Foundations and Benefits of Game-Based Learning

By eLearning Inside
December 22, 2020

Gaming elements have long been used in education. In recent years, game-based learning has become a trend with a broad range of applications. Educators use it across various disciplines to enhance collaboration, help students to grasp a tough lesson, or even structure an entire course in the form of a game. Let us have a closer look at game-based learning with its advantages and most effective practices.

What Is Game-Based Learning?

Game-based learning is a practice that brings gaming elements and principles into the educational process. Their use is tied to learning objectives. Teachers may employ a game as an individual learning activity or apply it during the whole course. Game-based learning creates a dynamic environment where students feel emotionally engaged in the process of learning. They get an opportunity to collaborate with peers and practice vital skills.

Game-based learning involves both digital or non-digital games with elements of simulations. This allows transferring theoretical material into real life, making routine assignments more exciting. Experimenting in a risk-free setting, students get hands-on experience. They learn how to solve problems and develop creative thinking. Thus, the use of gaming elements in the learning context enhances academic outcomes.

The pedagogy is increasingly becoming more effective and an evolved means to incorporate games in education. It’s all about using a game to teach new or difficult concepts in a fun and engaging way. For example, SplashLearn has a game for preschoolers in which players help cute characters called Oolzoos get on or off a train based on the numbers that appear on the train cars. The game is engaging, interactive and fun for youngsters – and it is designed to be sticky, because kids at this age are drawn to interactive entertainment.

With game-based learning, students learn on their own in an environment where they are willing to persevere, solve problems and derive connections that would lead to long-lasting learning outcomes. The learning experience itself is the reward, rather than students receiving superficial rewards after finishing a lesson. This knowledge helps de-stigmatize game-based learning among educators who may have viewed digital games as a learning deterrent in the past.

How Does It Work?

Game-based learning can be effective only if it is customized to students’ needs. Teachers should balance the content of a lesson with gaming elements. Setting rules and goals can help to accomplish it. Besides, it is helpful to include a story and a gaming language as a content-delivery mechanism. This increases student engagement and creates an environment that encourages reflection and openness.

A person holds an uno hand.
Robbin Wong, Unsplash.

A game-based activity cannot be limited to cramming. It is an interactive process with a broad range of applications. Educators need to create a set of challenges that are organized into levels. Such a structure allows students to earn their way up, staying motivated. The aim of an instructor is to monitor the process and provide feedback. He or she should manage a progress bar and set milestones.

Some teachers also elect to adopt aspects of games into their teaching. This is known as gamification. For example, a point system can help to acknowledge students’ achievements. They may receive points for reaching a particular milestone or completing additional assignments. Teachers can also create leaderboards to introduce the elements of competition. Having collected a certain number of points, students get a badge. The aim of this reward is to recognize their success. It is also possible to include academic awards. For example, participants can get some extra time for completing a paper or homework tips from a teacher.

These practices have already been realized in schools and universities. For instance, the University of Michigan uses GradeCraft, a learning management system. It helps instructors to develop game-like courses and increase student engagement. Another example is the American University Game Lab. It specializes in experiential learning and innovative digital solutions for game-based education.

Benefits of Game-Based Learning

Game-based learning impacts students’ behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and perceptual wellbeing. It is associated with improved learning outcomes and motivation among students of different age groups. Here are some of the most evident advantages of game-based learning.


Games are motivational and inspiring in their nature. They help to sustain engagement as classroom activities become fun and refreshing. Gaming elements improve students’ learning behavior. The level system and badges encourage them to reach individual achievements and get recognition in the form of rewards and competencies that they can unlock during the process.


The gaming process creates an atmosphere of healthy competition. Students do not even compete with peers. They rather try to do better to meet their own learning objectives. It awakens the desire to study more effectively to reach the set milestones. Such an environment also catalyzes a growth mindset that allows a person to improve oneself continuously and explore opportunities that can help to get better results in education and life.


Game-based learning encourages creativity and flexibility in problem-solving. Any game is a problem or riddle that needs to be fixed. It serves educational purposes as students get inspired to seek innovative solutions. As essay reviews show, students who take game-based classes become better at writing as they get more creative and think outside the box. Indeed, games allow learners to try new behaviors. Students immerse themselves in a creative environment where they put forward their ideas.


Game-based learning can offer different characters and activities for students. Besides, the availability of both digital and non-digital games helps to increase participation. It gives each student a comfortable environment to learn and collaborate with others. Students are free to choose roles and the type of participation. It helps to meet diverse needs in both social and learning contexts, offering inclusive education. Students get to learn and share their experiences in a safe environment that values the contribution of all members.

Promising Future Perspectives of Game-Based Learning

Game-based learning is a full-blown trend in education. It has the potential to enhance competency-based training. It provides students with some extra support for better skill development and knowledge retention. Gaming elements increase students’ motivation, cognitive load, and performance. Game-based learning has the potential to transform traditional teaching practices and bring fun and enjoyable activities in academic settings.

Featured Image: Rahul Pabolu, Unsplash.


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