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Conducting experimental and computational research in the real world using ASSISTments


A postdoctoral position is available at Worcester Polytechnic Institute to do research on ASSISTments which bridges practical real-world education and scientific research on learning, being advised by Professor Neil Heffernan. Dr Heffernan and  Dr. Joseph Jay Williams at Harvard have been funded by the NSF to help dozens of researchers to use ASSISTments as a shared scientific instrument, and we want someone to be a part of that mission.


ASSISTments is a platform that combines large-scale online education (like Khan Academy & MOOCs) with technology for rigorous scientific research using randomized experiments and data mining.


ASSISTments is used by thousands of K-12 students to online mathematics homework exercises, and hundreds of school teachers for correcting homework and seeing analytics about student behavior.


As a practical resource, it is scientifically unique because it is designed from the ground up to conduct research on how to improve education. Over a hundred randomized controlled experiments embedded in math problem sets have led to over 20 publications. High quality educational assessments provide dependent measures of learning, opening up many opportunities for data mining and machine learning research. The data collected can be made freely available after anonymization.  Moreover, ASSISTments provides free authoring tools for interactive exercises and content which facilitate collaboration between teachers, the platform, and researchers.  Researchers can run studies with our thousands of existing students, or use our technology to run studies with their own participants or embedded inside other platforms (like EdX, Blackboard, Moodle etc via the IMS LTI specification).


The postdoctoral position will provide the opportunity to conduct a range of interdisciplinary research across education, psychology, human-computer interaction, data mining and machine learning.


Part of the postdoctoral scholar’s role will be to support, systematize, and guide platform engineering for the process of having external researchers from multiple disciplines conduct research within ASSISTments. This includes proposing randomized controlled trials to be run in ASSISTments problem sets, developing assessments, data mining, and using machine learning and “MOOClets” to optimally transition from randomized experiments to maximizing and adaptively personalizing student learning.


For more information, learn about the Stages for Research with ASSISTments, watch the videos from our AERA 2015 workshop that was on Sunday April 19 1-4 pm, and see examples of studies that have been conducted already.


The applicant must have a PhD by the start of the position in education, psychology, computer science, information science or a related field. The initial appointment is for one year, renewable based on mutual interest and continued funding. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until the position is filled.


To apply, please email both nth@wpi.edu and joseph_jay_williams@harvard.edu with the subject line “Conducting experimental and computational research in the real world using the ASSISTments online education platform”, a short cover letter about your interest in this position, your CV, and the names of three references who are willing to provide a letter of recommendation. For more information send questions to joseph_jay_williams@harvard.edu and/or nth@wpi.edu.