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The Assistment Builder: A Rapid Development Tool for ITS



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The Assistment Builder A Rapid Development Tool for ITS Terrence E TURNER Michael A MACASEK Goss NUZZO JONES Neil T HEFFERNAN Worcester Polytechnic Institute 100 Institute Rd Worcester MA 01609 508 831 5569 tinylox wpi edu macasek wpi edu goss wpi edu nth wpi edu Ken KOEDINGER Human Computer Interaction Institute Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh PA USA Abstract Intelligent Tutoring Systems are notoriously costly to construct 1 and require PhD level experience in cognitive science and rule based programming The goal of this research was to ease the development process for building pseudo tutors 5 which are ITS constructs that mimic cognitive tutors but are limited in that they only work for a single problem The Assistment Builder is a system designed to rapidly develop test and deploy simple pseudo tutors These tutors provide a simple cognitive model based upon a state graph tailored to a specific problem These tutors offer many of the features of rule based tutors but without the expensive creation time The system simplifies the process of tutor construction 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 content easy for teachers We present some evidence to suggest that these novice users can develop a tutor for a problem in under thirty minutes 1 0 Introduction This research aims to develop tools for the rapid development and deployment of Intelligent Tutoring Systems ITS Specifically this research focused on so called pseudo tutors that are a simplification of cognitive rule based tutors 5 Model tracing rule based tutors 1 have been shown to be effective 6 but development time on them is highly prohibitive from 100 1000 hours of development time per hour of content 7 1 Development also requires a very specialized knowledge set Tutor developers are required to be expert system programmers in addition to developing the cognitive model to say nothing of being a content expert Another aim of this research was to make our tools accessible to novices with no programming experience and less than an hour of training A pseudo tutor is a simplified cognitive model based on a state graph Student actions trigger transitions in the graph and the current state of the problem is stored by the graph Pseudo tutors have nearly identical behavior to a rule based tutor but suffer from having no ability to generalize to different problems 4 This pseudo tutor approach allows for predicted behaviors and provides feedback based on those behaviors We also combined this state graph with a conceptually broader branching structure referred to as scaffolding Scaffolding provides sub problems to the initial question often designed to address specific concepts within the initial question This allows for a higher level of predicted actions to be handled 1 1 Purpose of the Assistment Builder The Assistment Builder is an application supporting the Assistment Project 8 We sought to create a tool that would provide a simple web based interface for creating these pseudotutors that could rapidly be deployed across the web and if errors were found with the tutor bug fixing or correction would be quick and simple The tool had to be usable by someone with no programming experience or ITS background We wanted the teachers in the public school system to be able to build pseudo tutors These pseudo tutors are often referred to as Assistments but the term is not limited to pseudo tutors A secondary purpose of the Assistment Builder was to aid the construction of a Transfer Model A Transfer Model is a cognitive model construct divorced from specific tutors The Transfer Model is a directed graph of knowledge components representing specific concepts that a student could learn This allows us to maintain a complex cognitive model of the student without necessarily involving a production rule system When a user first begins to use the Assistment Builder they will be greeted by the standard blank skeleton question The user can enter the question text images answers and hint messages to complete the root question After these steps the appropriate scaffolding is added The question layout is separated into several views the Main View All Answer View Correct Answer View Incorrect Answer View Hints View and Transfer Model View Together these views allow a user to highly customize their question and its subsequent scaffolding 2 0 Methods To analyze the effectiveness of the Assistment Builder we developed a system to log the actions of an author Each action is recorded with associated meta data including author timestamps the specific series of problems being worked on and data specific to each action The authors were asked to build original items and keep track of roughly how much time spent on each item for corroboration The authors were also asked to create morphs a term used to indicate a new problem that had a very similar setup to an existing problem Morphs are usually constructed by loading the existing problem into the Assistment Builder altering it and saving it with a different name This allows rapid content development for testing transfer between problems We wanted to compare the development time for original items to that of morphs 8 Another trial of the Assistment Builder with less rigorous methodology was testing how authors with little experience would react to the software To test the usability of the Assistment Builder we were able to provide the software to two high school teachers in the Worcester Massachusetts area These teachers were computer literate but had no previous experience with intelligent tutoring systems or creating mathematics educational software Our tutorial consisted of demonstrating the creation of a problem using the Assistment Builder then allowing the teacher to create their own with an experienced observer to answer questions 3 0 Results Analysis Prior to the implementation of logging within the Assistment Builder we obtained encouraging anecdotal results of the software s use A high school mathematics teacher was able to create 15 items and morph each one resulting in 30 Assistments over several months Her training consisted of approximately four hours spread over two days in which she created 5 original Assistments under supervision While there is unfortunately no log data to


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