Professor Neil Heffernan


Neil Heffernan is a full professor in Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Computer Science Department. In this role, he directs the new Ph.D. and Master's Programs in Learning Sciences and Technologies. Professor Heffernan is best known for developing the ASSISTments platform, a web- based learning platform focusing on middle school mathematics. Professor Heffernans's academic specialties include Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Intelligent Tutoring Systems, Educational Data Mining, Experimental Design, Psychometrics and the Cognitive Science of Mathematical Cognition (i.e., how do people learn math topics). He has written over papers on learner analytics (using data to predict some outcome in education) and over two dozen papers reporting the results on randomized controlled trials. These two areas are now starting to come together as we try to learn how to use learner analytics combined with randomized controlled trials to learn which things are best for which students.


ASSISTments & Research Related Issues

Professor Heffernan and his wife Cristina Heffernan founded the highly effective ASSISTments platform since 2003. The ASSISTments Foundation is the entity that promotes the use of ASSISTments by teachers across the US. Because of the merits of the system, Dr. Heffernan was invited to speak at the White House in 2016. ASSISTments has been used, in partnership with a dozen other universities, as a shared scientific instrument to conduct randomized controlled trials comparing different ideas on how to improve student learning. Under the guidance of Dr. Heffernan, the ASSISTments team are constantly innovating new features to the platform. Most recently, PhD students in the ASSISTments lab released docASSIST, a Google docs add-on, and a Google App for Google Classroom. Interested in participating in an ASSISTments trial? Learn more about what is involved.


In addition to his AI research and work with the ASSISTments Foundation, Dr. Heffernan teaches several undergraduate and graduate courses at WPI. These courses include but are not limited to:

  • Artificial Intelligence for Adaptive Educational Technology (CS 568).
  • User Modeling, which focuses on educational data mining (CS 565).
  • Special Topics: Online Education (CS 525).
  • Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (CS 4341).