A Methodology for Discovering How to Adaptively Personalize to Users Using Experimental Comparisons

6 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2015

See all articles by Joseph Williams

Joseph Williams

National University of Singapore

Neil Heffernan

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI)

Date Written: September 14, 2015


We explain and provide examples of a formalism that supports the methodology of discovering how to adapt and personalize technology by combining randomized experiments with variables associated with user models. We characterize a formal relationship between the use of technology to conduct A/B experiments and use of technology for adaptive personalization. The MOOClet Formalism captures the equivalence between experimentation and personalization in its conceptualization of modular components of a technology. This motivates a unified software design pattern that enables technology components that can be compared in an experiment to also be adapted based on contextual data, or personalized based on user characteristics. With the aid of a concrete use case, we illustrate the potential of the MOOClet formalism for a methodology that uses randomized experiments of alternative micro-designs to discover how to adapt technology based on user characteristics, and then dynamically implements these personalized improvements in real time.

Keywords: experimentation, online education, email, adaptive personalization, methodology

Suggested Citation

Williams, Joseph and Heffernan, Neil, A Methodology for Discovering How to Adaptively Personalize to Users Using Experimental Comparisons (September 14, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2660585 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2660585

Joseph Williams (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore ( email )


HOME PAGE: http://www.josephjaywilliams.com/

Neil Heffernan

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) ( email )

100 Institute Road
worcester, MA 01609
United States

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