The ASSISTment Builder: Towards an Analysis of the Cost Effectiveness of ITS Creation

Neil T. Heffernan, Terrence E. Turner, Abraao L. N. Lourenco, Michael A. Macasek, Goss Nuzzo-Jones, Kenneth R. Koedigner

Intelligent Tutoring Systems, while effective at producing student learning, are notoriously costly to construct, and require PhD level experience in cognitive science and rule based programming. The literature suggests that it takes at least 200 hours of work to build 1 hour on ITS content. We have been engaged in building tools to reduce the development time, by allowing authors with no programming experience to build pseudo-tutors. Pseudo-tutors are ITS constructs that mimic cognitive tutors but are limited in that they only apply to a single problem. The ASSISTment Builder is a tool designed to rapidly create, test, and deploy a very simple type of pseudo-tutors called ASSISTments. These tutors provide a simplified cognitive model based upon a state graph designed for a specific problem. These tutors offer many of the features of rule-based tutors, but with shorter creation time. The system simplifies the process of tutor creation to allow users with little or no ITS experience to develop content. The system provides a web-based interface as a means to build and store these simple tutors we have called ASSISTments. This paper describes our attempt to make the process of developing, testing, and deploying content easy for teachers. We present data to suggest with the ASSISTments Builder we have reduced the costs of building pseudo-tutors by as much as a factor of four. We have achieved this time reduction, while at the same time making tools that eliminated the need for AI rule-based programming. We conclude with some discussion of the limitations and trade-off that have been made.

Subjects: 1.3 Computer-Aided Education; 4. Cognitive Modeling

Submitted: Feb 13, 2006

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