Gamification and Game-Based Learning

The following is a guest post by Mary Colbert, a content creator specializing in education. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

When discussing gamification and game-based learning there is often some confusion as to how they differ. Many people use the terms interchangeably but they are not the same. However they are often linked together so it isn’t always easy to separate them.

What is Game-Based Learning?

Game-Based Learning or GBL is using a game as part of the learning process. Some examples of GBL could be using monopoly to teach the basics of money management or playing scrabble to help improve vocabulary skills. However, today when people talk about game-based learning they are usually referring to digital game-based learning. Game-based learning teaches through repetition, failure and the accomplishment of goals which is basically the way players become good at video games.

What is Gamification?

In education gamification is the introduction of game-like elements into the learning environment to help motivate students and make the process more engaging. This is accomplished by taking some of the elements that make games fun and that motivate people to keep playing and using those elements in a learning situation. Some examples of gamification include:

  • Points/Badges : The use of points and badges provides tangible evidence of accomplishment
  • Immediate Feedback: Fast response to actions that are taken rather than waiting for a paper to be graded.
  • Levels/Quests: Provide missions and goals to be accomplished
  • Leveling Up: Indication of achievement and opening up of new missions, badges and activities
  • Collaboration/Teamwork: Accomplish a goal working with others

Although gamification involves using elements from games it doesn’t necessarily include playing games.

Benefits of Gamification and Game-Based Learning

Game-based learning and gamification have been around for a number of years at the elementary and high school level. More recently it has been making its way into higher education as it offers a number of benefits to students:

  • Increased engagement: One of the most touted benefits of gamification is that it increases student engagement. Studies have shown that adding game-like features in non-game context increases student engagement. Increasing engagement also leads to greater retention as students relate better to material through practice rather than just reading or listening to a lecture.
  • Instant feedback: Receiving feedback immediately through dashboards and leaderboards tends to motivate students. They can view how they perform relative to their peers, which will often motivate them to retry tests and activities to achieve a better ranking. It also provides motivation to move ahead to further lessons.
  • Collaboration/Social Connection: For some students it isn’t easy to create connections with others in their class. Gamifying classes helps promote social interaction and encourages students to work together. Team competition is an excellent way to promote student collaboration.
  • Increase enthusiasm: For some students just learning is enough to generate enthusiasm but for many that is not the case. Gamification helps to generate more enthusiasm in students through badges and other types of rewards. It makes the learning process more fun for them.

Disadvantages of Gamification and Game-Based Learning

Gamification isn’t the perfect solution to every learning situation and there are some disadvantages.

  • Shortened attention spans: In some students the fast pace and immediate feedback can shorten attention span. It can also lead to discouragement with other parts of the student’s education that don’t provide that pace and feedback.
  • All about the competition: Students can become enamored with the competitive aspects of gamification and GBL and it becomes more about winning than learning.
  • Some students won’t be motivated: There will be some students that simply aren’t motivated by the gamification of learning. They may have some misconceptions about the process that prevent them from responding well to GBL. Other students may dislike the competitive nature of some aspects of gamification.

The gamification of a class or course doesn’t ensure it will be successful. How gamification is introduced will determine the type of impact that it has.

Gamified Education Online

Gamified education courses have already been introduced with great success online. Gamification and game-based learning work especially well with online education. The following are some examples of popular eLearning sites that use gamification successfully:

  • Duolingo: Duolingo is a language learning website with over 300 million users. They teach 22 different languages and use gamification in every lesson to make learning a new language fun.
  • Khan Academy: Khan Academy is a well known educational website for match, science and other subjects that use gamification to encourage and motivate students. Each answer is immediately scored and points are given if correct. Badges are also awarded
  • TedEd: TedEd provides all types of videos that are both entertaining and educational. They also have a web app that allows users to make their own video lessons that are actionable.

There are all kinds of game-based learning tools and gamification platforms available to educators now. Without a doubt this seems to be the wave of the future in education.

 Author’s Bio: Mary Colbert is a huge fan of gaming in general. Not only is she fond of gaming as a form of entertainment, she is a firm believer in the educational benefits of playing games.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

5 eLearning Trends to Watch Out for in 2019 [INFOGRAPHIC]

The following is a guest post by Shristi Patni, content writer and Chief Content Officer at Raletta and PR Bulls. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us 

2018 was one hectic year for eLearning, where a lot of newer trends gained traction. But what does this mean for 2019? What are the top eLearning trends to watch out for this year? We bring you 5 insightful and informative eLearning trends in this Infographic.

This infographic was made by Navrajvir Singh, content writer at F and B Stories and Sassy Stree.

Author’s Bio: Shristi is the Chief Content Officer at Raletta (Digital Marketing Agency), and PR Bulls (Content Marketing Agency). She enjoys writing about food, fitness, finance and everything in between.

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.

E-Learning Trends for the New School Year

As we near the start of the 2016-2017 school year, let’s take a look at what researchers at Aurion Learning predicted would be the e-learning trends for 2016. How are we holding up? Did their predictions hold? What can we do to make sure we meet all of these expectations before the close of the calendar year? Click on their infographic below for more information.

10 eLearning Trends to Watch in 2016 Infographic

For more information and a great webinar on e-Learning trends, visit




Defining Gaming in Education

It is wise to be wary of buzzwords. Always a hot topic, online education is filled with clever phrases and popular new ideas which are often mentioned but not fully understood. It is worthwhile for any administrator, instructor, and student to be armed with a clear comprehension of key terms in order to participate in discussions about the subject.

One such topic is gaming and education. By now, most educators agree that games, when employed correctly, are useful teaching tools and can markedly enhance a student’s grasp of a concept. However, three gaming terms, “gaming,” “game-based learning,” and “gamification” are repeatedly mistaken for one another and used in incorrect contexts.

Below are simple definitions which illustrate core differences between the terms:

Gaming – Playing a game in which the primary purpose is to have fun.

Game-based Learning – Playing a game in which the primary purpose is to learn.

Gamification – Structuring a learning environment to be like a game and in which players receive rewards as motivation for learning.

This helpful infographic from Upside Learning outlines the major differences between gaming, game-based learning, and gamification. Take a look to discover the distinctions between them and the different roles that they play in education.

Games vs Game-based Learning vs Gamification Infographic

Source: Upside Learning

5 Ways to Make Your Class More Like a Game

game gamification

Picture a teenager bent over a videogame, intent to master Level 99 and conquer the world. Contrast that image with the image of a student trying to master a long list of terms for his class in Anatomy & Physiology. Why is the former student so motivated, and the latter is itching to get away?

Game designers make use of certain elements and strategies that draw players into the game and motivate them to keep on playing.

In a recent post on Edudemic, Douglas Kiang suggests 5 creative ways to incorporate gaming elements into your course:

  1. Games often have a community of players who maintain a constant online presence for the game, so that the game becomes a world of its own. To use the power of community in your course, consider setting up a forum for the students to interact with each other online – for example, set up a chatroom where they can discuss their learning, or make a special online event for all students to watch your video lecture at the same time. Building a community of learners will help students feel like there is something bigger going on beyond themselves and their indvidual study sessions.
  2. Break up tests into smaller, more frequent quizzes. This strategy will help diminish the nervousness and pressure that students feel when they face a huge exam and are dreading a dramatic “GAME OVER.” Offering these mini-quizzes will not only check for student understanding but also can help boost their confidence along the way.
  3. Offer multiple paths to success; let your students work on assignments in the order they prefer. Incorporate flexibility and choice into your course as much as possible, because students will learn best when their personal preferences are taken into consideration.
  4. Employ instructional scaffolding techniques: Just as games often offer a tutorial level before gamers start to play the real game, your course should be designed so that it starts with simple skills and builds upon those skills in a gradual process. Consider offering badges when students gain specific skills or pass certain “levels” in your class.
  5. Help students find purpose and meaning in their work. Let students set their own goals or build something meaningful for society. Game designers know that you have to give players some sort of goal to be working toward, like defending against evil or building a world empire. Having a sense of meaning and purpose helps students feel like all their efforts are really worthwhile.

Have you tried any of these gaming techniques in your class before? How do you think professors can get students to feel more “hooked” on their courses?

Neuroscience Research Shows that Uncertain Reward Systems Enhance Learning


Educational programs that provide uncertain rewards are highly effective at promoting memory retention in the brain, says Dr. Paul Howard-Jones, a leading expert on the role of neuroscience in educational practice and policy.

It all starts with dopamine, a neurotransmitter (chemical) in the brain that plays a key role in retention of information, attention, and synaptoplasticity (learning).

According to neuroscience research, more dopamine in the brain correlates with a greater likelihood that students will remember what they learned. Dopamine must be present in the brain at the same time as when the information is presented to the student; otherwise, the information simply goes in one ear and out the other.

Therefore, the key question educators are asking is: How can we design educational experiences that will result in the highest levels of dopamine release?

Dr. Howard-Jones explains that offering uncertain rewards to students is the best way to stimulate dopamine release. Educational experiences that offer rewards on either a predictable or wholly unexpected basis produce a significantly lower dopamine spike, compared to programs that offer a 50% chance of receiving rewards for specific behaviors.

Video games are so addicting because they utilize a reward system that works in this unpredictable manner. The high dopamine release that happens in the brain when children play video games has been compared to the powerful effects of psychostimulant drugs like methylphenidate (ritalin).

What does all this mean for education? It means that the more we incorporate systems of uncertain rewards into educational games or assignments, the more engaging and effective the learning experience will be. For example, professors might consider providing unexpected bonus points for answering certain quiz questions correctly.

For a more detailed explanation, watch the video below from Dr. Howard-Jones’s presentation at the Learning Without Frontiers Conference, London, January 26th 2012.

Dr Paul Howard-Jones – Neuroscience, Games & Learning uploaded to YouTube by Learning Without Frontiers

Do Online Games and Video Games Promote Social Emotional Learning?


Parents and educators tend to discourage teens from playing online games or video games, thinking that the games encourage isolation and a degradation of interpersonal skills.

Surprisingly, however, some educators believe that video games might actually help students develop crucial skills that improve their self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal relationships. According to Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D., playing online games or video games can promote each of the 5 core competencies of social emotional learning:

  1. Self-awareness – When progressing through the levels of a game, individuals receive constant feedback about their performance and become aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Players also have the opportunity to adopt “virtual identities” and encounter novel experiences. Observing their own choices and behaviors in these virtual situations offers players a better understanding of themselves.
  2. Self-management – In order to reach goals, win contests, and claim achievements, players must overcome feelings of frustration or failure and instead develop patience and perseverance.

    Another reason why games promote emotional management is that playing games allows people to abandon their negative moods (e.g. boredom, stress, loneliness, frustration, or anxiousness) and instead take on positive emotional states that game-playing tends to stimulate (e.g. curiosity, excitement, awe, wonder, relief, pride, or connection to other players).

    Furthermore, gesture-based games (played using devices such as the Kinect and Nintendo Wii) can help regulate emotions through the physical-feedback effect.

  3. Social Awareness – Games that are played in online communities promote social awareness because they encourage players to engage in cooperative play, trading, negotiation, and sometimes even compassion or altruism.
  4. Relationship Skills – When working in teams, game-players develop negotiation skills and conflict-resolution skills. Even when playing one-player games, individuals can develop relationship skills by sharing tips with their classmates or other players around the world.
  5. Responsible decision-making – Many games require players to practice responsible decision-making as they weigh in factors related to ethics, safety, social norms, respect for others. Players learn to recognize the consequences of their choices and develop skills in problem-solving, recognizing patterns, and strategizing.

So, what’s the final verdict? Do video games promote or impede the development of social emotional skills? Are games a dangerous path to isolation, or should they be an integral part of any educational program’s curriculum?

Gamification in Higher Ed


Games are typically played when taking a break from schoolwork or studying, but in recent years, game-playing has become a part of the learning process itself. As new technologies emerge and online education becomes more popular, an increasing number of educational institutions are using gamification as part of their teaching strategies.

Gamification – also known as Game-Based Learning (GBL) – refers to the incorporation of game mechanics into non-game situations in order to boost motivation, creativity, and productivity.

Features of games that are used in gamification include:

  • Incentives – either internal, or external
  • Point systems
  • Receiving badges for achievements
  • Competition
  • Leaderboards – a way for players to track their ranking in comparison to other players
  • Incremental progress
  • Quests and challenges
  • Epic Meaning – making players feel that they are working to achieve a worthwhile and meaningful goal

A great example of gamification for education is Duolingo, a massive open online collaboration website that allows students to learn new languages while simultaneously translating real documents and webpages. Students receive skill points and bonuses as they achieve goals and progress to higher levels. Feedback is provided by fellow students and by the game itself.

Duolingo is just one example of the tremendous educational achievements that can be reached when gamification is used to make the learning process more enjoyable. Check out these Top 10 Education Gamification Examples to see more creative applications of game mechanics in learning.

According to the NMC Horizon Report of 2013, gamification is expected to enter into mainstream use in higher education within the next 2-3 years.