We call the individual steps in a task 'learnable units'. Learnable
units have a set of help articles and a set of references associated with
them. References identify relationships between learnable units.
A 'related material' reference identifies peer tasks that are similar
to the current task. For example, the learnable unit 'copying an icon'
might have 'moving an icon' and 'creating a shadow of an icon' as related
A 'basics' reference identifies tasks or subjects that are prerequisites
to the current task. For example, an understanding of drag and drop are
needed to move an icon. In this case the 'moving an icon' learnable unit
would list 'drag and drop' as one of its 'basics'.
A 'parent' reference is used to organize learnable units. The most way
to use the parent reference is to define an overall task, such as creating
a printer, and several steps needed to perform the task, such as choosing
an output port or naming the printer. 'Creating a printer', 'choosing an
output port', and 'naming the printer' would each be a learnable unit,
but 'choosing an output port' and 'naming the printer' would list the higher-level
task, 'Creating a printer', as a parent.
For a given learnable unit, COACH's help information is a collection
of 'articles'. Each article has a 'kind' (orientation, what, how, or in
general.) Articles also have a 'level' (novice, intermediate, advanced,
or expert). COACH supports text, sound and animation articles, identified
by the media type of the article.
An article is uniquely determined by its learnable unit, language, kind,
level, and media type.
This will be shown regardless of the user's experience level.
||description of the task/item or instructions
(what it is, what it does, what to do)
||example, preferably one that the user can try without causing problems.
||Explains relationships to other learnable units.
||Explains the most basic, most common, or least brittle way to do/use.
||Explains what something is used for, common way(s) of using.
||Pretty complete explanation of what something is, does, or how to use
User reference-like material.
||Obscure ways of using, tricks, ways to automate or avoid, how things
Help information is dynamically selected from different kinds and levels