Computing Community Consortium Blog

The goal of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) is to catalyze the computing research community to debate longer range, more audacious research challenges; to build consensus around research visions; to evolve the most promising visions toward clearly defined initiatives; and to work with the funding organizations to move challenges and visions toward funding initiatives. The purpose of this blog is to provide a more immediate, online mechanism for dissemination of visioning concepts and community discussion/debate about them.

NIH Frontiers Lecture: World-Scale Personalized Learning Through Crowdsourcing and Algorithms

May 31st, 2016 / in Announcements, Research News / by Helen Wright

Po-Shen Loh PictureThe Office of the Associate Director for Data Science at the National Institute of Health (NIH) invites you to attend World-Scale Personalized Learning Through Crowdsourcing and Algorithms on Wednesday, June 1, 2016, 3:30pm (EST) as part of the NIH Frontiers in Data Science Lecture Series and in conjunction with the National Science Foundation.

The speaker will be Dr. Po-Shen Loh, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Carnegie Mellon University and founder of, an education technology startup providing a free personalized learning platform on every smartphone. Po-Shen Loh is a math enthusiast and evangelist. He is also the national coach of the USA International Mathematical Olympiad team.

As an academic, Po-Shen has numerous distinctions, from an International Mathematical Olympiad silver medal to the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award. His research considers a variety of questions that lie at the intersection of combinatorics (the study of discrete systems), probability theory, and computer science. As an educator, he led Carnegie Mellon University’s Putnam team to multiple 2nd-place finishes among all North American universities. His approach to coaching the national Math Olympiad team received significant press coverage after the USA’s historic victory in 2015. Through Expii, Po-Shen extends his activity to the global mainstream, combining algorithms and crowdsourcing to deliver a GPS-style navigational interface for the world of knowledge.

Po-Shen received his undergraduate degree in mathematics from Caltech in 2004, graduating first in his class. He received a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Cambridge in 2005, where he was supported by a Winston Churchill Foundation Scholarship. He continued his studies at Princeton, where he completed his Ph.D. in mathematics at the end of 2009, and has been on the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University ever since.


Improving math and science education is a national priority.  Personalized education, like personalized medicine, both is within reach and has the potential to transform current practice through the usage of data and algorithms.  Personalized education can benefit everyone from young students to established scientists.  Established scientists can utilize it to fill in knowledge gaps efficiently, while young students stay engaged with math and science through active learning.

Po-Shen Loh will speak about a pioneering project (expii.com that will turn every smartphone into a free personalized learning system, by combining crowdsourcing and mathematical algorithms. In a modern world where content is everywhere (but of varying quality, and disorganized), the central problem is to identify exactly which piece of content a particular learner should interact with at any given moment, based on the learner’s current knowledge base and long-term goals. Leveraging the Elo rating system from competitive chess, Expii introduces a new mathematical framework for answering this question, which casts the central problem into a graph algorithm problem, informed by data collected from the universe of users across the platform. This new mathematical formulation also unlocks a paradigm shift away from courses and grades, towards a new ecosystem of atomic concepts and population-wide statistical comparisons.

The platform itself is inspired by modern Internet products: it combines elements of Wikipedia and Quora, with content creation made as easy as Tumblr and Google Forms, organized like Khan Academy, but with the navigational interface and browsability of Google Maps. It has the potential to organize and widely disseminate the largest body of openly-licensed educational resources ever created, into the hands of billions of people worldwide through their smartphones, tablets, and computers.

The lecture will be available via webcast, the event number is 745 418 342 and the event password is NSFNIH#2016. To join the audio conference only, please call 1-415-655-0002 and type in the access code 745 418 342. 

NIH Frontiers Lecture: World-Scale Personalized Learning Through Crowdsourcing and Algorithms