Meet the faculty team for BioEngineering Senior Design

Opportunities for Innovation: Game-based Learning in an Engineering Senior Design Course


Game-based learning is a novel approach for teaching a studio design course, especially in engineering. As a field, engineering is innovative by nature but has a strong emphasis on thinking in a logical, analytical, organized, and structured way. This way of thinking serves graduates well, but professional engineers also need to be able to think creatively, problem solve, and work well with a team (ABET, 2014; Felder, 1996; Herrmann, 1995; Lumsdaine & Lumsdaine, 1995; Shuman, Besterfield-Sacre, & McGourty, 2005; Walesh, 2012).

This study compared two sections of a Bioengineering Senior Design course. The control section was taught primarily with seventy-five minute lectures. The intervention used a flipped classroom approach. Students consumed the course content prior to coming to class through readings, lecture notes, and videos. The seventy-five-minute classroom time was used to emphasize domain content and develop 21st Century Skills through games and activities. The intervention was developed using the Cognitive Apprenticeship framework (Collins & Kapur, 2014; Mitterer & John, 2006; Pieters & de Bruijn, 1992; Stalmeijer, 2015). In this framework, learning is focused on understanding how an expert in the field thinks about their tasks and teaching students how to replicate and apply those thought processes.

Three research questions were investigated for this study. We wanted to understand what effect, if any, the delivery method had on student learning in two areas: the domain content and 21st Century Skills. In addition, this study examined the process a faculty-team undergoes converting and delivering a game-based course. Collection and analysis of the data used an embedded mixed methods approach (Creswell, 2013). Results did not conclusively indicate that game-based learning was a more effective method for teaching the course as students from both sections demonstrated acceptable levels of domain content learning. Analysis of the survey data suggested that control students had a higher self-efficacy regarding the entrepreneurship. However, the qualitative data indicated that the intervention section showed higher levels of 21st Century Skills. Directions for future research include looking at the balance of passive and active learning, modifying the terms used in the survey instrument, and adjusting the number of students in each class to promote better engagement with the games.

Erica B. Walker

PhD Candidate in Curriculum & Instruction and Lecturer in Graphic Communications

Lead on Dissertation Research

With a BFA in Film Production from University of Colorado, Boulder and a MS from Clemson in Graphic Communications, Erica's background in visual communications includes feature film production, web design, print buyer, marketer, and graphic design for print.

At Clemson University, Erica has connections with several departments including as a lecturer in Graphic Communications, as a PhD Candidate in the School of Education, and as a research partner in curriculum development with the BioEngineering department. Within the Department of Graphic Communications, Erica teaches courses in Photography, Video, Web Development, and Entrepreneurship.

One of her current research interests is entrepreneurship education across disciplines. For the past year, she has been working closely with the Bioengineering department as a curriculum developer to increase opportunities for entrepreneurial education and interactive learning in the senior design capstone course.

John D. DesJardins, PhD

Associate Professor

Lead Instructor in BIOE 4010

Dr. DesJardins is the Hambright Leadership associate professor in Bioengineering at Clemson University and the director of the Frank H. Stelling and C. Dayton Riddle Orthopaedic Education and Research Laboratory at CUBEInC.

He has co-authored over 200 peer-reviewed conference or journal publications in the areas of biomechanics, tribology, engineering education and implant design. He actively engages in many professional societies and review panels, including BMES, ASEE, VentureWell, ORS, NIH and NSF. His multi-disciplinary research teams have been funded through NASA, DoT, NIH, DoD, NSF, the Gates Foundation, and numerous biomedical industry contracts. His work has been featured on TEDx and The Academic Minute on NPR. He directs the bioengineering senior capstone design program, leads a bioengineering study abroad program in bioethics to Spain each summer, and he directs the NIH funded Clemson-GHS summer needs-finding experience for bioengineering students called DeFINE.

Breanne Przestrzelski

PhD Candidate in Bioengineering

Assistant Instructor in BIOE 4010

Breanne Przestrzelski is a University Innovation Fellow at Clemson University where she is pursuing her PhD in Bioengineering with a focus on innovation of biomedical devices and translation thereof through immersion of bioengineers in design and entrepreneurship opportunities.

The University Innovation Fellowship, which is a program of Epicenter and a joint-venture of VentureWell and Stanford University, has inspired Breanne to share her passion for design and entrepreneurship through a variety of initiatives she is helping to bring to Upstate South Carolina, one of which is through the innovative and game-based learning she is implementing in her role as co-instructor for the Bioengineering Senior Design class.

Breanne obtained her B.S. in May 2012 (research focus: nanomedicine technology) and her M.S. degree in August 2013 (research focus: glenoid loading and stability of the inlay verus onlay shoulder system) both from the Clemson University bioengineering department.

D. Matthew Boyer, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Digital Media & Learning

Dissertation Committee Chair

D. Matthew Boyer is an Assistant Professor of Digital Media and Learning at Clemson. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Shippensburg University, a Master of Education degree in Technology in Education from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Psychology & Educational Technology from Michigan State University.

At Clemson, Matthew teaches an undergraduate Teacher Education course, Foundations of Digital Media and Learning, and graduate courses in Qualitative Research methodology and the PhD program in Learning Sciences, including courses on game-based learning research, design, and development.

As a committed generalist, his research integrates a range of academic concepts and areas of study, looking at how people learn through mediated experiences with technology. His current research projects include work with game-based learning, learning analytics, professional learning, and learning environments, which are viewed in connection with digital media.

Prior to coming to Clemson, Matthew taught public elementary school for thirteen years in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, completed a post-doc at the National University of Singapore, and was an Assistant Professor at Yeditepe University in Turkey.

Lisa Benson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in Engineering and Science Education

Dissertation Committee

Lisa Benson is an Associate Professor of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University, with a joint appointment in Bioengineering. Her research focuses on the interactions between student motivation and their learning experiences. Her projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers and scientists, and their development of problem solving skills. Other projects in the Benson group include effects of student-centered instruction and undergraduate research on students’ self-regulation and learning, and incorporating engineering into secondary science and mathematics classrooms. Her education includes a B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Vermont, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Clemson University.

John Leininger, Ph.D.

Professor in Graphic Communications

Dissertation Committee

John Leininger has been a Professor of Graphic Communications at Clemson University for 28 years. His focus had been in print design and production, but as digital printing became practical and cost effective in the last decade he began to work with “Variable Data Printing” (VDP). The natural evolution was to combine mailing into his instructional plan. As the process continued, direct mail and marketing strategies became a foundation of all his teaching. The last four summers he has taught a class on “Mailing, Fulfillment and Marketing Services” as an on-campus class, distance learning class and industry webinar series.

John speaks at conferences throughout the year (including events like the National Postal Forum, Document Strategy Forum, On-Demand, Graph Expo, etc.) on variable data, database development, mailing and marketing services. His current research is focused on evaluating print design strategies with eye tracking software, marketing analytics through web tracking portals and using QR codes and hidden watermarks as marketing tools. Seven years ago John created the VDP Traveling Laptop Training Consortium and has conducted hands-on training across the country over 100 times. The training has showed over 1,600 people how to work with VDP and to maximize response rates and to optimize mail piece design to work within the USPS rules and regulations. Like his teaching, John’s training and presentation strategy reflects the philosophy in the Clemson University Department of Graphic Communication’s Mission Statement: To develop dedicated, practical problem solving people for the printing, publishing, imaging, packaging and allied industries.

Sean Williams, Ph.D.

Professor in Communications

Dissertation Committee

Sean D. Williams, PhD, is Professor of Professional Communication, Spiro Fellow for Entrepreneurship and Provost's Faculty Fellow at Clemson University. His career has followed the trajectory of digital commerce, starting with his doctoral research at the University of Washington-Seattle in the mid 1990s on persuasive user interface designs for commercial purposes. His early research focused on adapting naturally occurring communication patterns, such as turn-taking in conversations, to web-based interfaces to encourage deeper user engagement within the emerging field of e-commerce. In 2001, Professor Williams launched a company, Williams Intelligent Communications, LLC to capitalize on the insights of his research, helping large companies such as Bank of America, Bosch, Michelin and others develop more robust Internet capabilities for their brands. His company also developed one of the earliest distributed electronic records management (EMR) systems in the Southeast for a hospital system. After initially implementing the EMR system, the McKesson Corporation assumed management of the project.

Professor Williams also has been Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on multiple grants exploring the role of digital technologies in commerce and education and in 2008 he received significant funding from NSF to study interface design in 3D virtual worlds. As recognition for his work with digital technologies, in 2010-2011 Professor Williams was appointed as Senior Research Fellow at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) in Barcelona, Spain where he studied the role of social media in new enterprise development. In addition to his research that generated one of the first comprehensive studies of social media's role in entrepreneurship, Professor Williams began work with two technology startups in Spain, one an equity-based crowd funding platform integrated with social media and another student rewards platform. He continues work with the second, called, as an advisor. In 2015 to compete with "robot writing websites," he launched an online learning venture, called, to provide personalized, professional writing coaching to college students and young professionals. Also in 2015, Professor Williams was appointed to a position as advisor to Dr. James Clements, Co-Chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (United States Department of Commerce). In this role Professor Williams works extensively with NACIE members and is currently leading a NACIE project to craft the first "Innovation Encyclopedia," a curated list of the innovation measures, systems and tools used across the United States.

Finally, during his nearly 20 year career that blurs academic and commercial boundaries, Professor Williams has been author or co-author of two books, more than 80 papers, proceedings, white papers and research reports with his most recent work centered on comparative international entrepreneurship. He has designed and delivered nearly 20 unique courses focused on user experience design, visual communication, small business development, social enterprise development, digital literacy, and organizational communication as well as serving as the major advisor to over 70 graduate students.

Erica B. Walker PhD Candidate in Curriculum and Instruction at Clemson University, Lecturer in Graphic Communications
Erica B. Walker
Dr. DesJardins is the Hambright Leadership associate professor in Bioengineering at Clemson University
Dr. John DesJardins
Bre Przestrzelski is a PhD candidate in Bioengineering and a University Innovation Fellow
Bre Przestrzelski
Dr. Matthew Boyer is a professor in the Learning Sciences Department of the School of Education at Clemson University
Dr. Matthew Boyer
Dr. Lisa Benson is a professor in Engineering Education at Clemson University
Dr. Lisa Benson
Dr. John Leininger is a professor in Graphic Communications at Clemson University
Dr. John Leininger
Dr. Sean Williams is a professor in Communications at Clemson University
Dr. Sean Williams