Faculty Advisor

Neil T. Heffernan

Faculty Advisor

Ivon Arroyo

Faculty Advisor

Bror Saxberg

Faculty Advisor

Joseph E. Beck


Adaptive learning is a crucial part in intelligent tutoring systems. It provides students with appropriate tutoring interventions, based on students’ characteristics, status, and other related features, in order to optimize their learning outcomes. It is required to determine students’ knowledge level or learning progress, based on which it then uses proper techniques to choose the optimal interventions. In this dissertation work, I focus on these aspects related to the process in adaptive learning: student modeling, k-armed bandits, and contextual bandits. Student modeling. The main objective of student modeling is to develop cognitive models of students, including modeling content skills and knowledge about learning. In this work, we investigate the effect of prerequisite skill in predicting students’ knowledge in post skills, and we make use of the prerequisite performance in different student models. As a result, this makes them superior to traditional models. K-armed bandits. We apply k-armed bandit algorithms to personalize interventions for students, to optimize their learning outcomes. Due to the lack of diverse interventions and small difference of intervention effectiveness in educational experiments, we also propose a simple selection strategy, and compare it with several k-armed bandit algorithms. Contextual bandits. In contextual bandit problem, additional side information, also called context, can be used to determine which action to select. First, we construct a feature evaluation mechanism, which determines which feature to be combined with bandits. Second, we propose a new decision tree algorithm, which is capable of detecting aptitude treatment effect for students. Third, with combined bandits with the decision tree, we apply the contextual bandits to make personalization in two different types of data, simulated data and real experimental data.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Computer Science

Project Type


Date Accepted





decision tree, prerequisite, contextual bandits, k-armed bandits, student model, adaptive learning