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Personalized Online Learning

Course Information

Course Number

HCI Undergraduate: 05-432
HCI Graduate: 05-832

Course Description

Last updated: April 20, 2014

Online learning has become widespread (e.g., MOOCs, online and blended courses, and Khan Academy) and many claim it will revolutionize higher education and K-12. How can we make sure online learning is maximally effective? Learners differ along many dimensions and they change over time. Therefore, advanced learning technologies must adapt to learners to provide individualized learning experiences.

This course covers a number of proven personalization techniques used in advanced learning technologies. One of the techniques is the use of cognitive modeling to personalize practice of complex cognitive skills in intelligent tutoring systems. This approach, developed at CMU, may well be the most significant application of cognitive science in education and is commercially successful. We will also survey newer techniques, such as personalizing based on student meta-cognition, affect, and motivation. Finally, we will look at personalization approaches that are widely believed to be effective but have not proven to be so.

The course involves readings and discussion of different ways of personalizing instruction, with an emphasis on cognitive modeling approaches. Students will learn to use the Cognitive Tutor Authoring Tools (CTAT, to implement tutor prototypes that rely on computer-executable models of human problem solving to personalize instruction.

The course is meant for graduate or advanced undergraduate students in Human-Computer Interaction, Psychology, Computer Science, Design, or related fields, who are interested in educational applications. Students should either have some  programming skills or experience in the cognitive psychology of human problem solving, or experience with instructional design.


One of the following:

  • An introductory computer programming course (e.g., one of 51-257, 15-100, 15-110, 15-112, 15-121, 15-123);
  • Or a course in cognitive psychology  (e.g., one of 85-211, 85-213, 85-392, 85-395, 85-412);
  • Or a course in communication or interaction design (e.g., one of 05-650, 05-651, 51-201, 51-421, 51-422, 51-261, 51-262);
  • Or a course in instructional design (e.g.,  85-438);
  • Or permission from the instructor.

Semester Offered and Units

Semester: Fall
Graduate: 12 units