top of page

Dr. Elysa Kelly


University College dublin




Adventure-Based Learning, Self-Guided Learning, STEM, 3D Printing, 3D Modelling

Thesis Title

Exploring the Impact of Adventure-Based Learning, Combined with 3D Printing, and 3D Modelling, on Self-Guided Learning of STEM Subjects


Creative learning methods both in person and online in teaching and learning environments that extend beyond standard pedagogic models, have become more prevalent around the world in recent years. The OECD (2008) has recognised that due to the development of knowledge-based, creative economies in the 21st century, changes to both learning methods and the learning environment are needed, stating that improvements to these areas can benefit student engagement, motivation, and knowledge retention. This research aims to discover whether the presentation of content through multiple methods and styles, aided by adventure-based learning, 3D printing, and 3D modelling, can be seen to improve students’ learning experiences, engagement, and knowledge of STEM subjects. Math topics were chosen known to present challenges to a majority of students; and relevant content assembled into an accessible, low cost technological platform which can be viewed through a web browser. The developed platform presents content in multiple methods, and allows for student learning, exploration, revision, and practice of the topic. It also connects theoretical concepts with real world practical applications through the use of 3D printed objects and challenges, creating an interactive learning environment.

This research uses a mixed methods convergent parallel approach to test the impact of the developed learning platform through a case study. Data collection methods include pre and post questionnaires, pre and post quizzes, small group discussion, and researcher observations. The developed learning platform, entitled the Exploring Education Learning Adventure, was then tested in an Irish school. The study results clearly show the positive effects of using the developed platform on both the users’ learning experience and their knowledge of STEM subjects: participants achieved an average grade of 83% when tested on content learned during the session, with 96% stating they learned something new, and 100% stating they enjoyed participating in the study. The results also show that 3D printing and 3D modelling helped participants to understand the concepts. 72% of participants found 3D printing helpful, while 82% of participants found 3D modelling helpful. It is clear from the results that the alternative learning methods used in the developed platform are highly effective and engaging for students. This confirms that the developed platform is an effective tool for teaching content to students, increasing their engagement with and enjoyment of the learning process, as well as facilitating their knowledge gains in a timely manner.

This thesis, combined with the practical research data and platform submitted as part of the practice-based PhD comprise an original and substantial contribution to the field of alternative learning methods, with impact for the areas of self-guided learning, and education. This work is intended to benefit future scholars, teachers, parents, facilitators, and most importantly, individual learners; and to provide a resource for use in creative learning environments.



Elysa Kelly is a researcher, coach, musician, and linguist. Her research interests are informal education, STEM & STEAM, learning, creative technologies, and music.

Throughout her early education Elysa developed a deep understanding of the importance of self-guided learning environments. She experimented with technology as a tool for learning, including a number of online learning methods. Elysa also worked as a science and technology communicator for robotics, electronics, and computing workshops. Using her knowledge across STEM, education, and the arts, Elysa is designing new systems for learning in different contexts.

Elysa completed her PhD with SMARTlab. Her PhD title was: Exploring the Impact of Adventure-Based Learning, Combined with 3D Printing, and 3D Modelling, on Self-Guided Learning of STEM Subjects. For her PhD she created a learning adventure platform that allows for teaching and learning of math theory, practice, and practical application using 3D printed objects.

Elysa has also completed a BA in music and linguistics, and a BMus, both with first class honours, she written a number of songs, and released three singles. She is currently writing and recording new music. Her next song is in production for release later this year. For more information see

bottom of page