Dr. Colin Conrad is an interdisciplinary information technology researcher whose work draws from human-computer interaction, neuroscience and data science. The overarching goal of Dr. Conrad’s research is to identify ways to improve information technology designs by accounting for unconscious cognitive and emotional mental processes. For example, a common problem in online learning is difficulty paying attention for long periods of time. In a recent experiment, Dr. Conrad focused on detecting mind-wandering during online lectures using electroencephalography (EEG). By discovering and applying a technique for measuring mind-wandering, he showed that it increases in degree as a lecture progresses, and that the degree of mind-wandering negatively impacts learning. His work suggests that online lectures should be kept under 30 minutes.
Dr. Conrad also uses website and social media data to inform learning and decision-support systems. Adapting natural language processing techniques, which typically detect differences in authorship, Dr. Conrad has identified techniques for automatically detecting dimensions of essay rubrics, which can be applied to ensure consistent evaluation across multiple evaluators. He has also used a similar approach to identify Twitter users who are likely to give to charities, which was later used by a Maritimes-based software company to create a decision-support system and incorporate it into their products.