Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Computer Science

First Advisor

Stephen Gilbert

Second Advisor

Leslie Miller


An intelligent tutoring system (ITS) is a software application that tries to replicate the performance of a human tutor by supporting the theory of "learning by doing". ITSs have been shown to improve the performance of a student in wide range of domains. Despite their benefits, ITSs have not seen widespread use due to the complexity involved in their development. Developing an ITS from scratch requires expertise in several fields including computer science, cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence. In order to decrease the skill threshold required to build ITSs, several authoring tools have been developed.

In this thesis, I document several contributions to the field of intelligent tutoring in the form of extensions to an existing ITS authoring tool, research studies on authoring tool paradigms and the design of authoring tools for non-programmers in two complex domains - natural language processing and 3D game environments.

The Extensible Problem Specific Tutor (xPST) is an authoring tool that helps rapidly develop model-tracing like tutors on existing interfaces such as webpages. xPST's language was made more expressive with the introduction of new checktypes required for answer checking in problems belonging to domains such as geometry and statistics. A web-based authoring (WAT) tool was developed for the purpose of tutor management and deployment and to promote non-programmer authoring of ITSs. The WAT was used in a comparison study between two authoring tool paradigms - GUI based and text based, in two different problem domains - statistics and geometry.

User-programming of natural language processing (NLP) in ITSs is not common with authoring toolkits. Existing NLP techniques do not offer sufficient power to non-programmers and the NLP is left to expert developers or machine learning algorithms. We attempted to address this challenge by developing a domain-independent authoring tool, ConceptGrid that is intended to help non-programmers develop ITSs that perform natural language processing. ConceptGrid has been integrated into xPST. When templates created using ConceptGrid were tested, they approached the accuracy of human instructors in scoring student responses.

3D game environments belong to another domain for which authoring tools are uncommon. Authoring game-based tutors is challenging due to the inherent domain complexity and dynamic nature of the environment. We attempt to address this challenge through the design of authoring tool that is intended to help non-programmers develop game-based ITSs.


Copyright Owner

Shrenik Devasani



Date Available


File Format


File Size

106 pages