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Motor shield vs Motor driver

I'm building a simple robot and have a L298N motor drive board to sit between the Pi's 3.3v GPIO, the 5v battery pack and the motors.

However I frequently see "motor shields" popping up. What is the different between a motor drive board (which costs a few quid) and a shield board (that costs 10s of pounds)? And importantly am I putting my Pi at risk by omitting a shield?

I've tried googling but not seen anything that explains the different between the two.