Leaders in Learning Science

Meet the Authors

Our team of learning scientists, engineers, and product managers is focused on a comprehensive approach to creating effective learning environments for students. The research and development team has put forth a research agenda to study learning from a holistic perspective and continually advance learning science. With papers published at highly reputable scholarly conferences, they regularly share their research findings on a range of topics with the larger educational community.

Benny G. Johnson, PhD

Director, Research and Development

Benny G. Johnson, PhD, holds a bachelor of science in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Kentucky, and received his PhD in theoretical chemistry from Carnegie Mellon University, where he worked with a Nobel laureate. For the past fifteen years, Dr. Johnson has worked in the field of artificial intelligence for education, leading the research and development efforts of the Quantum technology for tutoring and assessment in chemistry, mathematics, accounting, and special education, and the machine learning predictive analytics technology of Acrobatiq, a Carnegie Mellon spin-off recently acquired by VitalSource Technologies. He leads VitalSource's research effort for using artificial intelligence to automatically create learning science-based courseware from textbooks at large scale. Dr. Johnson is the author of over fifty scholarly publications in academic journals and books and has delivered invited lectures at many national and international conferences. As principal investigator on various research and development projects, Dr. Johnson has received funding from the US Department of Education, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Energy, and Air Force Office of Scientific Research. He is a recipient of the Tibbetts Award, the highest recognition given by the federal government to small businesses for innovative research, and in 2007, he was inducted into the University of Kentucky's Alumni Hall of Fame. He enjoys playing music and lifting weights with his son.

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Rachel Van Campenhout, EdD 

Senior Research Scientist

Rachel Van Campenhout, EdD, holds a bachelor of arts in philosophy and English from Duquesne University, a master of arts in digital publishing and writing from Emerson College, and a doctorate of education in instructional technology and leadership from Duquesne University. Starting as a learning engineer at Acrobatiq, Dr. Van Campenhout now leads the scholarly research and publication efforts of the VitalSource learning science team, covering topics that include the doer effect, automatic question generation, adaptive learning, and instructor implementation. Dr. Van Campenhout is also an active member of the IEEE IC Industry Consortium on Learning Engineering, was the co-chair of the 2023 Learning Engineering Conference, and has published papers on learning engineering and design, data science, and ethics in educational technology. She also contributes to the IEEE standards committee AIS P2247.4, developing the Recommended Practice for Ethically Aligned Design of AI in Adaptive Instructional Systems. Dr. Van Campenhout has served as the representative member for the Adaptive Learning Consortium and served on the board for the International Conference on Adaptive Instructional Systems. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, painting, woodworking projects, and spending time in nature.


Bill Jerome

Senior Product Manager, Research and Development

Bill Jerome is a computer scientist whose passion is connecting with the human user, developing easy-to-use systems capable of real good in the real world. His inspiration was sparked by virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier, who taught him the respect for his medium by telling him, “Real artists don’t love their tools—they strive to push their tools further and further so they can get closer to their artistic vision. Don’t be in love with your tools.”

Bill joined the Open Learning Initiative in its earliest days and is considered a founding member. More than a decade in the world of online education enabled him to creatively apply changing technology to real and dramatic needs, and in turn, push that technology to meet the needs of the application. He loves improving the experiences of learning to better answer education’s questions in a meaningful and directed way and is exhilarated by running into unexplored areas of computing accompanied by smart, talented people.

Favorite Professor: Dr. Klaus Sutner was Bill’s first professor of a computer science course at Carnegie Mellon University—an amazing, eye-opening, and career-defining experience. Bill and Dr. Sutner still find ways to work together.

Favorite way to spend free time: Bill enjoys hiking and camping, but when weather forces him indoors, he also enjoys watching movies and listening to music. He shares these loves with his child, imparting an affection for the finer points of film, such as an appreciation for the original Star Wars movies and a healthy skepticism about the prequels.


Jeff Dittel

Senior Software Engineer

Jeff Dittel of Britlan, Ltd. holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin and a Master of Science degree in computer science, specializing in object-oriented design, from the University of New Haven. Jeff began losing his sight at the age of 8, and now is almost totally blind. He has worked as a software engineer since August of 1996. While working on a previous project at Henter Math, with Ted Henter, the founder of Jaws the world-leading screen reading software, Jeff had a major role in the user interface design, and completely designed and implemented the Virtual Pencil products, VPArithmetic and VPAlgebra. After that Jeff worked for 10 years with Quantum Simulations in the area of intelligent tutoring systems as a part of a team doing research and development for tutoring and assessment in chemistry, mathematics, and special education. For the past six years, Jeff has worked with Acrobatiq by VitalSource, on their research effort using artificial intelligence to automatically create learning science-based courseware from textbooks at large scale.


Nick Brown

Senior Director of Product Management

Nick Brown leads the product team for VitalSource Bookshelf. Nick drives the strategic direction for Bookshelf and VitalSource's content tools, steering the platform towards a future filled with great, modern content for learners everywhere. You can often find Nick speaking at events on open standards, accessibility, interactive content, and more—usually illustrating the technical details with demos of innovative and cutting-edge books being used today by students in Bookshelf. Nick holds a bachelor of arts in engineering and music from Dartmouth College and has been a member of the VitalSource team for seven years.


Murray Kimball

Director of Engagement

Murray has spent the last 15 years working in higher education to improve teaching and learning through technology and curriculum design. She is passionate about creating a personalized learning experience and believes that education should meet learners where they are. Prior to Acrobatiq, Murray researched educational technologies on DeVry’s Innovation Team and was manager of curriculum development at Kaplan Higher Education. Murray studied psychology at Denison University, and in her free time, she loves to go on adventures with her family and their two dogs.


Michelle Clark

Senior Operations Manager

Michelle is the senior operations manager for the learning science team and supports new and ongoing research with our institutional partners. She has been with VitalSource for eight years in a variety of roles. She holds a BA in English and an MA in Digital Communication, both from University of North Carolina. Michelle spends her free time in pursuit of delicious pizza, whimsical textiles, and outdoor adventures that aren’t too terrifying.

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