Dr. Gord McCalla

Gord McCalla is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, and Director of the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Intelligent Educational Systems (ARIES).  He was awarded a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Mathematical Statistics from the University of Alberta in 1968, and an M.Sc. in Computing Science in 1970, also from the University of Alberta.  He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of British Columbia in 1977.  His research focus for both the M.Sc. and Ph.D. was artificial intelligence, in particular natural language understanding and knowledge representation, areas he continued to explore during a 2.5 year limited term faculty appointment in Computer Science at the University of Toronto from 1976 to 1978.  In 1978 he moved to the University of Saskatchewan, where he has been a faculty member ever since, serving as Head of the Department of Computer Science from 1992 to 1996 and Acting Head in 1997-98.

In his research at the University of Saskatchewan Gord continued to investigate a number of diverse areas of artificial intelligence including case-based reasoning, episodic memory, and summary response generation to natural language database queries, but gradually his research interests zeroed in on the overlapping areas of artificial intelligence in education (AIED) and user modelling, adaptation, and personalization (UMAP).  Over the years, with colleagues and some 50 graduate and summer students in the Department of Computer Science and the ARIES Laboratory, he has made many research contributions to both AIED and UMAP, including pioneering contributions in pedagogical planning, granularity-based educational diagnosis, peer help systems, pedagogical agents, open learner modelling, educational recommender systems, educational data mining, and the use of simulation in exploring issues in educational system design. A major contribution integrating many of these ideas has been the development of a data-centric learning technology architecture called the ecological approach, where information is automatically collected about learners as they interact with learning material and then mined for relevant patterns that could inform an e-learning system.  A related user modelling research project is active learner modelling, a procedural approach to “just-in-time” capture of contextually relevant information about learners.  These ideas are currently being explored in the context of systems to support lifelong learning.

 Over his career, Gord has been author or co-author of over 200 journal papers, conference and workshop papers, book chapters, and edited books.  He and his graduate students and other co-authors have earned best paper and best student paper awards at 6 different conferences, including major conferences in AIED and UMAP.  He has given invited talks at many international workshops and at major conferences such as the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education and the International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems. Gord has consistently maintained an NSERC Discovery Grant throughout his career.  He has been a member of three different research networks: the IRIS NCE, the Telelearning NCE, and the LORNET NSERC NCE.

Gord has served both the international AIED and UMAP research communities in a multitude of ways, including as program chair of major conferences such as the 2005 International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education, the 1992 International Conference on Intelligent Tutoring Systems, and the 2009 International Conference on User Modeling, Adaptation, and Personalization.  He has also served on the program committees of these conferences, and many others, since their inception.  He been a member of a number of journal editorial boards, including being founding Co-Editor of the Computational Intelligence journal, and currently serving as an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education and as a member of the board of the User Modeling and User Adapted Interaction Journal. He was on the management board of the International Society for Artificial Intelligence in Education from 1995-2001, serving as President from 1997-1999.

Gord has also been very active in service to the Canadian computer science community, including to Canadian artificial intelligence.  He served on the executive committee of the Canadian Society for Computational Studies of Intelligence/Société canadienne pour l'étude de l'intelligence par ordinateur (the predecessor to CAIAC) from 1982 to 1990, including as President from 1984 to 1986.  He was also general chair of the Canadian AI conference in 1982 and program chair of the Canadian AI conference in 1996.  He has continued to serve on the program committee of the Canadian AI conference throughout his career.  In the broader Canadian computer science context, Gord was President of the Canadian Association for Computer Science/Association informatique canadienne, the Canadian academic computer science organization, from 2000 to 2008, staying on as immediate Past-President from 2008 until 2015 at which point CACS/AIC transitioned into CS-Can/Info-Can.  He was also Chair of the CACS/AIC and CS-Can/Info-Can Awards Committee from 2007 to 2018.  In addition Gord served as a member of NSERC Computing and Information Science Discovery Grants selection committee 331 for 3 years from 1999 to 2002 (chairing the committee for the last 2 years), and was on the NSERC Doctoral Prize committee in 2008, 2009, and 2010 (chairing it during the last 2 years).

In addition to the best paper awards, Gord has received a number of recognitions during his career.  In 2000 he won the Distinguished Service Award of the Canadian AI Society, now called CAIAC, and remains a CAIAC Fellow.  He was the winner of the University of Saskatchewan Distinguished Supervisor Award in 2010.  He was an Honorary Associate of the School of Information Technologies at the University of Sydney, Australia, in the early 2000’s; an Erskine visitor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch New Zealand, in 2011; and a recipient of a British Columbia Advanced System Institute Visiting Research Fellowship at Simon Fraser University in 1989.