• Special Topics: Online Learning Infrastructure 

  • (CS 525)


CS 525 Special Topics: Online Learning Infrastructure

(also CS-565 and SEME-565)

Fall 2023

Professor Neil T. Heffernan

Here is this year's schedule

The papers we read in old class are different tabs in that sheet.


This special topics class is about online education. We'll explore content about user modeling, intelligent tutoring systems, and ways to use AI to make smarter education technology.  We're going to talk about tools that will help during COVID and remote teaching. 

This course acquaints participants with the fundamental concepts and state-of-the-art computer science research in online instructional systems. Advanced interactive instructional systems serve as tutors, as learning companions or both. This course introduces their design, the technology that powers them, the learning theories that motivate them and results from experimental evaluations. We will cover both the learning theory, and how to design and build systems consist with existing theories. For each class, you'll read a paper that Dr. Heffernan deems important, and the author of the paper will join us to answer questions. Each student will be paired up to work on a project that involves online learning infrastructure. 

This 2023 version will push hard on LLMs!



Mondays and Thursdays, 4:00pm - 5:20 pm

Virtually via Zoom Link (If you are registered for the class, you'll receive the link, if you need access to the Zoom link, contact akao@wpi.edu) It the same link every class. The zoom id is the same as my office phone number. 



This class requires a google account as we will use google docs for handing in all assignments.  Please send your google account information to akao@wpi.edu.

Please check your email at least once a day for updates.



Professor Neil T. Heffernan


akao@wpi.edu is someone you can email to make an appointment with me.  Angela is around the corner is Unity 320 (you can stop by and see her but you have to knock on the class and then she will out.

Office: Unity 388 

Phone Number: (508) 831 - 5569

Assistant Instructor: All my phd students are kinda of Assistant Instructors but Aaron Haim and Sami Baral are the two most senior phd students I have and I will relay on them for lots of things,  Sami is in charge of our QuickComments work (teacher facing)  and our LiveQuickComments work. 

I check email once a day. So don't expect an instantaneous response before a program.   All email that goes to me should also go to Angela.  I hate email and stink at writting long notes, but I love to talk to student face to face (zoom counts ). 

Don't send me email via canvas!  It does not come to my gmail!



You can talk about programming assignments together, but not share code.  This should be crystal clear.  If in doubt, ask me.

Your final grade will reflect your own work and achievements during the course. Any type of cheating will be penalized with an F grade for the course and will be reported to the WPI Judicial Board in accordance with the Academic Honesty Policy.


This class is a upper level graduate seminar to prepare you to make a scientific contribution to the intelligent tutoring research community.    As such, you will be required to read a great deal of material to give you the needed background. 

The paper are release one week ahead of time. 

Students will be required to submit at a response within 48 hours.  You then must go and read with your peers have said and make a second post within 48 hours have that.  So everyone will have posted three days before class. Then just before class, you should post one more time. So this a total of three posts.

These posts can be about

1)     a question you had about the reading, something important you did not understand

2)     an idea inspired by the reading

3)     an interesting connection with something you learned or did previously in this or another course, or in other professional work or research

4)     an on-topic, relevant response, clarification, or further comment on another student’s post

You are required to review other students’ post and are encouraged to respond to/ answer other student’s discussions.  I will use these questions as starting points for discussion.

In class, students will be randomly selected to answers others students questions and or asked to summarize a paper.  If you have not done the reading you should email me privately ahead of time to avoid being put on the spot and making a fool of yourself. _________________________________________________


30% Class Write up on discussion board

30% Final Exam on the papers

40% The Projects

You can not pass the class if you can not pass the final, so please do the readings. 

I plan to use tiny.cc/zoomwithneil to allow visitors to access class.

Student with disabilities (August 29, 2020)

“Students with approved academic accommodations should plan to submit their accommodation letters through the Office of Accessibility Services Student Portal.  Should you have any questions about how accommodations can be implemented in this particular course, please contact me as soon as possible. Students who are not currently registered with the Office of Accessibility Services (OAS) but who would like to find out more information regarding requesting accommodations and what that entails should plan to contact them via

email: AccessibilityServices@wpi.edu and/or via phone: (508) 831-4908.”