| by Scott DeLoach
This paper presents three
methods of user assistance: role models (simple demonstrations), guides
(structured walk-throughs), and coaches (active assistants). After a brief
introduction, potential uses, available development tools, and additional
information sources are discussed for each method.
A role model allows the user to observe
and imitate. Role models are linear and only provide one "path"
through the information. They cannot evaluate user actions and they cannot
actively initiate interactions.
Role Models useful?
Role models are often used
to demonstrate processes or procedures or to teach "skills"
such as foreign languages. Role models are most effective when the user
can recognize both the required task and the correct result. For example,
a role model could be used to explain how to install a newly-purchased
printer. In this situation, the user can identify the task (connecting
the printer to the computer) and the correct result (the printer prints
a sample page). The role model could be a simple video of someone connecting
a printer to their computer. Although the user cannot ask the role model
questions, they can replay the video or pause it as they perform each
I use to create a Role Model?
Role models can be created with inexpensive and easy-to-use
video and sound capture programs. Video programs include Microsoft Camcorder,
Lotus ScreenCam, Quicktime, and Quicktime VR. Sounds can be recorded with
products such as Microsoft Sound Recorder, and RealAudio.
can I learn more about Role Models?
tools that can be used to create role models are Camcorder and ScreenCam.
Check out the following web pages for more information about these products:
- Camcorder - www.microsoft.com/office/office97/camcorder
- ScreenCam - www.www2.lotus.com/screencam.nsf
guide provides a controlled environment in which the user can practice
and explore. Guides can support branching paths through information based
on user selections. They can evaluate user actions, but they cannot actively
Guides can be used to
introduce new tasks and concepts. They are most effective when the user
needs a quick overview of a product. For example, a guide might be used
to introduce a new version of a word processor. In this situation, the
user is familiar with the current product, so the guide should focus on
introducing the new features and how they can be used. The guide could
be a CBT that introduces and demonstrates a task, then observes and evaluates
as the user performs the task. Although the user can only practice the
tasks presented by the guide, they are free to learn and explore in a
controlled environment rather than in the actual application.
I use to create a Guide?
Guides can be created
using CBT applications, wizards, cue cards, or web-based technologies
DemoShield, Director, and Authorware.
can I learn more about Guides?
To learn more, check out:
- Wizards - Microsoft Word Developers Kit from MS Press
- Cue cards - Designing Windows 95 Help: A
Guide to Creating Online Documents by Mary Deaton and Cheryl Lockett
coach encourages learning while doing. Coaches can create paths through
the information based on the users needs and interests. They can evaluate
user actions and they can actively initiate interactions.
can be used to provide on-the-job training and to enable productive error
recovery. They are most effective when the user and application have a
shared understanding of the user's goal. For example, a coach could be
used in a retail checkout application. In this situation, the user knows
that their goal is to complete the sale, and the system closely monitors
their progress. If the clerk selects "credit card" for payment
and does not swipe a card, the application could wait three seconds and
then automatically display a video of a card being swiped through the
I use to create a Coach?
Coaches can be created
using application development tools (such as Visual C++, Visual Basic,
and Powerbuilder), CBT applications, web technologies, or Microsoft's
can I learn more about Coaches?
To learn more, check out:
- Microsoft Agent - www.microsoft/workshop/prog/agent
Some excellent examples of coaching applications can be
found in video games. For more information about video game coaches, see:
- "Learning from Games: Seven Principles of Effective
Design" by Rob Houser and Scott DeLoach in a forthcoming issue
of Technical Communication.