The Hero’s Learning Journey

The purpose of this paper is to discuss how educators can harness the natural momentum of learning to create a dramatic and exciting hero’s learning journey. Given the importance of motivation, educators can borrow ideas from game designers by using gamification – a process to re-frame a real life goal to be more appealing and achievable. A series of learning activities, developed to meet both cognitive and emotional needs, results in an engaging learning journey.

The concept presented, based on PSI Theory, OCEAN Big Five character traits and player/learner archetypes, is that learners are motivated by three basic needs: affiliation, competence or certainty (assuming other physiological needs are met).

Armed with insight into types of motivations at different phases, learner experience designers can create different learning journeys and user profiles. Learning activities can be planned for each need and phase based on changing motivations: collaborate and curate (affiliation), choice and ownership (certainty), challenge and accountability (competence).

Further research is needed in the area of gamification in education. A qualitative study should be conducted on preferred learning and assessment activities for each player archetype and, importantly, this research should represent broad samples and not be restricted to the online gaming community.

Rather than focussing on an isolated unit of study, and asynchronous eLearning modules, learning designers can use modern technologies to seed and nurture learning communities where each person has an appealing pathway to enable them to move from novice to expert at their own pace in a spiral of satisfying learning.

Tap or click to view full size images of the figures used in the article:


Figure 1: Genetics and non-shared environments affect an individual level of enjoyment in educational activities
Figure 2: Play and Game Genres


Natalie Denmeade
Figure 3: The Hero’ s Journey adapted from Campbell and Bartle
Figure 3b: Joseph Campbell’s original Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949)
Figure 4: PSI Theory of Emotions analogy of fuel tanks to explain motivation
Figure 5: Active need combinations – images via Blog of Monica Mayer
Figure 7: OCEAN Big 5 and Game preference correlation – Jason VandenBerghe – slide from GDC
Figure 8: Multidimensional scaling to identify correlation between variables in gaming motivation (Quantic website)
Figure 9: Combining Bartle, Mayer (Dörner) and the OCEAN Big 5.

Figure 10: A blank Hero’s Learning Journey Planner
Figure 11: Example of a completed Hero’s Learning Journey – with points and levels
Figure 12: Bartle Player Tracks