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: Innovation Hall 129


Instructor: Dr. Gheorghe Tecuci, Professor of Computer Science

Office hours: Monday and Tuesday 7:20 pm – 8:10 pm
Office: Nguyen Engineering Building, Learning Agents Center, Room 4613
Phone: 703 993 1722
E-mail: 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, intelligence, military, etc.) domain. Such an expert system or agent acts as problem-solving assistant to experts, as consultant to non-experts, or as intelligent tutor to students. Capturing, using, preserving, transferring, and sharing knowledge is of critical importance to any organization as our society evolves from an information one to a knowledge one. 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. Basic topics include modeling expert reasoning, evidence-based reasoning, ontology design and development, knowledge acquisition and learning, knowledge base verification and validation. Advanced topics include discovery, mixed-initiative reasoning, agent teaching and multistrategy learning.


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, course of action critiquing, emergency response planning, teaching critical thinking, medical diagnosis, website evaluation, and PhD advisor assessment.


The classes will consist of three parts: theory, tools, and project. In the theoretical part, the instructor will present and discuss the various 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


Course Topics

·         Overview of Knowledge Engineering and Expert Agents

·         Evidence-Based Reasoning: Connecting the Dots

·         Methodologies and Tools for Agent Design and Development

·         Modeling the Problem Solving Process

·         Ontologies

·         Ontology Design and Development

·         Reasoning with Ontologies and Rules

·         Learning for Knowledge-Based Agents

·         Rule Learning

·         Rule Refinement

·         Abstraction of Reasoning

·         Design Principles for Personal Learning Assistants


Grading Policy

·         Project Assignments and Class participation: 15%

·         Final Project: 25%

·         Mid-term Exam: 30%

·         Final Exam: 30%



·         Tecuci G., Marcu D., Boicu M., and Schum D.A. (2015), Knowledge Engineering, Cambridge University Press (to appear).

·         Tecuci G., Lecture Notes on Designing Expert Systems, Fall 2015 (notes provided by the instructor).

·         Additional papers required or recommended by the instructor.


Email Communication

·         Please use your Mason email and include CS681 in the subject of any message you are emailing to Dr. Tecuci.

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


Mason Email Accounts

Students must activate their Mason 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. You may also review the University Policy web site,


Honor Code

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

Additional departmental CS information: