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Digital Pedagogy - A Guide for Librarians, Faculty, and Students

This guide is meant to inform the user about Digital Pedagogy. It includes information on educational theory, a collection of case studies, and resources relevant to the study of digital pedagogy.

What is Game Based Learning?

What is Game Based Learning and Gamification?

Since the early 2000s, there has been a trend of using game elements within education, for a variety of reasons. There are some basic definitions around gaming cultures that need to be understood, in order to fully appreciate the literature. These include the term Games, Gamification, and Game Based Learning (Please see text box below). In 2012, the NMC Horizon Report stated that Game Based Learning has gained considerable traction since 2013, when James Gee described its impact on cognitive development. The report describes the numerous benefits of games, and states that these benefits, (role-playing, collaborative problem solving, and simulated experiences) “are recognized for having broad applicability across a wide range of disciplines.”

According to Educause’s 7 Things That You Should Know About Gaming, the interactive dynamic of games has the potential to positively impact teaching and learning, and the there is an increasing use of game mechanics in higher education, with faculty members frequently overlaying game elements into courses. It includes:

  • Creating gaming activities that deliver content

  • Structuring an entire course as a game

  • Can include a diiverse matrix of approaches that result in “gameful learning”

Games and Gamification

Definitions: Game, Gamification, Game Based Learning


A game is an activity normally done for leisure, and it may or may not have defined rules. Typically,winning and losing are a part of the process, and playing the game is the  primary objective, with the reward being secondary. It is usually hard and expensive to build and scenes and story are part of a game



According to Steven Isaacs article, "The Difference Between Gamification and Game-Based Learning," gamification is the process of adding game elements to a non-game situation. A typical example outside of education include corporate reward programs. In the classroom, gamification implies the integration in a more genuine manner in some ways, where in some instances, the classroom has become a living, breathing game. An example of this would be 3D GameLab, a software technology that generates quest-based games where, in lieu of a traditional grading system, students work to earn experience points and level up. Rather than using traditional approaches, gamification uses badges, points,and other rewards that allows students to design their own quest and go at their own pace, boosting student engagement.

Game Based Learning:

According to Isaacs, Games Based Learning is the use of games to enhance the learning experience of the student. Teachers have been using games for years in order to give students real world experience. In his article, Isaacs describes the experience of participating in his economics class, where students chose stocks on the stock market, and monitored them for a period of time. Isaacs states that when it is tied to the curriculum, games become powerful because they are highly engaging and related to the student’s world. According to the the elearing infographics, Game Based Learning are closely tied to learning objectives. The incorporation of losing/winning may or may not be possible because the point is to motivate someone to do something and learn in the end, and it is often the case that playing is intrinsically rewarding. Content or that which is meant to be learned, is usually morphed to fit the story.


The chart below, condensed from the eLearning Infographics Diagram, shows the difference between gamification and game-based learning:



Game-Based Learning

- Adding Game inspired elements to your courses

- Applying Game Based mechanics to a non-game environment to encourage better behavior

- Typically incorporates a reward system

-  Points might be used to substitute for grades

- Providing a choice in learning path

- Using games to meet learning outcomes

- Learning comes from playing the game

- Promotes critical thinking and problem solving

- Digital or non-digital

- Might involve simulation to allow students to experience the learning