Gamification And Serious Games: Differences And Benefits eLearning Pros Need To Know?
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Differences Between Gamification And Serious Games

Gamification and serious games are often grouped together. It's true that they both motivate online learners and enhance their eLearning experience. However, there are certain characteristics that set them apart. As such, it's important to distinguish these two eLearning strategies so that you can find the best solution for your eLearning course.

Let's take a closer look at what differentiates gamification from serious games.

What Is Gamification?

Gamification blends game mechanics with traditional eLearning activities and modules. Leaderboards, points, and eLearning badges add that extra incentive online learners need to actively participate. You can also use levels to fuel their motivation, which also serve as eLearning benchmarks. For example, online learners must complete the first eLearning module in order to unlock the next level. Choosing the right game mechanics is of the upmost importance. You must conduct in depth audience research to determine what drives them. For some, leaderboards may cater to their need for friendly competition. While others prefer to earn eLearning badges, points, and other asynchronous rewards.

What Are Serious Games?

Serious games follow the typical game structure, but also have some form of training value. For example, online learners must overcome a series of in-game obstacles in order to build essential skills. Serious games are fun, entertaining, and interactive. However, they also align with specific learning objectives and goals. While gamification involves the traditional eLearning course structure, serious games can exist independently. That being said, they are ideally suited for positive reinforcement and "just-in-time" online training. As a result, serious games should NOT be standalone eLearning activities, and are a great addition to comprehensive eLearning courses.

4 Common Benefits Of Gamification And Serious Games In eLearning

Though they may have their differences, gamified eLearning and serious games have many benefits in common, such as:

1. Motivate Online Learners

One of the most significant advantages of gamification and serious games is their power to motivate online learners. Some online learners may already be intrinsically motivated to reach their goals. However, there are others who need that extra nudge to actively participate. For example, the chance to earn an eLearning badge or collect more points. Even intangible rewards can give them the boost they need to achieve the desired outcome. These approaches are also more immersive and engaging, which takes boredom out of the equation.

2. Put Knowledge Into Practice

Both serious games and gamified eLearning courses blend fictional elements with real world situations. For example, an eLearning character encounters the same real life challenges as your audience. This gives your online learners the rare ability to put their knowledge into practice and try out different approaches. They can apply all of their skills and newfound information to overcome obstacles and advance to the next level. Online learners may think that they're just trying to earn an eLearning badge, but in reality they are gaining real world experience without the risk.

3.  Spark Friendly Competition

Friendly competition drives online learners to do their best and outdo their peers. Serious games and gamified eLearning pit online learners against one another, and allow them to test their own mettle. One of the most effective game mechanics for this purpose is leaderboards. Online learners compete to the reach the top of the board and prove that they have what it takes to succeed. However, there is a catch. Certain online learners may find leaderboards off-putting. As such, you should always give them the chance to opt-out and offer alternative gaming rewards. For example, certificates or unlockable objects.

4. Facilitate Mistake-Driven Learning

Mistakes can be valuable teachers. They show us what we need to work on and where we excel. Both gamification and serious games involve an incentive-based system. As a result, online learners get the immediate feedback they need to identify areas for improvement. Everyone is able to make mistakes and fine tune their strategy in a safe environment. For instance, an online learner doesn't earn the points they need or is unable to advance to the next level. This indicates that they have a performance or skill gap holding them back. They are also able to see the outcome and repercussions of their behaviors before they enter the real world. Every mistake online learners make is a chance to improve and reflect on their cognitions.

How To Measure Serious Game And Gamification Effectiveness

This eLearning approach isn't all fun and games! Gamification and serious games give you the ability to track online learner performance and eLearning effectiveness. One of the best ways to accomplish this is using a Learning Management System with robust reporting and analytics. Many platforms allow you to monitor online learner progress and completion times. As such, you can identify areas of the serious game or gamified eLearning course that need some extra work. For example, the data reveals that 50% of your online learners can't make it past the third level or are unable to unlock the relevant badges. Thus, you're able to fine tune your eLearning strategy and give online learners the additional resources they require.

Gamification and serious games can offer your online learners a myriad of benefits. But you have to choose the ideal approach based on the subject matter, objectives, and learner needs. Ultimately, it's all about motivation. Which eLearning strategy offers the right rewards and encourages active participation? More importantly, which influences favorable learning behaviors and fills the performance gaps?

Motivate your learners with the best Gamification LMS
Find, choose and compare the top Learning Management Systems with Rich Gamification Functionality!

Do you know if you're online learners are truly prepared for levels, badges, and leaderboards? Read the article 5 Tell-Tale Signs That Your Online Learners Are Ready For Gamification to discover the top signs that your online learners are ready for gamification.

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