|Número de publicación||WO2002029759 A2|
|Tipo de publicación||Solicitud|
|Número de solicitud||PCT/US2001/042463|
|Fecha de publicación||11 Abr 2002|
|Fecha de presentación||5 Oct 2001|
|Fecha de prioridad||6 Oct 2000|
|También publicado como||WO2002029759A3|
|Número de publicación||PCT/2001/42463, PCT/US/1/042463, PCT/US/1/42463, PCT/US/2001/042463, PCT/US/2001/42463, PCT/US1/042463, PCT/US1/42463, PCT/US1042463, PCT/US142463, PCT/US2001/042463, PCT/US2001/42463, PCT/US2001042463, PCT/US200142463, WO 0229759 A2, WO 0229759A2, WO 2002/029759 A2, WO 2002029759 A2, WO 2002029759A2, WO-A2-0229759, WO-A2-2002029759, WO0229759 A2, WO0229759A2, WO2002/029759A2, WO2002029759 A2, WO2002029759A2|
|Exportar cita||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Citas de patentes (5), Otras citas (2), Citada por (2), Clasificaciones (3), Eventos legales (7)|
|Enlaces externos: Patentscope, Espacenet|
Virtual Training Sales and Support
Background of the Present Invention
The present invention relates to training systems for software. As software becomes central to businesses, software training is of greater and greater importance. Typically, on-ine or off-line, s oftware training comes in two main varieties, training classes or manuals.
Manuals have the disadvantage in that they are monolithic. They attempt to list all the different things that one could possibly need to know about the software. It is difficult to learn from a manual how to get proficient in the use of the software. The manuals are static, and are difficult to update. In order to update the manual, an entirely new manual or supplement needs to be sent to the user. The manuals tend to result in a passive learning. People are also reluctant to use manuals to learn, due to their perceived deficiencies. It is difficult to find information using manuals, especially when time is critical. The other main type of software training is training classes and materials.
Training classes ranging from half a day to a week are typically available to train employees in the use of a software program. Training classes have a number of disadvantages. They tend to be indifferent to student knowledge. Someone who is relatively skilled in the software will have to sit through a large amount of known material in order to learn the unknown material that is useful for them. On the other hand, a novice can be overwhelmed with new material and have difficulty seeing which pieces of knowledge are important or relevant to start work. Training classes are also time-constrained. A fixed amount of time is used for the training which could be too much or too little for a particular student. Training materials have the same problems as manuals.
Many software programs have "Help" functions which allow the user to obtain information concerning a program. Unfortunately this information is usually not sufficient to train the user in the software. Furthermore, the "Help" program is part of the software and cannot be updated without updating the software. Even though the software has "Help" functions, it is assumed that either a manual or a training class will be used as the primary training means. It is desired to have an improved training system for software.
Summary of the Present Invention One embodiment of the present invention is a software training module that enables web-based training of business software users. The software training module allows users to automatically obtain information they need concerning selected features of the software that they are working on.
In one embodiment, training statistic modules provide statistics concerning the learning behavior using the software training module. These statistics can be used to produce employee evaluations, company-level evaluations, as well as collect overall software statistics to evaluate the software program itself as well as to be used in making comparisons to user or company-level evaluations. Traditional tests and exams are not necessary. In another embodiment, a training updating module is provided that is adapted to quickly allow administrators to update the training module text in response to user input. This allows for the training to be current and more useful to the user. This helps the software training module to become more useful.
In another embodiment, the software training module enables multi-level displays concerning selected features of the software. A first layer contains basic information and additional, selectable layers contain more detailed information. In a preferred embodiment, the additional layers include information concerning how to use the input element, what the input element is, and why to use the input element. The system is flexible and allows for including new layers as needed. In a preferred embodiment, the software includes embedded links to the software training module which allows the user to quickly go the software training module to learn additional information. In a preferred embodiment, the software training module is implemented on a server system on the Internet. The software training module can be located at the same location as the software, or the software can be located in another location. For example, the software training module can be located at a web-based location, while the software is loaded onto the user's computer.
Brief Description of the Drawings
Fig. 1 is a diagram illustrating one embodiment of displays used by the present invention.
Fig. 2 is a diagram of a server system used to implement one embodiment of the present invention.
Fig. 3 is a flow chart that illustrates the operation of the display system of one embodiment of the present invention.
Fig. 4 is a diagram that illustrates the operation of the training statistics module of one embodiment of the present invention. Fig. 5 is a diagram that illustrates the use of a database by the different modules used in the present invention.
Figs. 6A-6C illustrate displays used by one embodiment of the training module of the present invention.
Fig. 7 illustrates a training statistics display of one embodiment of the present invention.
Figs. 8A-8D illustrate displays for the training update module used by administrators.
Fig. 9 is a diagram illustrating one embodiment of a software design documentation display as used in one embodiment of the present invention. Fig. 10A is a diagram illustrating a server system that can be used for operating the software design documentation module of one embodiment of the present invention. Fig. 10B is a diagram of a computer system including the software design documentation module of one embodiment of the present invention.
Detailed Description of the Invention
Fig. 1 illustrates displays which can be used with one embodiment of the present invention. Display 20 is the normal display for the software. The software display includes a number of terms used to describe the input of the software program. These terms are shown on the display but are typically insufficient, by themselves, for a novice user to figure out how to use the software. In a preferred embodiment, most of the terms are associated with links to the software training module. In the present invention the software users have access to a training display giving additional information concerning the term. In one embodiment, an embedded link in the software links from the term to a web- based software training module. In this embodiment, by clicking on the term 22, a term-definition web page is brought up on the screen. The term in the software can be associated with the training web page using an embedded universal Resource Locator (URL). Term-definition web page display 24 is shown.
In a preferred embodiment, the term-definition web page display 24 is the first layer of a multi-layer display concerning the term. In this embodiment, a number of second-layer display screens are also available. These second-layer display screens include pages 26, 28 and 30, which can be reached by clicking buttons 32a-c on the term-definition page 24.
Since the software display module is available on the web, it is preferably updated to provide the best information concerning the software display. The information at the web site is preferably sufficient to train a novice user. In one embodiment, the definition along with the additional information is sufficient to give information concerning every term, explaining why this term is there, how it's used, what it means, and any other information that is needed to learn the business software.
The present invention has a number of advantages over prior systems. The use of the software training module is not time-constrained. The user can obtain the information when it is needed. A problem with manuals and training systems is that there is a large time lag between the learning of the information and the use of the information. This can result in the user forgetting how to use the training information. With the training module the learning of the information is quickly followed by the use and reinforcement of the information. This provides an active learning system with automatic feedback that helps the user operate the software that much faster.
The system of the present invention is non-monolithic. The user need not sit through explanations of terms that they already understand, and can take the information in usable user-driven chunks as needed. Since the training module is located at a web site, it can be dynamically updated by administrators.
The training module is not static and can easily be dynamically updated by administrators. Administrators receive user comments and can update the training module to make it more useful to users.
In a preferred embodiment, the training information is comprehensive. For typical business software, three to four thousand objects could be used as terms linking to the display system. The system of the present invention is user- controlled to produce relevant tutorials for the user. The system saves time and money over training courses. The system also keeps the barrier to learning low. In a preferred embodiment, the training system does not assume that the user knows any particular underlying skill. For example, in learning a new accounting software program, the system can be so basic that a person not skilled in accounting could come up to speed in the use of the software by using the information contained in the training displays. Further, the present invention allows for continuous work flow and continuous learning at the same time. There is no breaking away from doing the work with the software for large chunks of time in order to get the manual or attend a training class. The system of the present invention also does not force the user to frame a question in order to provide training. The user, by clicking through the system, can quickly obtain relevant information.
The use of the training modules greatly reduces the time and costs of training in the software.
In one embodiment, the present invention allows for cross-departmental multi-tasking. The business software can be used for a number of different business functions. Having the training module associated therewith allows users from different departments to input information and perform tasks for all of the business functions. This is a great advantage for small businesses because it allows members of one department to take the place of members of another department. Additionally, since the system of the present invention reduces the company training investment costs and training time, it allows greater and less expensive employee mobility as well as a reduction in required investment in new- hires and retraining employees. In general, the present invention provides great flexibility for companies. Fig. 1 shows an embodiment in which multiple levels of training information are provided. The multiple levels of training information are useful in that they allow different levels of information to be provided to users who probably will have different levels of skill and past knowledge.
In a preferred embodiment, the movements between the software display and the software training display can be done quickly, preferably with one or a few clicks.
Fig. 2 illustrates one implementation of the system of the present invention using a server system 40. Server system 40 includes a web server 42, an applications server 44 with associated database 46. Users can access the training module 48 in the applications server 44 through the Internet 50. User computers 50 and 52 use the Internet to get access to the training software at the server system 40. The business software can be located at a umber of locations such as the server system, the user computer, or at another server system (not shown). In addition to the software training module, the applications server can run training statistics module 54 as well as the training updating module 56. The training statistics module 54 allows users to determine statistics, as will be described below. The updating module allows an administrator user from administrative computer 58 to access the text of the display and update it. This allows for a dynamic system, as will be described below.
Fig. 3 is a flow chart that illustrates the operation of the web training system of one embodiment. In step 60, the user selects a term in the software display. In step 62, a training display module provides basic information to the user. The user can optionally select additional information in step 64. This additional information is displayed by the training module in step 66. The levels described are only examples. In addition to the levels shown here, case studies and tips and case studies, detail notes and white papers can also be provided. The training module display is preferably on the same screen as the software display for the software. Optionally in step 68, the user can select a question search. The user inputs a search term for a question in step 70, and in step 72 a display of the different questions is provided. In step 74, the user can provide a question which is sent to the administrator for the system. The administrator preferably answers the question and updates the software training text. Fig. 4 illustrates the software training statistics module. In block 80, a user training request is shown. This user training request is added to the user statistics 82, company statistics 83, as well as total statistics 84. Totals of each of the user's statistics can be used for employee evaluations in block 86, self- evaluations in block 88. The company statistics can be used in the company evaluations in block 90. The software evaluations are done in block 92. The total statistics 84 can also be used to produce a baseline to judge the company statistics and the user statistics. Fig. 5 is a diagram illustrating the training update module 100, the software training module 102, and the training statistics module 104. Each of these units is operably connected to the database 106. As described above, the software training module provides software training information to the user 110. The training update module is accessed by the administrator 112. The training update module preferably includes an electronic mailbox 114 or other electronic message transfer system receiving input from the users. The messaging transfer system preferably is linked to the training page from which the question is sent and provides the user ID. information. A training material search tool 116 is used to look through the training material to find all the locations in which a certain reference needs to be updated. A training material text editor 118 allows the administrator to modify the software training information so as to improve it dynamically. Version control module 120 maintains the different versions of the training software as well as testing the different required authorizations for different administrators. The use of the training update module allows the system to help run the business by getting feedback to update the software. By dynamically updating the software, the software never becomes stale and remains useful for the users.
The training update module allows for dynamic updating of the training materials. For example, whenever a problem with the training material is found, the training material can be updated. There is no updating deadlines and long delays such as that associated with manuals because the training module system is a user driven system. The question, message system page location, user I.D. , timestamp, etc., can be stored into the database for message processing. The updating of the training materials improves the quality of the materials based on user dynamic feedback and reduces the number of user questions and the resulting requirements of help desk staffing. The updating system eliminates the repetitive questions of the users and plugs holes in the training materials. The statistics system tracks the clicks used by the user in the training program. These clicks are compiled and stored in the statistics. Weak areas for the company can be viewed by viewing these statistics. For example, if the company is weak in Sales or Support, the company can add resources to these areas. Furthermore, the company can be compared to other, similarly situated companies. Specific user statistics can be used for employee evaluation or user review of areas in which they need help.
Another embodiment of the present invention using a statistics module concerns using the statistics module to provide an on-line focus group. In prior systems, if someone is evaluating a software product for purchase, training in that software typically is not provided. This is a result of the costs involved in the software training. With the system of the present invention, such software training through the virtual training system described above, is available for the potential purchaser. This allows the potential purchaser to get a greater understanding of the power and usefulness of the software being evaluated. When potential purchasers use the virtual training system of the present invention, the collected statistics allows for powerful market focus group of information to be collected automatically without paying for an expensive market focus group. Market focus groups are done by the companies in order to figure out how to improve the product or how to market the product. With the system of the present invention, the statistics collected by the statistics module allow for marketing focus type information to be easily collected.
In a preferred embodiment, user registration of the software collects the information concerning a user evaluating the software. The information collected includes the company, company business focus, the age group and other demographic information of the users and the like. A determination of the important features in the software which can be marketed to potential buyers as well as an indication of features which can be improved can be obtained using the statistics module. In addition, the training information can have selectable regions that can get specific information of use in the market focusing. For example, one section of the virtual training system can ask the user about the desirability of a certain feature not present in the software. The selections by the user, even the user reaching a given portion of the training system or not reaching this portion of the training system, provide important marketing information that can be used in the guiding of the developing of the software. Additionally, comments and questions received by people evaluating the software can be used to obtain important marketing information concerning the software.
Fig. 6A illustrates an example of a software program, in this case a product order program, which is used by a user. The user clicks on a term they don't understand and a training module display will be produced on top of the software display. Fig. 6B illustrates one example of a software display describing the PID Maintenance term. From this display 6B, additional information can be clicked on to produce the display shown in Fig. 6C. This additional, second-level display gives additional information concerning the term. The system can have a number of other display levels (not shown) which may imclude topics on who, where, when, etc.
As shown in Fig. 7, collected statistics can be used to produce a statistics display screen. This information can be provided for both a single user as well as for a company or total software statistics. Different users will have authorization to get the different statistics as needed.
Figs. 8A-8D show the displays used for the administrator updating system. Fig. 8 A shows a different version lists of the different training software systems. Fig. 8B shows a search system that allows the user to search for a term. For example, each time a specific term is mentioned, it can be searched for and thus modified. A global update of all of the term descriptions can be easily done at the user's choice. Fig. 8C illustrates a display of the search results. In a preferred embodiment, the search results page can be clicked onto to produce a menu modifying screen as shown in Fig. 8D.
Additionally, the user can create their own categories and layers. If the user already has a manual, the electronic text can be input into the software training system by creating categories and layers and then assigning manual topics to the categories and layers.
One embodiment of the present invention concerns a software design documentation system. Software design documentation is a real problem for complicated software systems. Typically, software designers design a software system. After the designing is done, it is up to support software engineers to improve and maintain the software code. A problem that can occur is that the software may not have sufficient documentation. Documentation for the software projects are often the specification used to lay out the design before production. The ultimately produced software may not completely fulfill this specification. Additionally, the documentation is difficult to review and has many of the problems of the manuals described above with respect to the training module system. It is quite difficult from just this source code alone to determine how a software program works. Furthermore, software designers typically want to design software rather than document software. Additionally, the designers of the software may find many features to be obvious which are not obvious to later support software engineers coming to the software fresh. It is desired, therefore, to have a system that improves on the prior software documentation systems.
Fig. 9 illustrates one embodiment of such a software documentation system. In this embodiment, a software display 150 for a software program is shown. The software display includes a number of different elements such as the Term shown. The software display has embedded links for a Term that allows a link to a software design documentation module to produce a software design documentation page 150 concerning the element. This software documentation page contains documentation relevant to that element in the software display.
More layers can be added, for example, flow charts. The software engineers need only click on the different objects in the software display which need to be improved or supported. A page 150 is created that is relevant to that element information. In a preferred embodiment the software design documentation displays include a number of different layers, including a basic display level 150, a level 156 including a source code, a level 154 including detailed description of functions, and a level 158 concerning reasons for the functions. The use of a multilevel display allows for the support software engineer to get the level of information desired. The links between the software display and the basic software documentation can be through a number of different types of embedded links. One example is a Universal Resource Locator (URL). This URL system could facilitate use on the web or, if the URL's are relative URL's, the same URL's for the software training modules can be used for the design documentation information if the back address is changed. Alternately, passwords or browser cookies could be used to identify the support software engineers who need to see the software design documentation.
The system of the present invention allows software engineers to get access to the software design documentation that they need. It also allows an easy way for the designer to input the software documentation data. As the designer is working, he can input the data for each element to the software display as the software is being written. The software design documentation can be modified each time the software is modified to keep it up to date. As described below, user input to improve the software can also be used in the modification of the software design documentation of the software design documentation module. User feedback and software engineer feedback are used to improve the software in one embodiment using the dynamic software documentation system. The users and others can give comments that allow the software designers to modify the software. One embodiment of the present invention allows users to make comments to improve the software shifting software design functionality and features to the user. The system speeds and simplifies the production and improvement of software.
Fig. 10A illustrates an embodiment of one system implementing the software design documentation module 160. This system includes a server system 162 accessible across the Internet 164 by software users 166, administrators on administrator computers 168 and software designers or modifiers on the software design computer 170. The server system 162 of one embodiment includes a web server 172, an applications server 174, and a database 175. The software can be located at the application server or at the user computers. The software design documentation module allows for the creation of displays concerning the software documentation for a software program. This can be done at the same application server as the software training module 176 or at a different location. Additionally, the administrator computer 168 and administration module 178 can be used to receive input from the users as to potential bugs. The bug information can then be sent to the software designer or modifier. The maintenance software engineer can then get to the software, click on a relevant element, see the software design documentation, and then figure out how to improve the software. Once the software is improved, the software documentation is updated along with the software. Different versions of the software and the documentation can also be used.
Additionally, the material for the software documentation could be manipulated by intermediaries to improve the display and create all the embedded links for the software and need not be created by the software designers by themselves. The software design documentation module then becomes a very fluid system in which additional information and description of the documentation can be added as the system evolves. Fig. 10B concerns an alternate embodiment in which the software designer's computer 200 includes both the software 202 and a software design documentation module 204. The software design documentation module need not be located on the Internet but can be located in the same computer as the software program for the software designer computer. The information of the software design documentation module can later be loaded onto a server system across the Internet or can be maintained at the stand-alone software designer computer.
It will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that the invention can be implemented in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or character thereof. The presently disclosed embodiments are therefore considered in all respects to be illustrative and not restrictive. The scope of the invention is illustrated by the appended claims rather than the foregoing description, and all changes that come within the meaning and range of equivalents thereof are intended to be embraced herein.
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|11 Abr 2002||AL||Designated countries for regional patents|
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