George Mason University
School of Engineering
Department of Computer Science


CS 681 Designing Expert Systems


Meeting time: Monday 4:30 pm – 7:10 pm
Meeting location: Nguyen Engineering Building 5358


Instructor: Dr. Gheorghe Tecuci, Professor of Computer Science

Office hours: Monday and Thursday 7:15 pm – 8:05 pm
Office: Nguyen Engineering Building, Learning Agents Center, Room 4613
Phone: 703 993 1722
tecuci at gmu dot edu


Course Description


Prerequisite: CS 580 or permission of instructor


This course presents the theory and practice of designing and developing systems that rely on expert knowledge and reasoning to solve complex problems in a specific (scientific, engineering, medical, military, etc.) domain. Such an expert system or knowledge-based agent may assist a human expert in complex problem solving and decision-making, may be used by a non-expert user, or may teach problem solving and decision-making to a student. Capturing, using, preserving, transferring, and sharing knowledge is of critical importance to any organization as society evolves from an information society to a knowledge society. Therefore, the ability to design and develop such expert agents for a wide variety of domains is a highly valuable expertise. The course covers both the basics of expert agents and knowledge engineering as well as advanced research topics, and involves the students in expert agent research. Basic topics include modeling expert reasoning, ontology design and development, logic and probabilistic reasoning, knowledge acquisition and learning, knowledge base verification, validation and integration. Advanced topics include mixed-initiative reasoning, agent teaching and multistrategy learning, and collaborative problem solving.


The students will learn about all the phases of building an expert agent and will experience them first-hand by using the Disciple development environment. Disciple has been developed in the Learning Agents Center ( of George Mason University and has been successfully used to build expert agents for a variety of domains, including: intelligence analysis, military center of gravity determination, medical diagnosis, website evaluation, course of action critiquing, emergency response planning, teaching critical thinking, and PhD advisor selection.


The classes will consist of three parts: theory, tools and project. In the theoretical part, the instructor will present and discuss the various phases and methods of building an expert agent. In the second part the students will experience the use of advanced artificial intelligence tools for building expert agents. In the project part the students will design and develop an expert agent in a domain of their choice.


Students will have accounts on Blackboard and can download the lecture notes by going to and logging in using their Mason ID and passwords.


The Disciple development environment is available only for Windows. If you have a Macintosh computer and want to install the software on it, you will have to use either a virtual machine or BootCamp to install Windows on your Macintosh computer. VMWare Fusion and Windows are available at no charge through your enrollment in Volgenau School courses. Instructions for obtaining the software are in the Microsoft DreamSpark & VMWare FAQs on



Grading Policy

Project assignments and class participation (expert system development) – 50%

Final Exam – 50%

Final Exam Date




Tecuci G., Boicu M., Marcu D., and Schum D.A. (2013). Knowledge Engineering and Expert Systems (required textbook provided by the instructor).

Tecuci G., Lecture Notes on Designing Expert Systems, Fall 2012 (required notes provided by the instructor).

Additional papers required or recommended by the instructor.


Email Communication

1. Please include CS681 in the subject of any message you are emailing to Dr. Tecuci.

2. Please try to limit the size of the files you are emailing.


GMU Email Accounts

Students must activate their GMU email accounts to receive important University information, including messages related to this class.


Office of Disability Services

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) at 993-2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through the ODS.


Other Useful Campus Resources

Writing Center: A114 Robinson Hall; (703) 993-1200;

University Libraries “Ask a Librarian”

Counseling And Psychological Services (CAPS): (703) 993-2380;


University Policies

The University Catalog,, is the central resource for university policies affecting student, faculty, and staff conduct in university affairs.


Honor Code

You are expected to abide by the GMU honor code. Information on the university honor code can be found at

Additional departmental CS information: