Faculty Advisor

Neil T. Heffernan

Faculty Advisor

David C. Brown


"Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs), while effective in enhancing students’ problem solving skills, are difficult and time-consuming to build. In order to reduce the length and the complexity of ITS construction, authoring tools are used. These tools provide a solid foundation for creating pedagogical exercises for students, and offer graphical user interfaces that eliminate the need for programming expertise. One of the major problems with today’s authoring tools is that they are still quite intricate and time-consuming to utilize, even for users who are familiar with them. Their steep learning curves often intimidate users who are only interested in creating simple tutoring systems. I have designed and implemented an authoring tool, called Mason, which strips away the visual interface design features of today’s top ITSs, and focuses on the creation of sophisticated pedagogical exercises using a hierarchical domain model. The exercise creation process includes the definition of numerous components, such as: a problem statement, the desired answer to the exercise, the strategies for tutoring students on the mistakes they make while trying to formulate the correct answer, and diagnostic rules for launching the appropriate strategies for specific student errors. The ultimate goal of Mason is to be able to significantly reduce the time needed to author text-based ITSs that are able to diagnose student answers and generate pedagogical dialogue accordingly. This goal was verified by using Mason to replicate the architecture of Ms. Lindquist, a sophisticated ITS for algebra that originally took over a year a construct. The replica was finished in less than a week, and was able to emulate Ms. Lindquist’s dialogue generation accurately with minor limitations."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Computer Science

Project Type


Date Accepted





intelligent tutoring systems, its, authoring tool, artificial intelligence, Artificial intelligence, Computer-assisted instruction, Authoring tools, Intelligent tutoring systems