. Educators are not obliged to use special incentives like badges, points, trophies, and titles (but they could).
By and large, educational institutions have been gamified for years. Students make efforts to get good marks, see their own photos on an honor roll and names at the top of class rankings, win Olympiads and sports tournaments, enroll in colleges, get scholarships and grants. The whole learning process seems to one long quest.
It does not end after graduation because young people enter the labor market and compete there. They strive to occupy the best positions in the best companies, achieve outstanding progress in their careers, buy the best cars and houses, have a high social status, use platinum credit cards and first-class airlines, and travel to as many countries as possible. Even in social networks, people strive to collect more friends and likes justifying their popularity. All our life is permeated with the struggle for dominance. Well, school is a great place to learn how to play and win.
All incentives used in the framework of the carrot and stick approach may be regarded as gaming elements. Educators use rewards rather than punishment to motivate learners, allow young people to feel pride for their accomplishments, provide the source of inspiration and energy needed for further work.
Letter grades, GPA, and certificates are the most common gamification tools in education. A’s are considered as prizes characterizing students as smart, persistent, and talented persons. F’s are negative symbols showing that more efforts should be made to move to higher levels. Collecting the most valuable letters and avoiding bad ones seems to collecting trophies and avoiding traps in a game. Educators set clear rules: “Perform this quest according to these rules within this period of time, and you will get this reward.”
Teachers may unlock new topics after young people master previous ones to let them move from one level to another. The same mechanism works when learners move from primary school to secondary school or from college to university.
What game-based learning is?
In this case, students learn directly through playing. But it is worth assuring critics that this approach has nothing in common with violent video games and computer addiction. Special educational software is used in moderation, aimed to develop academic and professional skills. Also, teachers may use board games, for example, “Monopoly” to convey economic concepts to students. In some cases, only gaming design is used to repackage course materials.
Game-based strategies teach young people to think strategically, look at things critically, solve problems, and make decisions under pressure. This is a great way to engage students who feel bored at traditional lectures and seminars. Talented learners get the opportunity to demonstrate their ingenuity and creativity, while struggling ones get support in a fun and entertaining form.
Gaming simulations have proved to be extremely effective. Students immerse in topics, can explore digital universes, see different epochs and phenomena from within. For example, in historical simulations, users may walk down the streets of ancient cities, interact with people and objects that existed thousands of years ago, study political tactics, culture, traditions, diplomacy, and resource management. It is necessary to learn local rules and adapt to a constantly changing environment. This experience is much more interesting and exciting than reading boring textbooks.
Some simulations are based on virtual reality. With a special headset, young people may get impressions almost as bright as real life, hone practical skills, and conduct experiments which are naturally way too dangerous or expensive. Some processes may be speeded up or slowed down.
Thanks to game-based learning, students develop trial-and-error persistence, become patient, confident, and determined, learn to track and manage their own actions, collaborate and communicate efficiently, perceive failure as a way to learn something new rather than the reason for depression, while competition – as the source of adrenaline rather than a threat. And these are far not all advantages.