Neil Heffernan

Neil Heffernan

Dr. Neil Heffernan is a professor of computer science and director of the Learning Sciences and Technologies program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Before entering academia, Neil taught middle school math and science in the Teach For America program in Baltimore where he met his wife Cristina. While completing his Ph.D. in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, Neil incorporated his passion for education and focused on educational technologies. In 1997, Neil had a seizure and was told he had brain cancer and two years to live. This traumatic event helped Neil and Cristina learn what was important to them: making the world a better place. His personal experiences helped motivate Dr. Heffernan to create a free public platform. Neil and Cristina created the ASSISTments platform in 2003 as a forever-free service that is currently used by over 20,000 teachers and 500,000 students across the United States for daily classwork and nightly homework. In 2021, ASSISTments was named by WWC as one of three online middle-school math interventions proven to impact student achievement, and has a Tier 1 rating from Evidence for ESSA. In October 2016, Dr. Heffernan was asked to present at the White House on the reproducibility crisis in educational research and the need for pre-registration and open data. In December 2016, the Heffernans presented at the White House for a second time on the SRI evaluation that found ASSISTments increased student learning by seventy-five percent. Heffernan has received national press from U.S. News, Scientific American, The New York Times, The Boston Globe , and NPR. Dr. Heffernan has written 100+ papers on learning analytics and over two dozen papers on the results of randomized controlled trials. Dr. Heffernan continues to work on machine-learning methods as it relates to improving student learning. WPI and The ASSISTments Foundation collaborate on many federally and philanthropically funded projects.  

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