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Oct 13, 2016 Katelind Hays

Reengaging Learners Using Gamification and Game-Based Learning

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BYTE Session Recap

Karl Kapp, gamification expert and friend of InSync Training, recently helped BYTE session attendees "solve the case of the disengaged learner," and provided detailed recommendations for effectively including games in our instructional designs.

This blog post will define the differences between gamification and games in learning, the various types of gamification, and the science behind why our learners’ brains respond positively to gamified learning programs.

To learn more from Karl, access his full BYTE session recording here.

Games vs Gamification: What’s the Difference?

As with most training trends, confusion surrounds the details around games in learning versus gamification. Karl kicked off the session with an in-depth, descriptive overview of both concepts, saying:

  • Gamification uses parts of games, but is not a game itself. It’s not about fun. It’s about using elements from games that are engaging in the design of learning.”
  • Game-based learning is teaching using a self-contained game. There is a definite beginning, middle, and end to the game, and the inclusion of a lot of different elements.”

It’s important to note that there’s no exact science when it comes to defining how many game elements constitute gamified learning versus game-based learning. The focus when using these approaches should be on generating learner engagement, because learners don’t learn when they’re not engaged.

Types of Gamification

Gamification has the ability to create engaging learning experiences and promote better information retention. Karl explained that the two distinct types of gamification accomplish those goals in different ways:

  • Gamification Type 1: Structural
    • “Structural gamification uses game elements to propel learners through content without any change to content. They primarily use points, badges, and leadership boards. Purposefully designing each element promotes engagement. Points should be awarded to learners for performance, not participation. Badges should recognize content competency. And leaderboards should use learning objectives as goals, and be focused on group, not individual, performance.”
  • Gamification Type 2: Content
    • “Content gamification uses game thinking and game design to alter the content of a learning program to make it more game-like. Elements of content gamification include challenge, story, characters, and missions.”

Making Gamification Work: The Neuroscience

When designing gamification for training, or game-based learning, Karl urged us to include two specific neuroscience-grounded concepts in our design.

The first key to making gamification work is “spaced retrieval.” This concept, also known as distributed practice, involves sharing little bits of information with learners over an extended period of time. Many gamification applications use spaced retrieval.

The second key to making gamification work is “retrieval practice,” which requires students to recall content to enhance the learning. Scientifically, Karl explained, “recall creates better neuropathways to the content you want to have retrieved” when compared to the recall levels achieved when learners re-read or re-listen to content.

Combining spaced retrieval and retrieval practice in your gamification design creates powerful, engaging programs.

For more information about the power of narrative in learning, research examples supportive of gamification in learning, additional resources, and where and how to start designing your learning games, access the full BYTE recording here.


Published by Katelind Hays October 13, 2016
Katelind Hays