Faculty Advisor

Neil Heffernan

Faculty Advisor

Joseph Beck

Faculty Advisor

Jacob Whitehill

Faculty Advisor

Adam Kalai

Faculty Advisor

Adam Sales


Personalized learning considers that the causal effects of a studied learning intervention may differ for the individual student (e.g., maybe girls do better with video hints while boys do better with text hints). To evaluate a learning intervention inside ASSISTments, we run a randomized control trial (RCT) by randomly assigning students into either a control condition or a treatment condition. Making the inference about causal effects of studies interventions is a central problem. Counterfactual inference answers “What if� questions, such as "Would this particular student benefit more if the student were given the video hint instead of the text hint when the student cannot solve a problem?". Counterfactual prediction provides a way to estimate the individual treatment effects and helps us to assign the students to a learning intervention which leads to a better learning.
A variant of Michael Jordan's "Residual Transfer Networks" was proposed for the counterfactual inference. The model first uses feed-forward neural networks to learn a balancing representation of students by minimizing the distance between the distributions of the control and the treated populations, and then adopts a residual block to estimate the individual treatment effect.
Students in the RCT usually have done a number of problems prior to participating it. Each student has a sequence of actions (performance sequence). We proposed a pipeline to use the performance sequence to improve the performance of counterfactual inference. Since deep learning has achieved a huge amount of success in learning representations from raw logged data, student representations were learned by applying the sequence autoencoder to performance sequences. Then, incorporate these representations into the model for counterfactual inference. Empirical results showed that the representations learned from the sequence autoencoder improved the performance of counterfactual inference.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Computer Science

Project Type


Date Accepted





sequence autoencoder, treatment effects, deep learning, counterfactual inference, student modeling