Thursday, April 30, 2015

Engage Students with Game-Based Learning (GBL)

As an Instructional Designer or Educator, you always aspire to make your course content as ‘sticky’ as possible. You try your level best to engage learners in thoughtful learning even after they have left the room or finished the course. Knowing also this, it’s apparent that you do understand that something that fascinates almost every person is playing games. Then why not use games to engage learners?

Wikipedia defines Game-based learning (GBL) as a type of game play that has defined learning outcomes. Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with game play and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world. In simple words, GBL aims to teach/educate a learner on discrete skills or specific outcomes while the learner is playing a game.

So, how exactly should you engage students with games?
It’s easy; design games that are educative, catchy and addictive; this helps learners to think about solving the problem even when they aren't doing something else and playing the game. Allow learners to explore the relevant aspect of games in a learning context designed in game form.

Some tips on using gaming principles to make learning interesting:

A story is process that leads the learners to the final result/achievement. Design games that have an engrossing storyline.  Learners generally place themselves in the story and this keeps them engrossed till the end.

2.Multiple Paths
Build multiple paths to success into your course. Consider mini quests, these assist learners to explore different paths and solutions.

3.Level of Difficulty
Consider building self-paced learning by scaffolding each student's progress through the early levels of the course. Provide positive feedbacks for accomplishing simple and small tasks that gradually turn more challenging with each level.

4.Guide the learner to achieve goals
It’s very important that the learner is aware of what needs to be done and what is the purpose of doing something. Hand hold the learner at every level, else the learner will be put off and will not return. Use different strategies (text, pictures, character, and sound) to explain the goal and the reward in return.

5.Challenging to carry on
Think about it, if the game is not challenging, will you prefer playing it? Every game needs to be challenging for the learner to be engaged and to carry on with it.

6.Focus on the learning outcomes
Be fully aware of what the learning outcome of the game needs to be. If the audience of your game is learners who expect to understand Newton’s Law, make sure that they are able to identify different laws by the end of the game. GBL is successful if you can meet the gamer’s expectations by the end of the game.

7.Real World scenarios
Create real world scenarios that learners can relate to easily. These kinds of games motivate learners as they can relate easily to them and find its relevance too. This type of hands-on should ideally be a complete approach from start to finish.

The entire purpose of GBL is to build an amazing learning experience by focusing on the actual outcomes and skills rather than grades.

Have you gamified your course? Which games do you use to engage your learners? Please share your findings and best practices in the comments below.


  1. Thanks for the post, my thoughts on gamification are pretty similar. I do think it’s the best way to engage learners and make an online course an unmemorable experience. I believe one of the most appreciated gamification elements are rewards such as budges or even points. This way learners’ self-esteem may increase as well as their engagement.

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