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Gamification vs games

Gamification canvasGames and Play are a natural way to learn. Educational Games (or serious games) are designed to acquire or improve knowledge and skills as defined by learning outcomes. Designing a quality educational game requires skill and a high investment of time. On the other hand, Gamification is the use of game-like elements  in non-game contexts. For learning and development providers, this is an important difference. Games can be expensive to develop and implement, whereas gamification strategies can be simple and subtle. This is the first in a series of blog posts that explores gamification and how it can be applied in learning and development.

We don’t have to look far for sites that include game elements. Linked-in, a site that many of us are familiar with, makes use of gamification strategies. It is not a game in itself, it utilises strategies. For example

  • A Progress Bar – to encourage completion of profile information during the onboarding phase. Once complete you have access to additional features.
  • Leaderboards – Top Influencers, Most Popular Discussions.
  • Feedback – Group membership growth, Likes.

Applied in a learning and development context means reviewing your content to include game elements – not looking to develop a fully functioning game. The goal of gamification is to get higher engagement, increased productivity and higher levels of retention/completion. You can start by borrowing elements from games and applying them in your Learning Design.

To get started, have a look at my Moodle for Motivation guide.

The Moodle for Motivation guide, Moodle activities are matched to Bartle’s Player Types: Achievers, Socialisers, Explorers and Killers. It provides a simple at-a-glance reference for starting to use gamified techniques in your Moodle course development. Although we play multiple roles and change the roles we play over time, understanding these stereotypes can provide insight into the wide range of motivations behind participants’ actions. The guide is adapted from the Moodle Tool Guides produced by Joyce Seitzinger and Gavin Henrick.

Future blog posts will explore some background concepts in the field of gamification, provide links to recommended readings, and a recording of my presentation for my Moodle Moot AU 2013 – “Moodle Gradebook and Gamification” presentation. I will also describe the Bartle Player Types and some alternate frameworks to assist educators in understanding what motivates and (de-motivates) participants. I will be inviting some experts in this field to join us for discussions around why gamification projects fail and the risks we need to be aware of when using badges and reward systems.

Until then, here are some things to ponder. Watch some toddlers playing and consider what they are learning, and how they are learning. Compare this to how primary and secondary students play. What are they learning, and how are they learning? Has it changed over time? Please make a comment below about your observations.

Join the ‘Moodle for Motivation‘ Linked In Group

Elements from games can be used in learning and development settings to motivate learners. Practitioners who are putting this into practice in their classrooms and are invited to share their tips with others. This group is about using Moodle LMS to deliver blended or distance learning. Moodle offers a set of tools for all teachers to use as they require to suit their lesson plans, their teaching styles and the learner’s preferences. How are you using these tools?

If you are interested in chatting about how to incorporate gamification in your learning and development, get in touch at

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