WO2004059593A2 - Distance learning teaching system process and apparatus - Google Patents

Distance learning teaching system process and apparatus Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2004059593A2
WO2004059593A2 PCT/IL2003/001110 IL0301110W WO2004059593A2 WO 2004059593 A2 WO2004059593 A2 WO 2004059593A2 IL 0301110 W IL0301110 W IL 0301110W WO 2004059593 A2 WO2004059593 A2 WO 2004059593A2
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
server
learning
student
teaching
pupil
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/IL2003/001110
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Marco Luzzatto
Original Assignee
Marco Luzzatto
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority claimed from IL15375702A external-priority patent/IL153757A/en
Priority claimed from IL15532603A external-priority patent/IL155326A/en
Application filed by Marco Luzzatto filed Critical Marco Luzzatto
Priority to AU2003292505A priority Critical patent/AU2003292505A1/en
Publication of WO2004059593A2 publication Critical patent/WO2004059593A2/en

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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G09EDUCATION; CRYPTOGRAPHY; DISPLAY; ADVERTISING; SEALS
    • G09BEDUCATIONAL OR DEMONSTRATION APPLIANCES; APPLIANCES FOR TEACHING, OR COMMUNICATING WITH, THE BLIND, DEAF OR MUTE; MODELS; PLANETARIA; GLOBES; MAPS; DIAGRAMS
    • G09B5/00Electrically-operated educational appliances

Definitions

  • This invention relates to a learning system which is pedagogically and psychologically efficient and permits students to manage the way and timing of their educational progress, comprising the degree of knowledge from which he starts and the degree of knowledge that he wishes to attain.
  • the system of the invention does not require the presence or the collaboration of a teacher in real time, although such a presence is possible in this invention and may be desirable in certain cases, nor does it comprise or require equipment other than a personal communication means, typically a cellular phone, of the student, server systems that are readily available, and conventional connection means.
  • Distance learning educational material that can be acquired by telephones is now available, being, for instance, stored in resources available to the public.
  • the usefulness of such material is limited, since it is not flexible and cannot be adapted to the cultural level and to the requirements of different users. It has a relationship to a learning process similar to that of a lecture delivered to a public. While it would be very advantageous to carry out an educational system by means of long distance communication, it should be considered that certain requirements and limitations should be observed in this regard.
  • any such system should be flexible, in content and time viz. should give to its students the possibility of adapting it to their cultural level and their needs and to give the student the possibility exploit intervals of time that may become free from regular activities, sometimes in an unforeseen and sudden manner.
  • Such system should be flexible also in terms of location conditions, including while the learner is driving or otherwise in motion. Secondly, it should not require special equipment, and should be such that it can be carried out with existing telephones and other existing hardware. Thirdly, it should be easy to select and easy to implement. Fourthly, it should not involve high expenses. Fifthly, it should permit the student (by which term is meant anyone who implements the education system, even occasionally and for whatever purpose) to record, for future use, any matter emerging in the implementation of the system. Sixthly, it should provide the student with feedback as for his performances. Finally, it should be pleasant and entertaining insofar as possible.
  • the system of the invention comprises
  • a server - "server” means herein a combination of hardware and software, comprising all the programs and the database required for carrying out a given process and all the hardware required for implementing the hardware, regardless of whether said hardware and software are concentrated in a single computer or divided among a plurality of computers and regardless of the location of the computer or computers and including all memory and storage and memory means and all the transmission means, if required, regardless of their nature.
  • the “servers” that are part of the system of the invention comprises three main components: I) general hardware and software, such as are present in standard computers; II) a “database” (also sometimes referred to as “main server database”) which comprises a number of data storage segments that can contain, each one of them, data of any kind and/or one or more separate, secondary databases, and III) specific implementation software applicable to a plurality of data storage segments for acquiring, registering, storing, editing and using the information stored therein. Servers of this kind already exist and are used, for instance, for playing online games, but the name "server”, as used herein, is not intended to limit the function, purposes and subjects that are comprised in this invention, and that do not relate to games, but to learning processes.
  • server applies to any combination of the aforesaid three components, whether they are concentrated in a single unit, such as a large, computer, and/or in a single location, or they are divided or consist of parts that are divided among several, structurally or functionally connected, units and/or several locations.
  • server relates to any a machine equipped with suitable software capable of operating on a variety of communication system and applies, among other things, to: • A telephone network server which is an internal or external component of a fix line telephone network
  • An Internet server of any kind is an Internet server of any kind.
  • a local private network server (like in a LAN or WAN configuration)
  • a private telephone network server (as in the case of a private office telephone system)
  • a server that operates a cable and/or digital and/or satellite and/or interactive TV system
  • a server that can mediate between users that are using different Individual communication means operating on different systems (e.g. cellular and fix line systems), as defined and described below, and is capable of putting the user in communication and allow the users to interact between them and the server and between the users themselves.
  • a server as described above that allows participation of users that use different kinds of Individual communication means based on different systems, platforms and technologies and that is capable of taking into consideration the limitation posed by some Individual communication means in the course of the learning process and that is still able to deliver material in a format that is, at least, partially useable by all or most of the users.
  • said server is capable of bridging among participants using different technologies by employing a methodology the takes into account the diversity of the technologies used by different participants.
  • Each "subject” is associated to one or more "Instruction Delivery Software” IDS required for accessing, processing and delivering instruction using data contained in said subjects.
  • the implementation of subjects not belonging to the same category may require different processes, although all such processes will have a common main portion and differ from one another mainly by relatively minor additions or modifications, each of which is specific to a subject category.
  • each or some of the subjects may be comprised different, "zones” and means may be provided for selectively addressing each "zone", these "zones” comprising, for many, but not necessarily for all, subjects, at least two zones, designated herein as “levels” and “skills", the levels defining different degrees of knowledge pursued by a student as a function of the student's present degree of knowledge, and the skills defining different situations or uses for which knowledge is pursued by a learner.
  • Language zones may also be defined by the language of the student in embodiments of the invention. In the description of embodiments, it will be assumed that English is the student language or a language with which the student is familiar and which he intends to use English, but this is done for the sake of. example and does not constitute a limitation, although it will be a common case.
  • Said means comprise telephones, particularly but not exclusively cellular telephones, and telephones in combination with computers, taking into account that in modern technology that combination tends to become structural, by which is meant that modern telephones, particularly cellular ones, are so structured that they can carry out at least some of the functions of a computer.
  • the term "telephone” or “phone” should be construed as any kind of Individual communication means that, together with the server described above belong to the system of the invention.
  • the term “Phone” this invention includes, as non- restrictive examples, the following items:
  • Internet phones that is any PC computer that is equipped with modem, microphone, speakers, internet access and suitable software that enable the phone to have internet telephony, voice over IP communications and messaging features such as SMS (Short Message Service), MMS(Multimedia messaging), EMS, Instant Messaging and so forth.
  • SMS Short Message Service
  • MMS Multimedia messaging
  • EMS Instant Messaging
  • PDA Personal Digital Assistants
  • Palm Pilots such as Palm Pilots, Wireless Terminals and such that used alone or in conjunction of another device such, for example a cellular phone, are capable of having voice conversation including internet telephony, voice over IP communications and messaging features such as SMS, MMS, EMS, instant messaging and so forth
  • TV sets that function as terminals in a cable and/or digital and or satellite and or interactive TV system and that allows the user, employing remote control procedures, to interact with the TV system
  • Local networks terminals that is, any terminal e.g. phone or PC that are part of a system run locally like a LAN (Local Area Network) or an private office telephone system where the system server is controlled by a private organization and not by the service provider.
  • LAN Local Area Network
  • private office telephone system where the system server is controlled by a private organization and not by the service provider.
  • Any device among the mentioned one capable of at least one-way transmission among the ones described e.g. a TV set capable of only receiving but not of transmitting voice.
  • the communication between the student and the server may be direct or indirect, such as, e.g., the communication through a telephone exchange between a telephone and an Internet server.
  • the term "telephone” or “phone”, as used herein means any device capable of delivering and receiving acoustic messages, in particular capable of permitting a voice conversation, either over fixed communication lines, or radiation, or a combination of them, cellular systems, IP or other protocols.
  • all these "phone” may vary greatly in terms of data input means like, for instance, keypads, pointing devices or joysticks.
  • selection means are provided in the server to take into account the functional possibilities of the learner's individual communication means.
  • said communication means may include or not include the possibility of receiving and displaying images.
  • the server takes into account the features of individual communication means while the learning process takes place.
  • the server may advantageously be capable of generating and transmitting sounds and voice files, such as can be received and sounded by the individual communication means. This capability is particularly important with respect to some subjects. For instance, learners of a foreign language are naturally interested in learning the correct pronunciation of words, both for better understanding of what is said to them and for being better understood; and some learners may wish to improve the pronunciation of their own native or acquired language. Thus, specific subjects may be mainly acoustic.
  • the student registers at least part of the subject matter and/or the results of said learning activities.
  • he may form his own personalized subjects and or zones, optionally including said results, and register them in storage means thus creating a sort of private database that contains a list of his acquired knowledge.
  • Such a storage may be included in an individual communication means like, e.g., a telephone; or, if the individual communication mean is too limited to store said subjects and/or zones, it may be included in other storage means available to the learner, e.g. in a PC hard disk, or in the section reserved for the student's phone account in a telephone exchange data storage space.
  • Non-limitative examples of subjects, to which this invention is directed are: languages, alive or dead; commercial exchanges; everyday life; travel; history, both general and of specific fields; biology; psychology; social and behavioral skills, dating skills, driving, specific subjects of chemistry and physics; chess; music, etc.
  • the process of the invention comprises:
  • a number of learning subjects one or more of which preferably comprise each a number of zones, more preferably including a level zone and a skill zone;
  • the student dials a number or simply selects an option available on the phone menu that grants the student access to the server.
  • a specific protocol of communication is not required for doing this.
  • Known protocols may .be used, e.g., HTTP, TCP/IP, WAP and/or any Internet Wireless protocol.
  • the student selects the desired subject and/or subject zone by navigating the menu of a phone server program in an IVR operating style or by directly dialing a number associated with a specific subject.
  • Fig. 1 is a block diagram, schematically illustrating the structure and operation of a system according to an embodiment of the invention
  • Fig. 2 illustrates another embodiment that relates to a Digital TV system
  • Fig. 3 illustrates another embodiment that relates to the use of messaging and lVR
  • Fig. 4 illustrates another embodiment that relates to Instruction Delivery
  • Fig. 5 illustrates another embodiment that relates to creation of a virtual examination room.
  • the lesson will be based on the material appropriate for the level chosen. If he selects the "skill” option, the available situations will be displayed, indicating the level of difficulty entailed, so that the student may choose according to his present level and his specific need.
  • the content of the categories, the subjects and/or the zones is stored in the database of an Instructional Phone Server (IPS), as part of the "Instructional Phone Server Database” (or more briefly, “IPS Database” or “IPS DB”).
  • IPS Instructional Phone Server
  • For each in level zone of the IPS DB is stored data that includes words/sentences/phrases sharing a similar degree of difficulty as defined according to pedagogical criteria.
  • IU Instructional Phone Server
  • the IPS DB stores data in a variety of formats.
  • the same "Instructional Unit” may have relevant data stored in multiple formats.
  • the term " Instructional Unit” refers to a standalone chunk of information that is dealt with separately in the course of the instructional process. For instance, a single word, if dealt with separately, represents an Instructional Unit. The same word appearing in the context of a sentence may not be an Instructional Unit, but the sentence itself may constitute the Instructional Unit. For example, if the Italian word "casa” (house) is taught individually, as part of a vocabulary list, it may be an Instructional Unit.
  • the Instructional Unit "casa” may be represented and stored in a number of formats, primarily, but not exclusively, as follows: a) Text format (ASCII or related ones) - the word “casa” may be displayed on the phone display. b) Sound format (WAV, MP3, or related ones) - the word “casa” may be heard through a phone loudspeaker or a hand-free kit. c) Graphic format (Gif, JPEG or related ones) - the picture of a house in representation of "casa” may be displayed on the phone display. d) Movie format (MMS, FLASH or related ones) - a movie or an animation that shows a house is displayed on the phone display.
  • an Instructional Unit consists of and requires more than a single screen ⁇ frame ⁇ segment to be fully displayed
  • the student may use any suitable procedure available on the Individual Communication Means (I CM) that he uses, to navigate said Instructional Unit.
  • I CM Individual Communication Means
  • the user can conveniently move backward and forward, pause and repeat each single screen ⁇ frame ⁇ segment comprised in the Instructional Unit.
  • the learning process may and often will involve a single student, and in the present example will develop as follows: the student selects within the category "language” within the subject "Italian”, among the zones, either 'level” or “skills” and, finally, the specific Instructional Unit (IU) is selected.
  • IU Instructional Unit
  • view in this application, relates to all sensorial aspects of the matter to which the user is exposed and that includes images as well as sounds. Furthermore, any sensory-motorial activity that is required in the course of viewing the Instructional Units may fall into the term "view". An example of such sensory-motorial activity would be following or highlighting a text with a pointing device as the text is being read.
  • the Instructional Phone Server (IPS) (1) retrieves from its database a set number of suitable questions according to a predetermined logic.
  • the retrieved questions may be chosen randomly among a larger number of questions belonging to the same level, and they may be chosen also by applying additional criteria such as a specific grammar problem revealed by analyzing the student's history, as recorded in the IPS Database, as being problematic for the student.
  • the student has to provide the answer he/she deems to be correct by using any or a combination of the means available on his/her specific phone and system, including: input by using the keypad, scrolling, selecting, pointing clicking using built-in or add-on pointing or navigation devices, or voice recognition.
  • the way in which the question is formulated will dictate the way in which the question has to be provided. For instance, if the question is a multiple-choice one that is displayed in a form-like fashion with different options to be considered and each option being represented by a button object, pointing and clicking will be required.
  • the IPS also analyzes the student response, provides him with feedback as for his performance and the accuracy of the answers, and updates the student's score.
  • the IU Viewing and Pre-Questions Phase and the Questions Phase may be combined, in order to allow the student to practice and/or to be tested on parts of the IU as the viewing process takes place instead of entering the Questioning phase after the entire IU has been viewed.
  • the IPS acts as follows:
  • the learning process may also be carried out with the concurrent participation of two (or more) students, on condition that both of them operate through the same server.
  • the first student who initiates the match ("the challenger")
  • challenges the second student who may be considered to be "the opponent”
  • the match begins.
  • the server mediates between the challenger and the opponent and runs the match.
  • a set of simple rules determines the length of time that is allowed for answering each question, the score assigned to each question, the difficulty of the question, the handling of unanswered questions, and so forth.
  • the questions are retrieved from the subject database and are directed to the phones displays of both students, or at least to one of the phones, typically in a text format.
  • the server At the end of the match, the server proclaims the winner and gives both students the option to play another match, or quit.
  • the data concerning the students and their performances is stored in the IPS database and processed according to the outcome of the match. For instance, the ranking of the two students is updated in the overall list of those who have selected the subject concerning which the match has taken place, and they may also be included in a shortlist of best students entitled to a prize or some benefit.
  • This Instructional Phone Server (IPS) (1) is capable of operating on a variety of communication systems (4), like cellular, fix line phone, internet etc..
  • the IPS (1) consists, of a machine (10), that can be any suitable computer out of the many existing ones, and does not have to be a dedicated machine, as long as it is sophisticated and powerful enough to run the necessary software, process and store the needed data.
  • the IPS (1) runs some General Software (GSW) (11) that provides the general functioning environment of the IPS (1), including the Operating System that, again may be one of many, such as, for instance, Unix, Linux, Windows etc.
  • GSW General Software
  • the GSW (1) also contains communication programs necessary to maintain network communications (like, LAN, WAN, Internet and so forth) with computers and service providers that operate outside the IPS but, optionally in coordination with it.
  • An example of such service provider is a cellular operator that enables its subscribers to use the IPS services through a dedicated phone number allocated to that end by the cellular operator, which dedicated phone number, constitutes a link (that is, a gateway) to the IPS.
  • the ISW (12) is a bundle of applications that: a. creates, run and manage the instructional matter that is, the subjects (21), b. Is responsible for the instructional process, namely delivering the lesson and/or giving the students and, optionally, the instructors, access to the instructional matter; c. comprises Instruction Delivery Software (IDS) (18) and Study Mediation Application (SMA) (17) that provide the software environment for carrying out the instructional process in the IPS and in the student and/or instructor ICM. d. Runs all kinds of operation on the IPS Data Base (IPS DB)(13); e.
  • IPS DB IPS Data Base
  • ICM Individual Communication Means
  • the ISW (12) may consist of: (I) standard software available on the market that is configured and coordinated in such a way that provides the functionalities required by the IPS (1) in order to carry out the instructional process; (II) software created especially for the IPS (1) and not available on the market; (III) a combination of (I) and (II).
  • the IPS Data Base (IPS DB) (13) comprises the following elements: Administration (14) - This section of the (IPS DB) (13) contains personal data of the students and optionally of instructors, such as personal details, payments related to the attendance of leaning sessions, personal preferences and so forth.
  • Results (15) contains the student history, viz., when did the student access the learning system, for how long, his scores, if any, obtained in the course of the learning process, and the personalized Instructional Units (IU) (25) library.
  • the Instructional Units library is a segment of the IPS DB (13) that is allocated to the student in order to record, store and manage Instructional Units (IU) (25) to be used at any time, and not necessarily during a learning session run by the IPS (1), with or without an instructor and/or another student.
  • the Categories (2) contain the data used in the learning process.
  • the Categories require the ISW (12) in order to create a learning activity, since the ISW provides the process through which the data contained in the Categories is presented to the students, as well as the rules that govern the interaction between the student and the server in the course of the learning process.
  • Each Category within the Categories (2) consists of a number of
  • Subjects (21) having a common nature For instance the Category “Languages” comprises Subjects like “Italian”, “English”, “Hebrew”, “Spanish” etc. Each Subject has at least two Zones (22). The Zones represent different types of accessing data contained in the Subject. For instance, the Zone “Levels” (23) allows the student to access data according to the proficiency level to which a chunk of data, that is, an Instructional Unit (25) belongs. The Zone “Skills” (24) allows the student to access data according to the language function, that is, the situation, to which an Instructional Unit (25) belongs.
  • An Instructional Unit (IU) (25) is a standalone chunk of information.
  • IU Instructional Unit
  • the IU has a number of Instructional Units Dimensions (IUD) (26) such as, for example, (a) IU Formats (IUF) (27), that are the different data formats used to represent an IU. Examples of IUF (27) are text (200), sound (201), graphic (202), movie (203) and message (204). The same IU may be present in the IPS DB (13) with many formats; (b) IU Variables (IUV) (28) are data attached to an IU. Examples of IUV are skill (24), level (23), score (205) which represents the weight of an IU in a learning activity and the time (206) allowed to the student for dealing with a given IU in the course of a learning activity.
  • IUD Instructional Units Dimensions
  • ICM Individual Communication Means
  • ICM Individual Communication Means
  • ICM can communicate with the IPS (1) and between themselves.
  • the ICM (3) may be optionally equipped with an Instructional Units Manager (IUM) (16) and Study Mediation Application (SMA) (17).
  • IUM Instructional Units Manager
  • SMA Study Mediation Application
  • the IUM is an internal software that enables the user to communicate with the IPS or any other source of IU (for instance a PC capable of communicating with the ICM) record, store, view, run, play edit and manage IU even in the ICM itself rather than in a segment of IPS DB (13) allocated to the student.
  • the IUM (16) in addition to managing the IU, also allows the student to practice them by running some procedures that create a standalone learning environment that also provides the student with feedback, e.g. a self-test.
  • the advantage of the IUM (16) is that the student can perform learning activities offline, that is, without being in communication (online) with the IPS (1). This may result in improved speed and save the cost of online learning.
  • online and “offline” are to be construed in the widest sense for of any communication and are not restricted to any specific communication type, such as, for instance, Internet connection.
  • the student is required to be able, eventually, to act as both parties.
  • the skill consists of the following conversation comprising seven sentences:
  • the student accesses the Categories (2), the subjects (21), the zone (22) and selects the skill (24).
  • the learning ' activity run by the Implementation Software (12), drawing data from the Instructional Phone Server DataBase (13) begins.
  • the student hears the conversation.
  • Voice messages that form the conversation are played and heard through the phone, message by message.
  • the student can move to the next or the previous portion of the conversation, vocal, textual or graphic one, using predetermined phone keypad buttons or other navigation tools present on the specific phone the student uses.
  • Each portion of the conversation can also be paused or repeated at will.
  • the student reads the text of the conversation.
  • the conversation appears on the phone display portion (that is, parts of the conversation) by portion and the student can move to the next or the previous portion using predetermined phone keypad buttons.
  • Each portion of the conversation is 'heard" and is accompanied by movie- frames or by pictures illustrating the content of the conversation (e.g. Mr. Clark on his way to court).
  • Each portion of the conversation is heard and is accompanied by the text that is being heard.
  • the students views the movie or the pictures and speaks the related text
  • the conversation is heard and is paused, from time to time, at predetermined points. At these points, the student is required to speak the next word in the conversation.
  • This option assumes that the system is equipped with voice recognition features. If the system recognizes the word spoken by the student as being correct, the conversation resumes and pauses on the next input point. If the student speaks the word incorrectly, he is prompted to speak again the missing word. - • The listen & Speak option may require some previous voice sampling of the student's voice.
  • the voice recognition engine, and the samples may be present and stored in the Instructional Phone Server (1) in the Individual Communication Means (3) or distributed among the two, according to the specific configuration being used.
  • the student can take part in a lesson that is synchronous from the instructor point of view (that is, includes real-time live participation of an instructor versus, "asynchronous" where the instructor intervention does not take place during the lesson itself and does not involve real-time interaction with the student).
  • the student in certain cases is also given the option to request instructor support even if a particular learning activity can be carried out without the instructor intervention.
  • the student inputs some data connected with the IU and sends it to the IPS in order for the data to be analyzed. Then, the IPS sends the student an appropriate feedback.
  • the student might record in a voice mailbox in the IPS, some spoken sentences. These sentences might match some text contained in the IU.
  • a live instructor listens to the voice message recorded by the students and, the, sends the student an appropriate feedback. This feedback may be a written one, e.g. a SMS or a voice message message recorded by the instructor with corrections as for the students pronunciation or grammar.
  • Each menu item may also have an "Alternate” option that is helpful in order to practice the roles of the parties involved in the conversation, one at the time.
  • the "Alternate” option applied to the "Listen & Watch” item would allow the student to watch the movie while hearing only the voice of the receptionist and to speak text of the caller, and vice versa.
  • a Save IU (Instructional Unit (25)) option allows the student to save the current IU (25) including their specific formats. For instance, selecting the Save IU option while carrying out the Read activity would result in saving the text of the conversation, for instance, in SMS (204) format.
  • the Save IU option while carrying out the Listen, Watch & Read activity would result in storing the conversation in a format (for example MMS or AVI) that includes movie (203) + sound (201) and graphic (202), the latter instead of SMS (204) since, this time, • the text would be displayed as captions in the movie.
  • the Instructional Units (25) are saved either in the Results (15) section of the IPS DataBase (13) or, directly, in specific data storage means present in the individual communication means (3), depending on the specific hardware and system being used.
  • the saved IU are then run, viewed, played, edited and managed using the Implementation software (12) or/and the Instructional Unit Manager (35) depending on the system configuration, the data storage location and on whether the learning activity is carried out online or offline, that is, whether the activity requires the involvement of the IPS (1) or is self-contained in the ICM (3).
  • FIG. 1 shows an additional embodiment of the invention.
  • the numbers relate to items in Figure 1 and Figure 2.
  • a TV set operating on a digital TV system is in communication (39) with an Instructional Phone Server (1).
  • the Implementation SW (12) runs an activity by which the students learn about different mathematical functions. The questions are retrieved from the IPS DataBase (13).
  • the TV set screen (34) is split in five areas.
  • the students are required to recognize which one, among the four displayed graphs, represents a polynomial function.
  • the student uses the TV set remote control (36) to select the appropriate answer (in this case option (B)).
  • the selection may be carried out in a variety of ways, e.g., by selecting a number or a predetermined button on the remote control or by using any other features of the remote control.
  • any pointing device that can communicate with the TV set may be used.
  • the student receives appropriate feedback to his selection according to predetermined rules.
  • FIGS 3 and 4 relate to other embodiments of the invention that will now be described.
  • Embodiment 5 Embodiment 5 .
  • the process of the invention comprises:
  • Assigning a pupil to a synchronous course and a corresponding a asynchronous exercise program Defining, whenever possible, a timetable of lessons for the pupil, or receiving from the pupil separate requests for a lesson or lessons, and arranging communication meeting with the appropriate teacher;
  • the courses may comprise asynchronous lessons and the exercise programs may comprise synchronic ones. In extreme cases, all the lessons may be asynchronous and all the exercises synchronous. In other embodiments of the invention, the process of the invention may comprise teaching units that are not lessons and/or are not exercises.
  • the process also preferably comprises: n Providing an enrollment database; and Enrolling a pupil.
  • the method also optionally includes one or more of the following steps:
  • This embodiment of the invention also comprises an apparatus, which comprises:
  • ICM Individual Communication Means
  • IPS Instructional Phone Server
  • IPS database (13) containing instructional data, students' personal data, administrative and financial data, statistics, and IPS log and history data.
  • Connections and gateways to external resources and service providers such as to enable effective data exchange, coordination and billing
  • arrow (40) show symbolically the time flow of a lesson using a very simple configuration enabled by the invention.
  • the Instructional Phone Server (1) sends to the Instructor, that is represented by phone (42), and to two Students, that are represented by two identical phones (43), an Instructional Unit (IU)(25) in SMS (44) format that contains some text to be discussed in the course of the lesson.
  • IU Instructional Unit
  • SMS SMS
  • two students are shown, but the students can be in any number that the infrastructure can support.
  • there can be more that one instructor depending, again, on infrastructure and pedagogical limitations.
  • this example refers to cellular phones, but any ICM (3) could be used instead.
  • the parties involved can optionally view the SMS (44) that was sent in the Pre-lesson Stage (41). If the phones and the infrastructure support this option (for instance, if the phones work in multiplex mode allowing at the same time voice conversation and internet surfing) the parties can use material from different sources. This material may be material drawn in real time from the IPS (1) of may be an Internet page (48) viewed simultaneously by all the parties.
  • the students may practice an Instructional Unit (25) that is delivered using an Instruction Delivery Software (18) that, in this case, is an IVR program (400) with which the students can interact (401) using the keypad or by voice recognition means, while maintaining voice communication between themselves (13).
  • the data used by the IVR program (400) and the result of the students input are stored in the Results (15) segment of the IPS DataBase (13).
  • Embodiment 7 As illustrated in Fig. 4, a Programming Study Module - PSM (50) is present in the IPS (1). Said PSM belongs to the Instruction Delivery Software (IDS) (18) which (IDS) (18) is itself a part of the ISW (12).
  • the PSM (50) is a dedicated program that enables the student to study an Instructional Unit (25) that deals with computer programming using data drawn from the IPS DB (13) and data inputted by the student in the course of the activity.
  • the student (43) has a program running in his phone which communicates with the PSM (50).
  • Said program which belongs to the Study Mediation Application (SMA) (17), is called Virtual Programming Environment - VPE (51) and communicates with ISW (12).
  • the VPE (51) is only an example of the many possible Study Mediation (SMA) (17).
  • the SMA (17) is the local ICM complement of the ISW (12) and may be resident and stored in the ICM (3) or volatile. "Volatile" means that the SMA (17) may be downloaded form the IPS (1) or any other source to the ICM (3) and present in the same for the course of the activity but not stored in it once the activity is over.
  • the VPE (51) includes a code editor, where the programming code is composed and creates on the phone display (52) an Input Area (53) and a Result Area (54).
  • the student writes a program to compute the sum of numbers from 1 to 5.
  • the code is written, it is sent, as shown at (55), using the VPE (51) through the Programming Study Module - PSM (50) to a Compiler (CMP) (56) present in the IPS (1).
  • CMP Compiler
  • the code is compiled, the result is returned, as shown also at (55) by the PSM (50) to the VPE (51) and displayed on the Result Area (54).
  • the programs, parts of them, or any other matter relevant to the PSM (50) are stored in the IPS DB (13).
  • the instructor (42) is also equipped with VPE (51) and is connected as shown at (57) with the student (43).
  • the VPE (51) also allows the teacher and the student to view and work on the code simultaneously and in collaboration in a sort of Instant Messaging fashion.
  • Fig. 4 describes a synchronous study session, but asynchronous study (without real-time participation of an instructor) may be carried out by logging in to the PSM (50) and automatically receiving an assignment, viz. a program to be written. The rest of the procedure is identical as described above, but obviously in this case there is no assistance from a teacher.
  • the student enrolls in one or more lessons that may cover one or more IU.
  • the lessons of this invention tend to be shorter than customary lessons (which are typically at least 40-45 minutes) and may range, by way of example, between 15-30 minutes, although they may have different lengths.
  • the reason for such shorter lessons is that the attention span of the student in a long distance teaching process is likely to be shorter than in conventional face-to-face learning.
  • Very short lessons may be called "microlessons". Though reference is particularly made herein, by way of illustration, to the learning of languages, the process of the invention applies to any other subject matter, such as computer programming, economics, y, psychology etc.
  • the student may enroll in a number of ways; for example by calling a dedicated number, which places the student in communication with the IPS (1) and by, then, performing an automated enrollment procedure in one of the many available procedures.
  • the prospective student responds to a recorded voice menu contained in an IVR by selecting the subject he wishes to learn, e.g. a specific language, and by selecting the number of teaching units he/she desires to receive at this stage.
  • the student inputs personal data, such as phone number and credit card number and the ICM (3) through which he/she will receive information (e.g. a conventional telephone or a cellular telephone, or a computer, or the like), and optionally records vocal information, which may include data such as e- mail or house address.
  • the automated enrollment procedure generates a response, that includes confirmation that the enrollment has been ⁇ successful and/or a receipt sent to the given home or e-mail address, and that includes a personal code that grants the student access to the teaching units to be taken by him/her.
  • the data provided by the student and those supplied to him/her are stored in the Administration (14) segment of the IPS DataBase (13)
  • the same enrollment procedure may of course be carried out by filling out an online enrollment form on an Internet site and paying through the same site, which is also linked to the IPS. It goes without saying that the enrollment may also be carried out through a human interface, namely a person personally receiving and recording the student data and payment and storing the same data in the IPS DB (13).
  • the billing may be carried out automatically as the student orders the lesson.
  • the ICM (3) is a cellular phone and the cellular service provider and the Instructional Phone Server are capable of exchanging data and communicating with each other, the student may be automatically charged as he accesses or orders the lesson and or the learning material without any additional paying procedure.
  • SMS - Short Message Service - is the transmission of short text messages to and from a mobile phone, fax machine and/or IP address. ⁇ Messages may not be longer than 160 alpha-numeric characters and must contain no images or graphics.
  • the concatenated SMS option is particularly relevant for the IVR practice.
  • the instructor, the student and the IVR are connected in a conference call, and the instructor provides the student with necessary information in the course of the conference call and gives the student the opportunity to try to operate the IVR practice.
  • IVR is an abbreviation for interactive voice response, a technology in which someone uses a touch-tone telephone to interact with a database to acquire information from or enter data into the database.
  • IVR technology does not require human interaction over the telephone, as the user's interaction with the database is predetermined by what the IVR system will allow the user to access. For example, banks and credit card companies use IVR systems so that their customers can receive up-to-date account information instantly and easily, without having to speak directly to a person.
  • IVR technology is also used to gather information, as in the case of telephone surveys, in which the user is prompted to answer questions by pushing the numbers on a touch-tone telephone.
  • the lesson may be scheduled in a number of ways. A few examples are:
  • a human scheduler may fix the times of the lessons based on the data recorded in the Instructional Phone Server (1) Administration (14) segment .
  • Such data may contain the student preferences as for the times when lessons are to take place.
  • the Inner Software In the IPS may automatically generate a schedule for the lessons to be taken, again analyzing the student preferences recorded in the Administration (14) segment.
  • the student may perform an instant lesson booking by contacting the IPS by phone or by Internet and requesting the lesson without human intervention, e.g., by filling out an online form or by using an IVR.
  • the student will receive notification of the lesson booking in the appropriate ICM, for example by SMS, by a recorded voice message or by a text-to-speech message sent by the ICM to the student.
  • notification of the lesson booking in the appropriate ICM for example by SMS, by a recorded voice message or by a text-to-speech message sent by the ICM to the student.
  • the term "phone” which, as been defined in detail in this application, includes any device which, by itself or used jointly with other devices, can be used to carry out a voice conversation and/or to transmit and/or receive a different types of data.
  • a "voice conversation”, in the sense in which this expression is used therein, is a connection between parties wherein at least one party can send and receive a vocal communication. Therefore in this application the term “telephone” or “phone” applies also, but not exclusively, to devices like portable or hand-held computers used in conjunction with an internal or external modem or cable communication.
  • the conversation may be carried out using a variety of protocols, including regular phone lines, voice over IP and any other kind of network protocol. All this is possible without exceeding the scope of the invention.
  • the student Prior to the lesson, the student receives preparatory material to be learned in view of the lesson. Such material may be sent, for example, as a SMS from the IPS.
  • the student receives a SMS that contains some points relevant to the lesson.
  • the SMS may contain a list of important words to be used in the course of the lesson.
  • the student may also receive an MMS which contains visual material relevant to the lesson, e.g., an animation with a story, to be discussed in the target language.
  • MMS means Multimedia messaging services, which may have a variety of contents, such as colorful images, animations, formatted text and recorded sound clips. Multimedia messages are sent over the mobile Internet using WAP. MMS requires the network operator to provide this service.
  • WAP - Wireless Application Protocol is a secure specification that allows users to access information instantly via handheld wireless devices, such as mobile phones, pagers, two-way radios, smart phones and communicators.
  • the student may receive material to be viewed before the lesson in a variety of formats, e.g., an e-mail with or without attachment, directly to the phone, if the phone supports such a feature, or to the student's PC.
  • the preparatory material may also consist of an executable file, for instance, a Java application, sent as an attachment or transferred to the phone by any other means.
  • Java is a general purpose programming language with a number of features that make the language well suited for use on the World Wide Web.
  • the actual lesson stage is referred to as "Synchronous stage" because at least one student and at least one instructor interact synchronously, that is, in real time and with no delay or virtually no delay between actions and reactions between the learning and instructing party.
  • the student and the instructor engage in a learning process based primarily on conversation, making use, in the learning of a language, of the vocabulary provided to the student by SMS in the pre-lesson stage and practicing the same.
  • other material e.g. a picture or an animation
  • that material can be also referred to as a basis for conversation in the target language and in order to drill certain words or grammatical forms.
  • the same visual material may also be used to explain a point or elicit a discussion.
  • chat means Real-time voice and/or text communication between two or more and usually a group of users via computer or cellular or fix line phone.
  • the chat may take place in a private or public room with or without an administrator supervising the Chat.
  • any user can enter a text by typing on the computer keyboard or the phone keypad and the entered text will appear on the other users' monitor or display.
  • Most networks and online services offer a chat feature.
  • Instant Messaging is a type of communications service that enables a person to communicate by text and/or voice with another person usually on a one-on- one basis.
  • the instant messaging system alerts a person whenever somebody on the person's private list is online. Then said person can initiate a chatting session with whoever is online.
  • Chatting, IM and SMS can be used in the course of the lesson, mainly for written practice.
  • the participants in the lesson can compose together a text, such as an e-mail, and also discuss it orally as they dynamically edit it.
  • the chatting and IM programs can be of any kind, both peculiar to a certain service provider or cellular version of Internet programs like ICQ or MS Messanger or Yahoo Messanger.
  • the telephone can run a simulation of a code editor and a simulation of a compiler and display the results of the programming process and allow the parties involved in the process to actively modify the program. All this, always maintaining voice communication and other of the above mentioned features.
  • the telephone system must include some internet or network connectivity based on WAP or Java or any other suitable language and protocols and/or a minibrowser or any other suitable browsing software.
  • the term "Browser” means a computer program that allows to view formatted documents like, for instance, HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and WML . For example, one looks at Web pages with a Web Browser. A cellular version of Browser is often called Minibrowser. HTML is the authoring language used to create documents on the World Wide Web (WWW). WWW indicates a system of Internet servers that support specially formatted documents.
  • HTML HyperText Markup Language
  • the Exercise stage which may also be called “Post-lesson” or “In-Between- Lessons” stage, is typically asynchronous.
  • asynchronous only means that a given stage of the process is carried out without human instructor feedback.
  • all the components of the process may be, and generally will be, carried out in real time, but the instructor in not aware in real time of the student's actions.
  • some embodiments of this stage would normally be called synchronous, because they produce real-time (Synchronous) feedback, as in Embodiment 5; however, even there is no human intervention or participation in real time and in such instances the stage is referred to herein as "asynchronous".
  • “Asynchronous therefore means herein "without human intervention or participation in real time”.
  • the Exercise or Post-Lesson or stage is the main asynchronous component of the process of this embodiment of the invention. It is not solely meant to practice material learnt in a past lesson but also to prepare and optionally to introduce new material in view of the following lesson. It should stressed that, although preferred embodiments of the invention comprise both synchronous and asynchronous elements, this is not necessary and, based on pedagogical or cost-effectiveness considerations, embodiments of the invention may comprise only synchronous or only asynchronous elements. In most cases of the Post-Lesson stage, the student responses and his performances are recorded in the IPS database and provide information that can be elaborated and retrieved later if that is required.
  • the student dials a number that places him in communication with the IPS (1) .
  • the Implementation Software (12) in the IPS (1) runs an IVR program designed to allow the student to practice the studied matter.
  • the student is greeted by a voice message and, optionally, provided with some initial guidance meant to facilitate the commencement of the practice.
  • the IVR may be a shelf product, that is, one of the many one available programs on the market, or a specially written one to better suit specific needs of the IPS.
  • the IVR is linked to the IPS database (13) that stores personal data and history of the student as well as general material used in the courses.
  • the student is greeted by a voice or text response.
  • the student is prompted by a guided menu to identify himself by inputting a personal code using the Individual Communication Means (3) he is currently using, for example, a cellular phone.
  • the personal code might be, for example, a four digits number followed by the hush key ('#"), which is customarily reserved for data input confirmation as defined in ISO Standards.
  • the student is prompted to select the specific subject he is learning. If the subject of the teaching is a language, as is assumed here for the sole purpose of illustration and without intending any limitation, he is prompted to select the specific language he is learning (e.g. Italian) and the practiceMesson number.
  • the rVR practice comprises five groups of spoken sentences, each group consisting of three sentences. Only one out of the three sentences is correct from the grammatical point of view.
  • the student listens to each group and then selects the appropriate key from the cellular phone keypad to select the correct answer. For instance, if the right sentence is sentence number 2, then the student presses the phone key number 2, and so forth.
  • the IVR moves one step forward, viz. to the following question.
  • 7 - The IVR plays a help message with basic system information.
  • a message or a request for support is recorded by the user and immediately forwarded to an instructor or another person responsible for providing customer service.
  • the IVR plays a logout message, and optionally, prompts the user to respond to menu options which enable the user to:
  • the methodology of the language lesson is the same as described earlier but the IVR program is not stored in the IPS but downloaded or transferred by any other means directly to the phone, provided that the handset hardware supports such option.
  • all the practice may be self-contained, that is, inside the telephone, without communication with the IPS.
  • hybrid options are also possible, such as, for instance, sending to the IPS only the list of the selected answers for statistical elaboration and/or for other purposes.
  • Hybrid practice mode allows the user to be connected to one or more simulated sources of input-output during a practice session.
  • a configuration of Hybrid practice mode, in this invention may be as such:
  • the student is connected to the IPS internal IVR program on the phone channel and simultaneously, provided that his telephone bandwidth allows that and that his phone is also internet-enabled
  • the IPS may offer an option to add an IVR gaming software module. For instance, students may play, if they agree to do so, against each other and try to obtain a better score based on better practice performance.
  • An additional IVR gaming software module which is, part of the Implementation SW (12) may translate the victory of one of the students in a reward like, for instance a free lesson paid by the loosing gaming partner.
  • the results are stored in the IPS DB (14) and the balance, in terms of study credits of each student, is updated.
  • This example is similar to the three previous ones, except that part or all of the student answers are inputted not through the phone keypad, but through other ICM (3) like an internet online form or through the phone microphone and by having the IPS (1) or a phone resident Voice Recognition- program analyze the voice input and translate it in the appropriate answer.
  • This embodiment relates to the teaching of subjects other than languages, and for illustration purposes, the teaching of computer programming, for example Visual Basic.
  • a very simple case is considered, in which a dedicated program interfaces between the student, the IPS and the instructor.
  • VPE Virtual Programming Environment
  • (51) serves, among other things, as code editor, in order to write the Visual
  • VPE may be stored permanently in the ICM.
  • the phone display is divided in two areas: an input field and a display field.
  • the program functions as a sort of Instant Messanger and allows the student and the instructor to view and to edit the same code that is composed in the input field.
  • the code is inputted using the phone keypad or an external keyboard.
  • the student has to input in the input field, using the phone keypad, the following code or another code that yields the same result:
  • MySum MySum + x
  • the code is, then, transmitted to the IPS, directly or through a cellular phone operator.
  • the transmission is done with a simple command such as pressing the "Send" key.
  • the IPS contains a PSM (50) that receives the code sent to the server using the VPE (51) and passes it over to a compiler CMP (56) present in the IPS.
  • the Visual Basic compiler CMP present in the IPS (1) compiles the code and, through the PSM (50) returns the result of the compilation to the VPE (51) that displays it in the display field. If the code is correct the result field displays the number "15" which equals ⁇ 5.
  • the written code may be stored either in the phone memory or in the IPS.
  • the PSM (50) which is present in the IPS sends to the student an assignment (such as writing a code that yields ⁇ 5) through the a Virtual Programming Environment (VPE) (51).
  • VPE Virtual Programming Environment
  • the student may request the solution of the assignment to be displayed on a VPE screen run on the ICM or to be forwarded to him by email or any other ICM.
  • a further embodiment of the invention that relates to a method for creating immediate and temporary access to instructional contents and processes. More generally this embodiment provides a method for granting such an access to any form of content and processes including informative and entertaining ones and not just instructional ones in the narrow sense of the word.
  • Figure 5 shows an instance of this embodiment that relates to a situation where one or more persons have to take an examination is a specific subject.
  • the embodiment describes a system the allows: a. To instantly create a virtual examination room for performing the exam b. To create such a virtual examination room with or without requiring a physical classroom and with or without the physical presence of the examinees c. To register, store and process the answers provided by the examinees d. To provide the examinees with a feedback in real time or in very short time after the examination is completed. e. To provide such virtual examination room in a inexpensive way without a fixed infrastructure, like a computer network f. To limit the possibility of copying or bias in the course of the examination. g. To allow each examinee to optionally start and end the session at a different time
  • Figure 5 shows, a virtual examination room and the examination process structure according to this embodiment:
  • the examinees arrive to the place where they are to be examined. Such a place will be called “virtual examination room cell” (60).
  • the examinees in the drawing are symbolically represented by their ICM (3), in this case, their cellular phones.
  • One or more of these virtual examination room cells will constitute a virtual examination room (61).
  • Each examinee identifies himself to an authorized person that is charge of the examination process. 3. As the examinee is positively identified, the person in charge provides the examinee with a phone number and a personal access code.
  • the personal access code may be already available at the moment the examinee arrives to the virtual examination room cell or generated automatically on the spot by the IPS (1) as a response to the input of the student identity.
  • Each examinee is provided with an ICM (3), in this example, cellular phones, that may be the examinee's own phone or a phone provided by the organization in charge for the examination.
  • the examinee dials said phone number.
  • This phone number is a special number allocated by a cellular service provider for the examination.
  • the examinee inputs his personal code. By doing so, the examinee is given access (64) to the "virtual examination room" that is operated by the IPS (1) which is in communication (67) with the service provider (SVP) (62).
  • SVP service provider
  • the dimmed images of the virtual examination room cells (60) contained in (61) indicates not their physical but their functional nature that combined together forms the virtual examination room (61).
  • the ISW (12) generates the questions posed to the examinees using data present in the IPS DB (13).
  • the ISW (12) knowing which examinees belong to the same virtual examination room cell, selects for each examinees a different set of questions in order to prevent the examinees from cheating.
  • the students might receive in WAP mode, a multiple choice questionnaire relating to driving situations and select the answer they deem right by pressing an appropriate key on the cellular phone keypad.
  • the answers are sent via the cellular service provider to the IPS. There they are processed and the students and/or the institution that is in charge for the examination receive the results of the examination in real time or at a later time if that is preferable as a matter of policy.
  • the temporary access to the virtual examination room cell terminates when one or more of the following conditions are met: (I) the time allocated to the exam is elapsed, as symbolically shown by time axis (66); (II) a certain number of answers and/or a certain amount of activity by the examinee side has been detected by the IPS (1); (III) The physical location of the examinee is no longer within a radius (65) where the examinee is allowed to be during examination time. The examinee location can be detected by means of Global Positioning System (GPS), bluetooth or any other means compatible with the ICM (3) being used. (TV) The person in charge for the exam cancels in any way the examinees personal access code. It must be noted that these conditions enable the students to benefit to the fullest of the time and other resources allocated to them. Thus, for example, examinees do not have to necessarily begin the examination at the same time and late comers can still enjoy the full time allowed for the examination.
  • GPS Global Positioning System
  • TV The person in charge for the exam cancels in any way the examine
  • the examinees are trusted ones or the nature of the examination does not require supervision like, e.g. in a commercial survey, the examinees (or just "participants” or “users” depending on the situation) do not have to physically be at a "virtual examination room cell" and can be anywhere even at their home.
  • access to informative or entertaining contents and or processes is granted to a user as long as he receives a service from a govern or private entity.
  • a guest of a Hotel may receive to his cellular phone contents and processes such like language instruction, fun animations or the news as long as he is registered as a guest in said hotel.

Description

Distance Learning Teaching System Process and
Apparatus
Field of the Invention
This invention relates to a learning system which is pedagogically and psychologically efficient and permits students to manage the way and timing of their educational progress, comprising the degree of knowledge from which he starts and the degree of knowledge that he wishes to attain. The system of the invention does not require the presence or the collaboration of a teacher in real time, although such a presence is possible in this invention and may be desirable in certain cases, nor does it comprise or require equipment other than a personal communication means, typically a cellular phone, of the student, server systems that are readily available, and conventional connection means.
Background of the Invention
The use of telephones, and in particular, cellular telephones is becoming increasingly widespread, and increasingly encompasses all types of communication. The present art tends to provide cellular telephones with structural elements and functions that are conventionally typical of computers and thus to blur the distinction between phones and computers.
Distance learning educational material that can be acquired by telephones is now available, being, for instance, stored in resources available to the public. However, the usefulness of such material is limited, since it is not flexible and cannot be adapted to the cultural level and to the requirements of different users. It has a relationship to a learning process similar to that of a lecture delivered to a public. While it would be very advantageous to carry out an educational system by means of long distance communication, it should be considered that certain requirements and limitations should be observed in this regard. Firstly, any such system should be flexible, in content and time viz. should give to its students the possibility of adapting it to their cultural level and their needs and to give the student the possibility exploit intervals of time that may become free from regular activities, sometimes in an unforeseen and sudden manner. Such system should be flexible also in terms of location conditions, including while the learner is driving or otherwise in motion. Secondly, it should not require special equipment, and should be such that it can be carried out with existing telephones and other existing hardware. Thirdly, it should be easy to select and easy to implement. Fourthly, it should not involve high expenses. Fifthly, it should permit the student (by which term is meant anyone who implements the education system, even occasionally and for whatever purpose) to record, for future use, any matter emerging in the implementation of the system. Sixthly, it should provide the student with feedback as for his performances. Finally, it should be pleasant and entertaining insofar as possible.
It is therefore a purpose of this invention to provide such an educational system.
More specifically, it is an object of this invention to provide an educational system that involves the use of existing personal telephones and of servers which substantially exist and are available to the public, although intended for other uses and may require some modifications, mainly software ones, in order to fit the purposes of this invention.
It is a further object of this invention to provide a method and apparatus and a methodology that requires very low entry level in terms of cost and individual communication means.
It is a further object to permit those who avail themselves of such educational system to obtain and store records of their learning activities and useful material that may have surfaced as a consequence of using the system.
Generally, it is a purpose of this invention to provide a teaching method, apparatus and methodology that is free of limitations of the prior art and an apparatus for carrying out said method
Other objects and advantages of the invention will become apparent as the description proceeds.
In this patent application the word "he" is to be construed as meaning both
"he" as well as "she".
Summary of the Invention
The system of the invention comprises
(A) A server - "server" means herein a combination of hardware and software, comprising all the programs and the database required for carrying out a given process and all the hardware required for implementing the hardware, regardless of whether said hardware and software are concentrated in a single computer or divided among a plurality of computers and regardless of the location of the computer or computers and including all memory and storage and memory means and all the transmission means, if required, regardless of their nature. The "servers" that are part of the system of the invention comprises three main components: I) general hardware and software, such as are present in standard computers; II) a "database" (also sometimes referred to as "main server database") which comprises a number of data storage segments that can contain, each one of them, data of any kind and/or one or more separate, secondary databases, and III) specific implementation software applicable to a plurality of data storage segments for acquiring, registering, storing, editing and using the information stored therein. Servers of this kind already exist and are used, for instance, for playing online games, but the name "server", as used herein, is not intended to limit the function, purposes and subjects that are comprised in this invention, and that do not relate to games, but to learning processes. However, the invention applies to servers that may be created in the future and which may or may not be used for playing games in addition to implementing the invention. Further, the term "server" applies to any combination of the aforesaid three components, whether they are concentrated in a single unit, such as a large, computer, and/or in a single location, or they are divided or consist of parts that are divided among several, structurally or functionally connected, units and/or several locations.
It is further stressed that the term "server" relates to any a machine equipped with suitable software capable of operating on a variety of communication system and applies, among other things, to: • A telephone network server which is an internal or external component of a fix line telephone network
A server that is part of a cellular phone network
An Internet server of any kind
A local private network server (like in a LAN or WAN configuration)
A private telephone network server (as in the case of a private office telephone system)
A server that operates an IVR system
A server that operates a cable and/or digital and/or satellite and/or interactive TV system
A server that operates the broadcasting of a radio system
A server that can mediate between users that are using different Individual communication means operating on different systems (e.g. cellular and fix line systems), as defined and described below, and is capable of putting the user in communication and allow the users to interact between them and the server and between the users themselves. • A server as described above that allows participation of users that use different kinds of Individual communication means based on different systems, platforms and technologies and that is capable of taking into consideration the limitation posed by some Individual communication means in the course of the learning process and that is still able to deliver material in a format that is, at least, partially useable by all or most of the users. In other words, said server is capable of bridging among participants using different technologies by employing a methodology the takes into account the diversity of the technologies used by different participants.
(B) A number of "subjects", each of which consists essentially of a secondary database stored in one of the server main database storage segments. In this application, unless stated otherwise, the term "database" will be used interchangeably with the terms "main server database" or "server database". Each "subject" contains, data related to a given matter, examples of which will be given.
Each "subject" is associated to one or more "Instruction Delivery Software" IDS required for accessing, processing and delivering instruction using data contained in said subjects.
A plurality of subjects, that have some common features and/or are such that the same general implementing process is applicable to all of them, will be considered as belonging to the same "category". The implementation of subjects not belonging to the same category may require different processes, although all such processes will have a common main portion and differ from one another mainly by relatively minor additions or modifications, each of which is specific to a subject category. In each or some of the subjects, may be comprised different, "zones" and means may be provided for selectively addressing each "zone", these "zones" comprising, for many, but not necessarily for all, subjects, at least two zones, designated herein as "levels" and "skills", the levels defining different degrees of knowledge pursued by a student as a function of the student's present degree of knowledge, and the skills defining different situations or uses for which knowledge is pursued by a learner. Language zones may also be defined by the language of the student in embodiments of the invention. In the description of embodiments, it will be assumed that English is the student language or a language with which the student is familiar and which he intends to use English, but this is done for the sake of. example and does not constitute a limitation, although it will be a common case.
(C) Individual communication means for placing the student in two-way communication with the server. Said means comprise telephones, particularly but not exclusively cellular telephones, and telephones in combination with computers, taking into account that in modern technology that combination tends to become structural, by which is meant that modern telephones, particularly cellular ones, are so structured that they can carry out at least some of the functions of a computer.
In this application and claims, the term "telephone" or "phone" should be construed as any kind of Individual communication means that, together with the server described above belong to the system of the invention. The aforesaid devices and any similar devices that may comprise structural and/or functional additions and improvements, presently foreseen or not. The term "Phone" this invention, more specifically, includes, as non- restrictive examples, the following items:
* Cellular and any kind of mobile phone.
* Regular fix line phones with or without messaging features (e.g. SMS, Instant Messaging, ICQ etc.).
* Internet phones, that is any PC computer that is equipped with modem, microphone, speakers, internet access and suitable software that enable the phone to have internet telephony, voice over IP communications and messaging features such as SMS (Short Message Service), MMS(Multimedia messaging), EMS, Instant Messaging and so forth.
* Any device capable of communicating using TCP/IP protocols and HTML, XML, CHTML and HDML, WML, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), MIDP and related ones like.
* Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) such as Palm Pilots, Wireless Terminals and such that used alone or in conjunction of another device such, for example a cellular phone, are capable of having voice conversation including internet telephony, voice over IP communications and messaging features such as SMS, MMS, EMS, instant messaging and so forth
* TV sets that function as terminals in a cable and/or digital and or satellite and or interactive TV system and that allows the user, employing remote control procedures, to interact with the TV system
* Local networks terminals, that is, any terminal e.g. phone or PC that are part of a system run locally like a LAN (Local Area Network) or an private office telephone system where the system server is controlled by a private organization and not by the service provider.
* Any Java enabled device. * Any device capable of short-range radio transmissions like, for instance, Bluetooth transmissions.
* Any device among the mentioned one capable of at least one-way transmission among the ones described (e.g. a TV set capable of only receiving but not of transmitting voice).
* Any device that can interact with an IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
* One or more of the above mentioned devices, coupled or used in conjunction of another of the above mentioned devices.
* One or more of the above mentioned devices, coupled or used i conjunction with computers or communication devices.
The communication between the student and the server may be direct or indirect, such as, e.g., the communication through a telephone exchange between a telephone and an Internet server. As we saw, the term "telephone" or "phone", as used herein, means any device capable of delivering and receiving acoustic messages, in particular capable of permitting a voice conversation, either over fixed communication lines, or radiation, or a combination of them, cellular systems, IP or other protocols. Furthermore, all these "phone" may vary greatly in terms of data input means like, for instance, keypads, pointing devices or joysticks. Bearing these facts in mind, selection means are provided in the server to take into account the functional possibilities of the learner's individual communication means. For instance, said communication means may include or not include the possibility of receiving and displaying images. Preferably, but not necessarily, according to this application the server takes into account the features of individual communication means while the learning process takes place.
The server may advantageously be capable of generating and transmitting sounds and voice files, such as can be received and sounded by the individual communication means. This capability is particularly important with respect to some subjects. For instance, learners of a foreign language are naturally interested in learning the correct pronunciation of words, both for better understanding of what is said to them and for being better understood; and some learners may wish to improve the pronunciation of their own native or acquired language. Thus, specific subjects may be mainly acoustic.
In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the student registers at least part of the subject matter and/or the results of said learning activities. In another embodiment, he may form his own personalized subjects and or zones, optionally including said results, and register them in storage means thus creating a sort of private database that contains a list of his acquired knowledge. Such a storage may be included in an individual communication means like, e.g., a telephone; or, if the individual communication mean is too limited to store said subjects and/or zones, it may be included in other storage means available to the learner, e.g. in a PC hard disk, or in the section reserved for the student's phone account in a telephone exchange data storage space.
Non-limitative examples of subjects, to which this invention is directed, are: languages, alive or dead; commercial exchanges; everyday life; travel; history, both general and of specific fields; biology; psychology; social and behavioral skills, dating skills, driving, specific subjects of chemistry and physics; chess; music, etc.
The process of the invention comprises:
I) Registering in a server, as hereinbefore defined, a number of learning subjects, one or more of which preferably comprise each a number of zones, more preferably including a level zone and a skill zone;
II) Providing in said server selection means for selectively accessing any one of said subjects and anyone of said zones, if there are such zones;
III) Accessing through a telephone, as hereinbefore defined, said selection means and selecting through said selection means a desired subject and a desired zone, if there are such zones;
TV) Carrying out the learning activities programmed in said subject and in said zone, if there are such zones;
V) Preferably, registering at least part of the subject matter and/or the results of said learning activities; and
VI) Store said registered parts of the subject matter and/or the results of said learning activities, in storage means accessible and editable at will by the learner, thus creating a sort of personal database.
Typically, for connecting with the server, the student dials a number or simply selects an option available on the phone menu that grants the student access to the server. A specific protocol of communication is not required for doing this. Known protocols may .be used, e.g., HTTP, TCP/IP, WAP and/or any Internet Wireless protocol. In the case of a regular fix line phone connection, the student selects the desired subject and/or subject zone by navigating the menu of a phone server program in an IVR operating style or by directly dialing a number associated with a specific subject.
Brief Description of the Drawings
In the drawings: Fig. 1 is a block diagram, schematically illustrating the structure and operation of a system according to an embodiment of the invention; and Fig. 2 illustrates another embodiment that relates to a Digital TV system. Fig. 3 illustrates another embodiment that relates to the use of messaging and lVR
Fig. 4 illustrates another embodiment that relates to Instruction Delivery
Software (IDS) and Study Mediation Application (SMA)
Fig. 5 illustrates another embodiment that relates to creation of a virtual examination room.
For the sake of illustration, examples will be given mainly with reference to language studies and computer programming but this done in a non- restrictive way and it must be stressed that a wide variety of subjects can be taught using the same system.
Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments
Since a typical embodiment of the invention comprises the learning of a. language, an example of such will now be given. In the following example a language - say, Italian - is being taught to English speakers on an English- based system.
Embodiment 1
The "student", initiating the lesson, dials a number or simply selects an option available on the phone menu that grants him access to a server. Then, the student selects the desired subject and/or subject zone, generally through a succession of steps: 1) selection of a category, 2) selection of a subject within the category, 3) selection of a zone within the subject, if it is divided into zones. Categories, subjects and zones may be browsed through using a simple nesting logic. In this example, the student carries out successively the following selections: 1) the category, which is "languages"; 2) the subject, which is "Italian"; 3) the zone, which is typically a "level" or a "skill". If the student selects the "level" option, the lesson will be based on the material appropriate for the level chosen. If he selects the "skill" option, the available situations will be displayed, indicating the level of difficulty entailed, so that the student may choose according to his present level and his specific need.
The content of the categories, the subjects and/or the zones is stored in the database of an Instructional Phone Server (IPS), as part of the "Instructional Phone Server Database" (or more briefly, "IPS Database" or "IPS DB"). For each in level zone of the IPS DB, is stored data that includes words/sentences/phrases sharing a similar degree of difficulty as defined according to pedagogical criteria. For each in skill zone of the IPS DB, is stored data related to a specific situation, e.g., "making a phone call in Italian", "buying a coffee in Italian", "days of the week", "numbers", etc. If the student selects a skill rather than a level, the IPS DB will inform the user of the level to which each element (or as hereafter defined, each "Instructional Unit" or, in brief "IU") that belongs to the skill pertains.
The IPS DB stores data in a variety of formats. The same "Instructional Unit" may have relevant data stored in multiple formats. The term " Instructional Unit" refers to a standalone chunk of information that is dealt with separately in the course of the instructional process. For instance, a single word, if dealt with separately, represents an Instructional Unit. The same word appearing in the context of a sentence may not be an Instructional Unit, but the sentence itself may constitute the Instructional Unit. For example, if the Italian word "casa" (house) is taught individually, as part of a vocabulary list, it may be an Instructional Unit. If the word "casa" appears in the context of the sentence, "questa e' casa mia" ("This is my house"), the word "casa" ("house") it is no longer an Instructional Unit, but rather the sentence itself, "questa e' casa mia" ("This is my house"), becomes the Instructional Unit. Finally, a dialogue comprising several sentences including the sentence "questa e' casa mia" ("This is my house"), may constitute an Instructional Unit and even an entire Skill. In fact, an Instructional Unit may and will often contain and represent an entire Skill.
Now, the Instructional Unit "casa" may be represented and stored in a number of formats, primarily, but not exclusively, as follows: a) Text format (ASCII or related ones) - the word "casa" may be displayed on the phone display. b) Sound format (WAV, MP3, or related ones) - the word "casa" may be heard through a phone loudspeaker or a hand-free kit. c) Graphic format (Gif, JPEG or related ones) - the picture of a house in representation of "casa" may be displayed on the phone display. d) Movie format (MMS, FLASH or related ones) - a movie or an animation that shows a house is displayed on the phone display. e) Message format (SMS, e-mail, e-mail attachment, instant messaging or related etc.) - the information is relayed to the user as part of a storable message. f) Any combination of the above-mentioned formats or of analogous one.
It is clear that if an Instructional Unit consists of and requires more than a single screen\frame\segment to be fully displayed, the student may use any suitable procedure available on the Individual Communication Means (I CM) that he uses, to navigate said Instructional Unit. In other words, the user can conveniently move backward and forward, pause and repeat each single screen\frame\segment comprised in the Instructional Unit.
The learning process may and often will involve a single student, and in the present example will develop as follows: the student selects within the category "language" within the subject "Italian", among the zones, either 'level" or "skills" and, finally, the specific Instructional Unit (IU) is selected.
IU Viewing and Pre-Questions Phase Now the user has three options:
1. View the content of the Instructional Unit (IU)in order to learn it.
2. View the content of the Instructional Unit and then proceed to the question phase described hereafter.
3. Not view the content of the Instructional Unit and proceed directly to the question phase.
It is stressed that the term "view" in this application, relates to all sensorial aspects of the matter to which the user is exposed and that includes images as well as sounds. Furthermore, any sensory-motorial activity that is required in the course of viewing the Instructional Units may fall into the term "view". An example of such sensory-motorial activity would be following or highlighting a text with a pointing device as the text is being read.
Questions Phase
In the questions phase, the Instructional Phone Server (IPS) (1) retrieves from its database a set number of suitable questions according to a predetermined logic. For example, the retrieved questions may be chosen randomly among a larger number of questions belonging to the same level, and they may be chosen also by applying additional criteria such as a specific grammar problem revealed by analyzing the student's history, as recorded in the IPS Database, as being problematic for the student.
Let us assume that the questions are displayed in text format. The following example illustrates one of the many possible ways in which a question can be formulated:
Click on the correct translation of the Italian word "casa":
1. food
2. home
3. money
4. cake
The student has to provide the answer he/she deems to be correct by using any or a combination of the means available on his/her specific phone and system, including: input by using the keypad, scrolling, selecting, pointing clicking using built-in or add-on pointing or navigation devices, or voice recognition.
Of course, the way in which the question is formulated will dictate the way in which the question has to be provided. For instance, if the question is a multiple-choice one that is displayed in a form-like fashion with different options to be considered and each option being represented by a button object, pointing and clicking will be required.
This is the case of word "casa" in the example above.
If the question is an open one and the answer is to be provided in a free-text area, clearly some keypad or other text input means are needed.
In this case, the same question would be formulated in the following way:
Write in the text area the correct translation of the Italian word "casa": (t e t x a r e a)
Optionally, for the questions a certain amount of time is allowed to provide the answer; if it elapses with no response from the student, the IPS proceeds with appropriate action, such as moving on to the next question. In the course of the question phase the IPS also analyzes the student response, provides him with feedback as for his performance and the accuracy of the answers, and updates the student's score.
In an embodiment of the invention, the IU Viewing and Pre-Questions Phase and the Questions Phase may be combined, in order to allow the student to practice and/or to be tested on parts of the IU as the viewing process takes place instead of entering the Questioning phase after the entire IU has been viewed.
At the end of the learning session (that is, the viewing and/or questions phase), when questions and or the time allocated for the session have ended, or another criterion (for example, a set number of "credits" are utilized) is met - the IPS acts as follows:
1. Informs the student that the session is over.
2. Informs the student of the final score and provides him with additional feedback, if any.
3. Advises the student as to what would be the preferable action, such as to repeat the session at the same level or to proceed to a different one, more suited to the student.
4. Records in the IPS DB information regarding the student's performance in the session.
5. Processes said information, reaches a conclusion, and undertakes appropriate actions such as adding or removing the student from a shortlist of best students eligible for a prize.
Embodiment 2
The learning process may also be carried out with the concurrent participation of two (or more) students, on condition that both of them operate through the same server. In this case the first student, who initiates the match ("the challenger"), challenges the second student, who may be considered to be "the opponent", to a match. Once the opponent accepts the challenge, the match begins. The server mediates between the challenger and the opponent and runs the match.
Now the student-challenger and the student-opponent are presented in turn a number of questions. A set of simple rules determines the length of time that is allowed for answering each question, the score assigned to each question, the difficulty of the question, the handling of unanswered questions, and so forth. The questions are retrieved from the subject database and are directed to the phones displays of both students, or at least to one of the phones, typically in a text format.
At the end of the match, the server proclaims the winner and gives both students the option to play another match, or quit.
The data concerning the students and their performances is stored in the IPS database and processed according to the outcome of the match. For instance, the ranking of the two students is updated in the overall list of those who have selected the subject concerning which the match has taken place, and they may also be included in a shortlist of best students entitled to a prize or some benefit.
The system components and stages shown in the drawing (Fig. 1) will now be explained.
Instructional Phone Server (IPS) (Figure 1)
This Instructional Phone Server (IPS) (1) is capable of operating on a variety of communication systems (4), like cellular, fix line phone, internet etc..
The IPS (1) consists, of a machine (10), that can be any suitable computer out of the many existing ones, and does not have to be a dedicated machine, as long as it is sophisticated and powerful enough to run the necessary software, process and store the needed data.
The IPS (1) runs some General Software (GSW) (11) that provides the general functioning environment of the IPS (1), including the Operating System that, again may be one of many, such as, for instance, Unix, Linux, Windows etc. The GSW (1) also contains communication programs necessary to maintain network communications (like, LAN, WAN, Internet and so forth) with computers and service providers that operate outside the IPS but, optionally in coordination with it. An example of such service provider is a cellular operator that enables its subscribers to use the IPS services through a dedicated phone number allocated to that end by the cellular operator, which dedicated phone number, constitutes a link (that is, a gateway) to the IPS.
With the support of the GSW (11), some software, peculiar to the fulfillment of the invention, is run. This software is the Implementation software (12) or, in brief, ISW. The ISW (12) is a bundle of applications that: a. creates, run and manage the instructional matter that is, the subjects (21), b. Is responsible for the instructional process, namely delivering the lesson and/or giving the students and, optionally, the instructors, access to the instructional matter; c. comprises Instruction Delivery Software (IDS) (18) and Study Mediation Application (SMA) (17) that provide the software environment for carrying out the instructional process in the IPS and in the student and/or instructor ICM. d. Runs all kinds of operation on the IPS Data Base (IPS DB)(13); e. Allows the interaction between all parties involved in the learning process and, especially, the IPS (1) and the students and, optionally, the instructor, using Individual Communication Means (ICM) (3). f. Carries out all administrative processes including enrollment, billing, feedback, backups, data transfer including uploading and downloading of all data and programs, from and to the users, necessary to carry out the instructional process, etc.
The ISW (12) may consist of: (I) standard software available on the market that is configured and coordinated in such a way that provides the functionalities required by the IPS (1) in order to carry out the instructional process; (II) software created especially for the IPS (1) and not available on the market; (III) a combination of (I) and (II).
The IPS Data Base (IPS DB) (13) comprises the following elements: Administration (14) - This section of the (IPS DB) (13) contains personal data of the students and optionally of instructors, such as personal details, payments related to the attendance of leaning sessions, personal preferences and so forth.
Results (15) — This section contains the student history, viz., when did the student access the learning system, for how long, his scores, if any, obtained in the course of the learning process, and the personalized Instructional Units (IU) (25) library. The Instructional Units library is a segment of the IPS DB (13) that is allocated to the student in order to record, store and manage Instructional Units (IU) (25) to be used at any time, and not necessarily during a learning session run by the IPS (1), with or without an instructor and/or another student.
The Categories (2) contain the data used in the learning process. The Categories require the ISW (12) in order to create a learning activity, since the ISW provides the process through which the data contained in the Categories is presented to the students, as well as the rules that govern the interaction between the student and the server in the course of the learning process. - Each Category within the Categories (2) consists of a number of
Subjects (21) having a common nature. For instance the Category "Languages" comprises Subjects like "Italian", "English", "Hebrew", "Spanish" etc. Each Subject has at least two Zones (22). The Zones represent different types of accessing data contained in the Subject. For instance, the Zone "Levels" (23) allows the student to access data according to the proficiency level to which a chunk of data, that is, an Instructional Unit (25) belongs. The Zone "Skills" (24) allows the student to access data according to the language function, that is, the situation, to which an Instructional Unit (25) belongs.
An Instructional Unit (IU) (25) is a standalone chunk of information. In the example of language instruction it can be a single word or a sentence, depending on the context.
The IU has a number of Instructional Units Dimensions (IUD) (26) such as, for example, (a) IU Formats (IUF) (27), that are the different data formats used to represent an IU. Examples of IUF (27) are text (200), sound (201), graphic (202), movie (203) and message (204). The same IU may be present in the IPS DB (13) with many formats; (b) IU Variables (IUV) (28) are data attached to an IU. Examples of IUV are skill (24), level (23), score (205) which represents the weight of an IU in a learning activity and the time (206) allowed to the student for dealing with a given IU in the course of a learning activity.
Individual Communication Means (ICM) (3) may be any kind of "phone", as defined in this application. Examples of ICM, schematically shown in the drawing, are a cellular phone (30), a fix line phone (31), a PC (32), a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) (33) and a TV set (34). The ICM can communicate with the IPS (1) and between themselves. Depending on each specific system, the ICM (3) may be optionally equipped with an Instructional Units Manager (IUM) (16) and Study Mediation Application (SMA) (17). The IUM is an internal software that enables the user to communicate with the IPS or any other source of IU (for instance a PC capable of communicating with the ICM) record, store, view, run, play edit and manage IU even in the ICM itself rather than in a segment of IPS DB (13) allocated to the student. The IUM (16), in addition to managing the IU, also allows the student to practice them by running some procedures that create a standalone learning environment that also provides the student with feedback, e.g. a self-test. The advantage of the IUM (16) is that the student can perform learning activities offline, that is, without being in communication (online) with the IPS (1). This may result in improved speed and save the cost of online learning. For the sake of clarity it is stressed the terms "online" and "offline" are to be construed in the widest sense for of any communication and are not restricted to any specific communication type, such as, for instance, Internet connection.
Embodiment 3
Another embodiment will now be described. In its description, the numbers are as used to identify the several items in Figure 1.
The student, using a cellular phone as an individual communication means
(3), enters in communication with the Instructional Phone Server (1), and selects a skill (24) in the zones (22). For the sake of example, let us suppose that the subject (21) is the English language and that the skill (24) is:
"making a simple office phone call". The skill is mastered when the student is capable of understanding and carrying out a short telephone conversation.
In the conversation are involved two parties: the caller and the receptionist.
The student is required to be able, eventually, to act as both parties. The skill consists of the following conversation comprising seven sentences:
1. R(eceptionist): Smith & Clark Law office. Good morning, may I help you?
2. C(aller): I would like to speak with Mr. Clark.
3. R: lam sorry but Mr. Clark is in court now. Who is calling please?
4. C: This is Mr. Hoffman. What time will Mr. Clark be back in the office?
5. R: I don't know. Would you like to leave a message?
6. C: No thanks. Ill call him tomorrow. Goodbye.
7. R: Thank you. Have a nice day.
The student accesses the Categories (2), the subjects (21), the zone (22) and selects the skill (24). The learning' activity, run by the Implementation Software (12), drawing data from the Instructional Phone Server DataBase (13) begins.
On the student's phone display, appears an activity menu. Hereafter is the description of the menu and its activities:
Listen
The student hears the conversation. Voice messages that form the conversation are played and heard through the phone, message by message. In this and in all the following options, the student can move to the next or the previous portion of the conversation, vocal, textual or graphic one, using predetermined phone keypad buttons or other navigation tools present on the specific phone the student uses. Each portion of the conversation can also be paused or repeated at will.
Read
The student reads the text of the conversation. The conversation appears on the phone display portion (that is, parts of the conversation) by portion and the student can move to the next or the previous portion using predetermined phone keypad buttons.
Listen & Read
A combination of the two previous options.
Listen & Watch
Each portion of the conversation is 'heard" and is accompanied by movie- frames or by pictures illustrating the content of the conversation (e.g. Mr. Clark on his way to court).
Listen, Watch & Read
A combination of the previous options.
Listen & Read
Each portion of the conversation is heard and is accompanied by the text that is being heard.
Watch & Speak
The students views the movie or the pictures and speaks the related text
Listen & Speak
In a more advanced option, the conversation is heard and is paused, from time to time, at predetermined points. At these points, the student is required to speak the next word in the conversation. This option assumes that the system is equipped with voice recognition features. If the system recognizes the word spoken by the student as being correct, the conversation resumes and pauses on the next input point. If the student speaks the word incorrectly, he is prompted to speak again the missing word. - The listen & Speak option may require some previous voice sampling of the student's voice. The voice recognition engine, and the samples may be present and stored in the Instructional Phone Server (1) in the Individual Communication Means (3) or distributed among the two, according to the specific configuration being used.
Instructor
As it will be seen in a later embodiment, the student can take part in a lesson that is synchronous from the instructor point of view (that is, includes real-time live participation of an instructor versus, "asynchronous" where the instructor intervention does not take place during the lesson itself and does not involve real-time interaction with the student). The student, in certain cases is also given the option to request instructor support even if a particular learning activity can be carried out without the instructor intervention.
Feedback
The student inputs some data connected with the IU and sends it to the IPS in order for the data to be analyzed. Then, the IPS sends the student an appropriate feedback.
For instance, according to example of languages instruction, the student might record in a voice mailbox in the IPS, some spoken sentences. These sentences might match some text contained in the IU. A live instructor listens to the voice message recorded by the students and, the, sends the student an appropriate feedback. This feedback may be a written one, e.g. a SMS or a voice message message recorded by the instructor with corrections as for the students pronunciation or grammar.
Alternate
Each menu item may also have an "Alternate" option that is helpful in order to practice the roles of the parties involved in the conversation, one at the time. For instance, the "Alternate" option applied to the "Listen & Watch" item would allow the student to watch the movie while hearing only the voice of the receptionist and to speak text of the caller, and vice versa.
Save IU
A Save IU (Instructional Unit (25)) option allows the student to save the current IU (25) including their specific formats. For instance, selecting the Save IU option while carrying out the Read activity would result in saving the text of the conversation, for instance, in SMS (204) format. The Save IU option while carrying out the Listen, Watch & Read activity would result in storing the conversation in a format (for example MMS or AVI) that includes movie (203) + sound (201) and graphic (202), the latter instead of SMS (204) since, this time, the text would be displayed as captions in the movie.
The Instructional Units (25) are saved either in the Results (15) section of the IPS DataBase (13) or, directly, in specific data storage means present in the individual communication means (3), depending on the specific hardware and system being used. The saved IU are then run, viewed, played, edited and managed using the Implementation software (12) or/and the Instructional Unit Manager (35) depending on the system configuration, the data storage location and on whether the learning activity is carried out online or offline, that is, whether the activity requires the involvement of the IPS (1) or is self-contained in the ICM (3).,
Figure 2 shows an additional embodiment of the invention. The numbers relate to items in Figure 1 and Figure 2. Embodiment 4
As Individual Communication Means (3), in this case, a TV set operating on a digital TV system, is in communication (39) with an Instructional Phone Server (1). The Implementation SW (12) runs an activity by which the students learn about different mathematical functions. The questions are retrieved from the IPS DataBase (13). The TV set screen (34) is split in five areas. The text field (37) and four graphic fields (38). The students are required to recognize which one, among the four displayed graphs, represents a polynomial function. The student uses the TV set remote control (36) to select the appropriate answer (in this case option (B)). The selection may be carried out in a variety of ways, e.g., by selecting a number or a predetermined button on the remote control or by using any other features of the remote control. Optionally, any pointing device that can communicate with the TV set may be used. The student receives appropriate feedback to his selection according to predetermined rules.
Figures 3 and 4 relate to other embodiments of the invention that will now be described.
Embodiment 5 .
In a preferred embodiment, the process of the invention comprises:
Defining the guidelines of a plurality of synchronous courses comprising a plurality of synchronous lessons;
Composing, for each course, a plurality of asynchronous exercises, coordinated with the lessons and arranged in programs coordinated with synchronic courses, and registering the same in an exercise center;
Assigning a pupil to a synchronous course and a corresponding a asynchronous exercise program; Defining, whenever possible, a timetable of lessons for the pupil, or receiving from the pupil separate requests for a lesson or lessons, and arranging communication meeting with the appropriate teacher;
At the appointed times for lessons, establishing a long . distance communication between the pupil and the teacher, said communication involving the exchange of spoken and/or written messages;
Receiving from the pupil requests for communication with an asynchronous exercise center and causing said communication to be established; and
Developing the exercises as programmed.
The courses may comprise asynchronous lessons and the exercise programs may comprise synchronic ones. In extreme cases, all the lessons may be asynchronous and all the exercises synchronous. In other embodiments of the invention, the process of the invention may comprise teaching units that are not lessons and/or are not exercises.
The process also preferably comprises: n Providing an enrollment database; and Enrolling a pupil.
The method also optionally includes one or more of the following steps:
Registering the lessons and the exercises of each pupil in a database;
Evaluating the progress of each pupil;
Providing emergency integrations of the pupil's progress, when needed;
Providing, if required, certification of the completion of a course by a pupil, comprising evaluation, if required;
Providing pronunciation evaluation, when relevant;
Establishing communication through Web sites and/or Internet and providing the necessary databases. The operations necessary for obtaining from the pupil payment for the services enjoyed need not be described, because various such operations are known in the art and can be applied through long distance communication means.
This embodiment of the invention also comprises an apparatus, which comprises:
A- for each pupil, at least one Individual Communication Means (ICM) (3);
B — for each teacher, at least one Individual Communication Means
(ICM)(3);
C - an Instructional Phone Server (IPS) (1) comprising:
I. an Administration section, programmed for enrolling, financial transactions, etc.
II. an IPS database (IPS DB) (13) containing instructional data, students' personal data, administrative and financial data, statistics, and IPS log and history data.
III. Implementation Software (12) including software for managing And delivering instruction using Categories (2) and if needed, additional Study Mediation Applications (17),
Connections and gateways to external resources and service providers such as to enable effective data exchange, coordination and billing
Embodiment 6
In Fig. 3 arrow (40) show symbolically the time flow of a lesson using a very simple configuration enabled by the invention. For the example sake, we will relate to a language lesson but vast range of subjects could be taught using the same procedure. In the Pre-lesson Stage (41) the Instructional Phone Server (1) sends to the Instructor, that is represented by phone (42), and to two Students, that are represented by two identical phones (43), an Instructional Unit (IU)(25) in SMS (44) format that contains some text to be discussed in the course of the lesson. For the sake of example, two students are shown, but the students can be in any number that the infrastructure can support. Also, there can be more that one instructor, depending, again, on infrastructure and pedagogical limitations. Finally, this example refers to cellular phones, but any ICM (3) could be used instead.
In the Lesson Stage (45) voice communication between the instructor (42) and the students (43) and voice communication (46) between the students themselves is available at all times. Instant Messaging - IM (47) is also used between the parties.
In the course of a lesson, the parties involved can optionally view the SMS (44) that was sent in the Pre-lesson Stage (41). If the phones and the infrastructure support this option (for instance, if the phones work in multiplex mode allowing at the same time voice conversation and internet surfing) the parties can use material from different sources. This material may be material drawn in real time from the IPS (1) of may be an Internet page (48) viewed simultaneously by all the parties.
In the Exercise or Post-lesson stage (49) the students may practice an Instructional Unit (25) that is delivered using an Instruction Delivery Software (18) that, in this case, is an IVR program (400) with which the students can interact (401) using the keypad or by voice recognition means, while maintaining voice communication between themselves (13). The data used by the IVR program (400) and the result of the students input are stored in the Results (15) segment of the IPS DataBase (13).
Embodiment 7 As illustrated in Fig. 4, a Programming Study Module - PSM (50) is present in the IPS (1). Said PSM belongs to the Instruction Delivery Software (IDS) (18) which (IDS) (18) is itself a part of the ISW (12). The PSM (50) is a dedicated program that enables the student to study an Instructional Unit (25) that deals with computer programming using data drawn from the IPS DB (13) and data inputted by the student in the course of the activity.
The student (43) has a program running in his phone which communicates with the PSM (50). Said program which belongs to the Study Mediation Application (SMA) (17), is called Virtual Programming Environment - VPE (51) and communicates with ISW (12). The VPE (51) is only an example of the many possible Study Mediation (SMA) (17). The SMA (17) is the local ICM complement of the ISW (12) and may be resident and stored in the ICM (3) or volatile. "Volatile" means that the SMA (17) may be downloaded form the IPS (1) or any other source to the ICM (3) and present in the same for the course of the activity but not stored in it once the activity is over. The VPE (51) includes a code editor, where the programming code is composed and creates on the phone display (52) an Input Area (53) and a Result Area (54). In the example shown, the student writes a program to compute the sum of numbers from 1 to 5. Once, the code is written, it is sent, as shown at (55), using the VPE (51) through the Programming Study Module - PSM (50) to a Compiler (CMP) (56) present in the IPS (1). Once the code is compiled, the result is returned, as shown also at (55) by the PSM (50) to the VPE (51) and displayed on the Result Area (54). The programs, parts of them, or any other matter relevant to the PSM (50), are stored in the IPS DB (13).
The instructor (42) is also equipped with VPE (51) and is connected as shown at (57) with the student (43). The VPE (51) also allows the teacher and the student to view and work on the code simultaneously and in collaboration in a sort of Instant Messaging fashion. Fig. 4 describes a synchronous study session, but asynchronous study (without real-time participation of an instructor) may be carried out by logging in to the PSM (50) and automatically receiving an assignment, viz. a program to be written. The rest of the procedure is identical as described above, but obviously in this case there is no assistance from a teacher.
The various stages of the method as described in the last two embodiments of the invention and in Figure 3 and Figure 4 will now be briefly considered.
Enrollment stage
The student enrolls in one or more lessons that may cover one or more IU. The lessons of this invention tend to be shorter than customary lessons (which are typically at least 40-45 minutes) and may range, by way of example, between 15-30 minutes, although they may have different lengths. The reason for such shorter lessons is that the attention span of the student in a long distance teaching process is likely to be shorter than in conventional face-to-face learning. Very short lessons may be called "microlessons". Though reference is particularly made herein, by way of illustration, to the learning of languages, the process of the invention applies to any other subject matter, such as computer programming, economics, y, psychology etc.
The student may enroll in a number of ways; for example by calling a dedicated number, which places the student in communication with the IPS (1) and by, then, performing an automated enrollment procedure in one of the many available procedures. For example, the prospective student responds to a recorded voice menu contained in an IVR by selecting the subject he wishes to learn, e.g. a specific language, and by selecting the number of teaching units he/she desires to receive at this stage. Then, the student inputs personal data, such as phone number and credit card number and the ICM (3) through which he/she will receive information (e.g. a conventional telephone or a cellular telephone, or a computer, or the like), and optionally records vocal information, which may include data such as e- mail or house address. The automated enrollment procedure generates a response, that includes confirmation that the enrollment has been ^successful and/or a receipt sent to the given home or e-mail address, and that includes a personal code that grants the student access to the teaching units to be taken by him/her.- The data provided by the student and those supplied to him/her are stored in the Administration (14) segment of the IPS DataBase (13)
The same enrollment procedure may of course be carried out by filling out an online enrollment form on an Internet site and paying through the same site, which is also linked to the IPS. It goes without saying that the enrollment may also be carried out through a human interface, namely a person personally receiving and recording the student data and payment and storing the same data in the IPS DB (13).
Finally, if the IPS (1) is suitably linked with the service provider the billing may be carried out automatically as the student orders the lesson. For instance, if the ICM (3) is a cellular phone and the cellular service provider and the Instructional Phone Server are capable of exchanging data and communicating with each other, the student may be automatically charged as he accesses or orders the lesson and or the learning material without any additional paying procedure. Initial learning stage
The student receives information and guidance as to the administrative, pedagogical and technical aspects of the lessons. The information may be supplied by e-mail, SMS, or if it is too long to be contained in a single SMS, by a plurality of concatenated SMS, or by phone or in any other suitable way. SMS - Short Message Service - is the transmission of short text messages to and from a mobile phone, fax machine and/or IP address. Messages may not be longer than 160 alpha-numeric characters and must contain no images or graphics.
The concatenated SMS option is particularly relevant for the IVR practice. In this case, the instructor, the student and the IVR are connected in a conference call, and the instructor provides the student with necessary information in the course of the conference call and gives the student the opportunity to try to operate the IVR practice. IVR is an abbreviation for interactive voice response, a technology in which someone uses a touch-tone telephone to interact with a database to acquire information from or enter data into the database. IVR technology does not require human interaction over the telephone, as the user's interaction with the database is predetermined by what the IVR system will allow the user to access. For example, banks and credit card companies use IVR systems so that their customers can receive up-to-date account information instantly and easily, without having to speak directly to a person. IVR technology is also used to gather information, as in the case of telephone surveys, in which the user is prompted to answer questions by pushing the numbers on a touch-tone telephone.
Description of the learning process The following describes o a simple embodiment of the invention. Still, it must be emphasized that many other more complex embodiments can be carried out while remaining within the invention.
Embodiment 8
Lesson scheduling stage
The lesson may be scheduled in a number of ways. A few examples are:
- Once the enrollment is completed, a human scheduler may fix the times of the lessons based on the data recorded in the Instructional Phone Server (1) Administration (14) segment . Such data may contain the student preferences as for the times when lessons are to take place.
- The Inner Software In the IPS may automatically generate a schedule for the lessons to be taken, again analyzing the student preferences recorded in the Administration (14) segment.
- The student may perform an instant lesson booking by contacting the IPS by phone or by Internet and requesting the lesson without human intervention, e.g., by filling out an online form or by using an IVR.
- In any case, the student will receive notification of the lesson booking in the appropriate ICM, for example by SMS, by a recorded voice message or by a text-to-speech message sent by the ICM to the student.
- Preparation for lessons
- In what follows, it is assumed that a student uses as an Individual Communication Means (3) which is a cellular phone. Most generally, the term "phone" which, as been defined in detail in this application, includes any device which, by itself or used jointly with other devices, can be used to carry out a voice conversation and/or to transmit and/or receive a different types of data. A "voice conversation", in the sense in which this expression is used therein, is a connection between parties wherein at least one party can send and receive a vocal communication. Therefore in this application the term "telephone" or "phone" applies also, but not exclusively, to devices like portable or hand-held computers used in conjunction with an internal or external modem or cable communication. By the same token, the conversation may be carried out using a variety of protocols, including regular phone lines, voice over IP and any other kind of network protocol. All this is possible without exceeding the scope of the invention.
Prior to the lesson, the student receives preparatory material to be learned in view of the lesson. Such material may be sent, for example, as a SMS from the IPS. The student receives a SMS that contains some points relevant to the lesson. For the sake of illustration, it will be assumed that the lesson in question is a language lesson. In this case, the SMS may contain a list of important words to be used in the course of the lesson. Optionally, if the ICM used by the user and the service provider by whom the student is serviced support this feature, the student may also receive an MMS which contains visual material relevant to the lesson, e.g., an animation with a story, to be discussed in the target language.
MMS means Multimedia messaging services, which may have a variety of contents, such as colorful images, animations, formatted text and recorded sound clips. Multimedia messages are sent over the mobile Internet using WAP. MMS requires the network operator to provide this service. WAP - Wireless Application Protocol — is a secure specification that allows users to access information instantly via handheld wireless devices, such as mobile phones, pagers, two-way radios, smart phones and communicators. In addition to SMS and MMS, the student may receive material to be viewed before the lesson in a variety of formats, e.g., an e-mail with or without attachment, directly to the phone, if the phone supports such a feature, or to the student's PC. The preparatory material may also consist of an executable file, for instance, a Java application, sent as an attachment or transferred to the phone by any other means. Java is a general purpose programming language with a number of features that make the language well suited for use on the World Wide Web.
Lesson Stage (Synchronous Stage)
The actual lesson stage is referred to as "Synchronous stage" because at least one student and at least one instructor interact synchronously, that is, in real time and with no delay or virtually no delay between actions and reactions between the learning and instructing party.
In the lesson stage, the student and the instructor establish a connection through their ICM, typically through telephones. The terms "student" and "instructor" are used in the singular form for the sake of simplicity, but they include any number of students and instructors that the infrastructure used can support. The term "telephone" is to be construed in the broad sense, as defined hereinbefore. Further, reference is made hereinafter to language lessons, but this is merely an example and the invention extends to any other learning subject matter.
The student and the instructor engage in a learning process based primarily on conversation, making use, in the learning of a language, of the vocabulary provided to the student by SMS in the pre-lesson stage and practicing the same. If other material was provided in the pre-lesson stage (e.g. a picture or an animation), that material can be also referred to as a basis for conversation in the target language and in order to drill certain words or grammatical forms. The same visual material may also be used to explain a point or elicit a discussion.
As stated before, more than a single student or teacher may join the lesson, provided that the ICM (particularly the telephone) system used by the parties engaged in the lesson, supports the conference call feature. In the course of the lesson the participants can also view the SMS sent in the pre- lesson stage in order to better focus on the studied matter. This also option depends on whether the specific ICM used in the course of the lesson supports this feature. Other options may be used in the course of the lesson, provided that the telephone system used by the participants supports such features. Among such features are Chat or Instant Messaging (IM). "Chat" means Real-time voice and/or text communication between two or more and usually a group of users via computer or cellular or fix line phone. The chat may take place in a private or public room with or without an administrator supervising the Chat. Once a chat has been initiated, any user can enter a text by typing on the computer keyboard or the phone keypad and the entered text will appear on the other users' monitor or display. Most networks and online services offer a chat feature. Instant Messaging is a type of communications service that enables a person to communicate by text and/or voice with another person usually on a one-on- one basis. Typically, the instant messaging system alerts a person whenever somebody on the person's private list is online. Then said person can initiate a chatting session with whoever is online.
Chatting, IM and SMS can be used in the course of the lesson, mainly for written practice. For instance, the participants in the lesson can compose together a text, such as an e-mail, and also discuss it orally as they dynamically edit it. The chatting and IM programs can be of any kind, both peculiar to a certain service provider or cellular version of Internet programs like ICQ or MS Messanger or Yahoo Messanger.
Among the other tools that can be used, in conjunction of the basic synchronous lesson described above, is the possibility to run programs that can optionally be synchronized between the parties involved in the learning process. For instance, if the subject of the lesson is programming, let us say, in Visual Basic, the telephone can run a simulation of a code editor and a simulation of a compiler and display the results of the programming process and allow the parties involved in the process to actively modify the program. All this, always maintaining voice communication and other of the above mentioned features.
Among additional possibilities there would also be browsing in browsable sites, using the available telephone system and the sites resources (that is, readable and interactive material) as basis or part of the learning process. In this case the telephone system must include some internet or network connectivity based on WAP or Java or any other suitable language and protocols and/or a minibrowser or any other suitable browsing software. The term "Browser" means a computer program that allows to view formatted documents like, for instance, HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) and WML . For example, one looks at Web pages with a Web Browser. A cellular version of Browser is often called Minibrowser. HTML is the authoring language used to create documents on the World Wide Web (WWW). WWW indicates a system of Internet servers that support specially formatted documents. The documents are formatted in a script called HTML (HyperText Markup Language) that supports links to other documents, as well as graphics, audio, and video files. This means that one can jump from one document to another simply by clicking on hot spots. Not all Internet servers are part of the WWW, which is not synonymous with the Internet but is a subset of the same.
Exercise Stage (asynchronous stage)
The Exercise stage, which may also be called "Post-lesson" or "In-Between- Lessons" stage, is typically asynchronous. In this description and claims the term "asynchronous" only means that a given stage of the process is carried out without human instructor feedback. In other words, all the components of the process may be, and generally will be, carried out in real time, but the instructor in not aware in real time of the student's actions. From purely technical point of view, some embodiments of this stage would normally be called synchronous, because they produce real-time (Synchronous) feedback, as in Embodiment 5; however, even there is no human intervention or participation in real time and in such instances the stage is referred to herein as "asynchronous". "Asynchronous therefore means herein "without human intervention or participation in real time".
The Exercise or Post-Lesson or stage is the main asynchronous component of the process of this embodiment of the invention. It is not solely meant to practice material learnt in a past lesson but also to prepare and optionally to introduce new material in view of the following lesson. It should stressed that, although preferred embodiments of the invention comprise both synchronous and asynchronous elements, this is not necessary and, based on pedagogical or cost-effectiveness considerations, embodiments of the invention may comprise only synchronous or only asynchronous elements. In most cases of the Post-Lesson stage, the student responses and his performances are recorded in the IPS database and provide information that can be elaborated and retrieved later if that is required.
Examples of the post-lesson elements of the invention will now be described. IVR - practice
IVR Communication Establishment Phase
The student dials a number that places him in communication with the IPS (1) . The Implementation Software (12) in the IPS (1) runs an IVR program designed to allow the student to practice the studied matter. The student is greeted by a voice message and, optionally, provided with some initial guidance meant to facilitate the commencement of the practice.
All the interactions in the course of the IVR practice from now on, are based on prerecorded voice prompts (input requests) present in the IVR. It will be noted that the IVR may be a shelf product, that is, one of the many one available programs on the market, or a specially written one to better suit specific needs of the IPS. The IVR is linked to the IPS database (13) that stores personal data and history of the student as well as general material used in the courses.
IVR Greeting Phase
The student is greeted by a voice or text response.
IVR Login Phase
The student is prompted by a guided menu to identify himself by inputting a personal code using the Individual Communication Means (3) he is currently using, for example, a cellular phone.
The personal code might be, for example, a four digits number followed by the hush key ('#"), which is customarily reserved for data input confirmation as defined in ISO Standards.
Then the student is prompted to select the specific subject he is learning. If the subject of the teaching is a language, as is assumed here for the sole purpose of illustration and without intending any limitation, he is prompted to select the specific language he is learning (e.g. Italian) and the practiceMesson number.
IVR Practice Phase
For the sole purpose of illustration, a simple structure of an Italian lesson practice will be described, but the same methodology can apply to subjects other than languages and to practice structures other than the following one.
IVR Practice Phase - Italian Lesson
The rVR practice comprises five groups of spoken sentences, each group consisting of three sentences. Only one out of the three sentences is correct from the grammatical point of view.
The student listens to each group and then selects the appropriate key from the cellular phone keypad to select the correct answer. For instance, if the right sentence is sentence number 2, then the student presses the phone key number 2, and so forth.
Hereafter are listed the IVR responses to different events. The student uses the phone keypad to navigate in the IVR practice.
The right answer is given - the IVR moves to the next question.
The wrong answer is given - the IVR repeats the question until the right answer is given.
Student presses key:
1 to 3 - The IVR interprets any of these keys value as the answer deemed right by the student
4 — The IVR moves one step back, that is, to the previous question.
5 — The IVR replays the present question.
6 - The IVR moves one step forward, viz. to the following question. 7 - The IVR plays a help message with basic system information.
8 - The IVR moves back to the beginning of the last section.
9 - The user quits the IVR practice.
0 - A message or a request for support is recorded by the user and immediately forwarded to an instructor or another person responsible for providing customer service.
Logout of IVR Practice Phase
The IVR plays a logout message, and optionally, prompts the user to respond to menu options which enable the user to:
Leave voice messages for the IPS (1).
Receive real time feedback and statistics as for the performances in the course of the practice.
Select the appropriate format (e-mail, SMS, text-to-speech telephone voice message etc.) for the feedback and statistics requested by the student.
Indicate by leaving a voice message, by entering data with the phone keys or by any other means, the address of the ICM to which the feedback is to be sent.
Request other pedagogical or administrative feedback in a preferred ICM.
Perform scheduling operations.
Embodiment 9
IVR Practice Phase - Self-Contained and Hybrid Practice Mode
In this example, the methodology of the language lesson is the same as described earlier but the IVR program is not stored in the IPS but downloaded or transferred by any other means directly to the phone, provided that the handset hardware supports such option. In this case all the practice may be self-contained, that is, inside the telephone, without communication with the IPS. Still, hybrid options are also possible, such as, for instance, sending to the IPS only the list of the selected answers for statistical elaboration and/or for other purposes.
In this case the IVR program acts as an executable program, written in Java or any other language that can be run on a phone. The generalized hybrid practice mode allows the user to be connected to one or more simulated sources of input-output during a practice session. A configuration of Hybrid practice mode, in this invention may be as such:
1. The student is connected to the IPS internal IVR program on the phone channel and simultaneously, provided that his telephone bandwidth allows that and that his phone is also internet-enabled
2. Browse an internet site or any other resource that contains material that pertains to the questions posed in the IVR practice.
Embodiment 10
IVR Practice Phase - Conference Call Practice
In this embodiment not only one but two or more students are using simultaneously the same IVR and maintain, by means of voice conference, voice communication between them. If a number of students are practicing together as a study group, the IPS may offer an option to add an IVR gaming software module. For instance, students may play, if they agree to do so, against each other and try to obtain a better score based on better practice performance. An additional IVR gaming software module which is, part of the Implementation SW (12) may translate the victory of one of the students in a reward like, for instance a free lesson paid by the loosing gaming partner. At the and of the practice-game the results are stored in the IPS DB (14) and the balance, in terms of study credits of each student, is updated. Embodiment 11
ΪVR Practice Phase - Additional Input Means
This example is similar to the three previous ones, except that part or all of the student answers are inputted not through the phone keypad, but through other ICM (3) like an internet online form or through the phone microphone and by having the IPS (1) or a phone resident Voice Recognition- program analyze the voice input and translate it in the appropriate answer.
Embodiment 12
Program Interface for Lesson and Post-Lesson Stage
This embodiment relates to the teaching of subjects other than languages, and for illustration purposes, the teaching of computer programming, for example Visual Basic. A very simple case is considered, in which a dedicated program interfaces between the student, the IPS and the instructor.
Lesson Stage
In this case the instructor is assisting the student in writing a little program that computes ∑ 5 (sum of numbers from 1 to 5).
A program which serves as a Virtual Programming Environment (VPE) (51) is loaded into the ICM, which in this example is a cellular phone. The VPE
(51) serves, among other things, as code editor, in order to write the Visual
Basic code. It is irrelevant whether the VPE is downloaded from an internet site, transferred through IR communication or any other communication type. Optionally, depending on the specific embodiment, The VPE may be stored permanently in the ICM.
Once the program can run in the phone, it allows the following actions: 1. The phone display is divided in two areas: an input field and a display field.
2. The program functions as a sort of Instant Messanger and allows the student and the instructor to view and to edit the same code that is composed in the input field.
3. While the code writing process takes place, the student and the teacher can also carry out a voice conversation so that the instructor can assist the student as required.
4. The code is inputted using the phone keypad or an external keyboard.
The student has to input in the input field, using the phone keypad, the following code or another code that yields the same result:
Sub SumO
For x = 1 To 5
MySum = MySum + x
Next x
Result_Area.Value = MySum
End Sub
5. The code is, then, transmitted to the IPS, directly or through a cellular phone operator. The transmission is done with a simple command such as pressing the "Send" key.
6. The IPS contains a PSM (50) that receives the code sent to the server using the VPE (51) and passes it over to a compiler CMP (56) present in the IPS.
7. The Visual Basic compiler CMP (56) present in the IPS (1) compiles the code and, through the PSM (50) returns the result of the compilation to the VPE (51) that displays it in the display field. If the code is correct the result field displays the number "15" which equals ∑ 5.
8. If any compilation errors have occurred, error messages and, optionally hints and help files are displayed.
9. Once the lesson is over, the written code may be stored either in the phone memory or in the IPS.
,Post - Lesson Stage
If the student wishes to practice in asynchronous mode, that is without the teacher, he follows the following procedure:
10. The student logs into the IPS.
11. The PSM (50) which is present in the IPS sends to the student an assignment (such as writing a code that yields ∑ 5) through the a Virtual Programming Environment (VPE) (51).
12. The student acts as in stages 4-9 of the Lesson Stage.
13. The student may request the solution of the assignment to be displayed on a VPE screen run on the ICM or to be forwarded to him by email or any other ICM.
It is stressed that whenever in the practice of this invention a phone is Internet, or Voice over IP, enabled or when the bandwidth of the phone is sufficiently large to enable multiplexing, that is splitting the line in two or more channels, it is irrelevant to which channel the voice or the data are assigned, and for the purposes of this invention all possible assignment combinations between voice/data and Voice over IP or other protocols/regular phone line, are to be seen as equivalent.
A further embodiment of the invention that relates to a method for creating immediate and temporary access to instructional contents and processes. More generally this embodiment provides a method for granting such an access to any form of content and processes including informative and entertaining ones and not just instructional ones in the narrow sense of the word.
Embodiment 13
Figure 5 shows an instance of this embodiment that relates to a situation where one or more persons have to take an examination is a specific subject. The embodiment describes a system the allows: a. To instantly create a virtual examination room for performing the exam b. To create such a virtual examination room with or without requiring a physical classroom and with or without the physical presence of the examinees c. To register, store and process the answers provided by the examinees d. To provide the examinees with a feedback in real time or in very short time after the examination is completed. e. To provide such virtual examination room in a inexpensive way without a fixed infrastructure, like a computer network f. To limit the possibility of copying or bias in the course of the examination. g. To allow each examinee to optionally start and end the session at a different time
Let us consider the example of a number of people that have to take a theory exam to obtain a driving license.
Figure 5 shows, a virtual examination room and the examination process structure according to this embodiment:
1. The examinees arrive to the place where they are to be examined. Such a place will be called "virtual examination room cell" (60). The examinees in the drawing are symbolically represented by their ICM (3), in this case, their cellular phones. One or more of these virtual examination room cells will constitute a virtual examination room (61).
2. Each examinee identifies himself to an authorized person that is charge of the examination process. 3. As the examinee is positively identified, the person in charge provides the examinee with a phone number and a personal access code. The personal access code may be already available at the moment the examinee arrives to the virtual examination room cell or generated automatically on the spot by the IPS (1) as a response to the input of the student identity.
4. Each examinee is provided with an ICM (3), in this example, cellular phones, that may be the examinee's own phone or a phone provided by the organization in charge for the examination. The examinee dials said phone number. This phone number is a special number allocated by a cellular service provider for the examination. As the communication with the cellular provider is established (63), the examinee inputs his personal code. By doing so, the examinee is given access (64) to the "virtual examination room" that is operated by the IPS (1) which is in communication (67) with the service provider (SVP) (62). The dimmed images of the virtual examination room cells (60) contained in (61) indicates not their physical but their functional nature that combined together forms the virtual examination room (61).
5. The ISW (12) generates the questions posed to the examinees using data present in the IPS DB (13). Optionally, the ISW (12) knowing which examinees belong to the same virtual examination room cell, selects for each examinees a different set of questions in order to prevent the examinees from cheating.
6. The examinees have to answer to the questions in the test using any of the selection methods described in this patent application.
7. For instance, the students, might receive in WAP mode, a multiple choice questionnaire relating to driving situations and select the answer they deem right by pressing an appropriate key on the cellular phone keypad.
8. The answers are sent via the cellular service provider to the IPS. There they are processed and the students and/or the institution that is in charge for the examination receive the results of the examination in real time or at a later time if that is preferable as a matter of policy.
9. The temporary access to the virtual examination room cell terminates when one or more of the following conditions are met: (I) the time allocated to the exam is elapsed, as symbolically shown by time axis (66); (II) a certain number of answers and/or a certain amount of activity by the examinee side has been detected by the IPS (1); (III) The physical location of the examinee is no longer within a radius (65) where the examinee is allowed to be during examination time. The examinee location can be detected by means of Global Positioning System (GPS), bluetooth or any other means compatible with the ICM (3) being used. (TV) The person in charge for the exam cancels in any way the examinees personal access code. It must be noted that these conditions enable the students to benefit to the fullest of the time and other resources allocated to them. Thus, for example, examinees do not have to necessarily begin the examination at the same time and late comers can still enjoy the full time allowed for the examination.
Embodiment 14
In a variation of the previous embodiment, if the examinees are trusted ones or the nature of the examination does not require supervision like, e.g. in a commercial survey, the examinees (or just "participants" or "users" depending on the situation) do not have to physically be at a "virtual examination room cell" and can be anywhere even at their home.
Embodiment 15
In another variation of embodiment 13, access to informative or entertaining contents and or processes, is granted to a user as long as he receives a service from a govern or private entity. Thus a guest of a Hotel may receive to his cellular phone contents and processes such like language instruction, fun animations or the news as long as he is registered as a guest in said hotel.
Of course the same applies to an airport, and hospital or even a train in motion.
While embodiments of the invention and examples have been described for purposes of illustration, it will be understood that the invention may be implemented with, many variations, modifications and adaptations, without departing from its spirit or exceeding the scope of the claims. In particular, it may be implemented in the learning of widely different subjects and for widely different purposes.

Claims

1. Learning system, which comprises: a) a server, comprising a general hardware and software, such as are present in a programmed computer; a number of data storage segments; and one or more general implementing processes applicable to a plurality of data storage segments for using the information stored therein; b) a number of subjects, each of which consists essentially of data stored in the server database and of implementation software required for accessing and processing said database, each database relating to a given matter, which subjects are the sections stored in the server. c) individual communication means for placing each student in two-way communication with said server.
2. Learning system according to claim 1, wherein the individual communication means are" chosen from among:
* Cellular phones and any kind of mobile phone.
* Regular fix line phones with or without messaging features (e.g. SMS).
* Internet phones, that is any PC computer that is equipped with modem, microphone, speakers, internet access and suitable software that enable the phone to have internet telephony, voice over IP communications and messaging features such as SMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multimedia messaging), instant messaging and so forth.
* Any device capable of communicating using TCP/IP protocols and HTML, XML, CHTML and HDML, WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and related ones like.
* Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) such as Palm Pilots, Wireless Terminals and such that used alone or in conjunction of another device such, for example a cellular phone, are capable of having voice conversation including internet telephony, voice over IP communications and messaging features such as SMS, MMS, EMS, instant messaging and so forth
* TV sets that function as terminals in a cable TV system and that allows the user, employing remote control procedures, to interact with the TV cable system
* Local networks terminals, that is, any terminal e.g. phone or pc that are part of a system run locally like a LAN (Local Area Network) or an private office telephone system where the system server is controlled by a private organization and not by the service provider.
* Any Java enabled device.
* Any device capable of short-range radio transmissions like, for instance, Bluetooth transmissions.
* Any device among the mentioned one capable of at least one-way transmission among the ones described (e.g. a TV set capable of only receiving but not of transmitting voice).
* Any device that can interact with an IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
* One or more of the above mentioned devices, coupled or used in conjunction of another of the above mentioned devices.
* One or more of the above mentioned devices, coupled or used in conjunction with computers or communication devices.
3. Learning system according to claim 1, wherein the telephones are cellular telephones.
4. Learning system according to claim 1, wherein the general implementing processes comprise processes each of which is adapted to implement a category of subjects.
5. Learning system according to claim 1, wherein the processes comprise a plurality of processes adapted to implement a category of subjects having a common main portion.
6. Learning system according to claim 2, wherein the communication between the telephone and the server is direct.
7. Learning system according to claim 2, wherein the communication between the telephone and the server is indirect.
8. Learning system according to claim 7, wherein the communication between the telephone and the server is a communication through a telephone exchange.
9. Learning system according to claim 1 wherein the server is any machine equipped with suitable software, capable of operating on a variety of communication system '
10. Learning system according to claim 1, wherein the server is a server capable of bridging among participants using different technologies by employing a methodology the takes into account - the diversity of the technologies used by different participants
11. Learning system according to claim 1, wherein the server is chosen from among:
A telephone network server which is an internal or external component of a fix line telephone network;
A server that is part of a cellular phone network;
An Internet server;
A local private network server;
A private telephone network server; A server that operates an IVR system; A server that operates a cable TV system; A server that operates the broadcasting of a radio system; A server that can mediate between users that are using different individual communication means operating on different systems and is capable of putting the user in communication and allow the users to interact between them and the server and between the users themselves. A server that allows participation of end users that use different kinds of individual communication means based on different systems, platforms and technologies and that is capable of taking into consideration the limitation posed by some individual communication means in the course of the learning process and that is still able to deliver material in a format that is, at least, partially useable by all or most of the users.
12. Learning system according to claim 1, wherein in a number of subjects are comprised different zones and means are provided for selectively addressing each zone.
13. Learning system according to claim 12, wherein the zones comprise level zones and skill zones, the levels defining different degrees of. knowledge pursued by a student as a function of the degree of knowledge already acquired, and the skills defining different situations or uses for which knowledge is pursued by a learner.
14. Learning system according to claim 12, wherein the zones comprise language zones.
15. Learning system according to claim 1, wherein the server is capable of generating and transmitting sounds, text and images.
16. Learning system according to claim 1, wherein the subjects are directed to arguments chosen from among languages, alive or dead; commercial exchanges; everyday life; travel; history, both general and of specific fields; biology; psychology; specific subjects of chemistry and physics; chess; and music.
17. Learning process, which comprises:
I) Registering in a server a number of subjects;
II) Providing in said server selection means for selectively accessing any one of said subjects;
III) Accessing through individual communication means and, in particular but not exclusively, a telephone, said selection means and selecting through said selection means a desired subject; and
TV) Carrying out the learning activities programmed in said subject.
18. Learning process according to claim 17, wherein at least one of the subjects comprises a number of zones, the desired zones are selected and accessed and the learning activities programmed in the accessed zones are carried out.
19. Learning process according to claim 17 or 18, further comprising registering at least part of the instructional units that pertain to the subject matter and/or the results of the learning activities.
20. Learning process according to claim 18, further comprising forming subjects and/or zones that include the results of the learning activities and memorizing them in a memory accessible to the student.
21. Learning process according to claim 19, where the results of the learning activities are memorized in a memory accessible to the student in an external server.
22. Learning process according to claim 19, where the results of the learning activities are memorized in a memory present in the individual communication means used by the student.
23. Learning process according to claim 19, where the results of the . learning activities are managed and edited, viewed, played and run using an instructional units dedicated manager software.
24. Learning process according to claim 17, where a single student takes part in the learning process.
24. Learning process according to claim 17 where a number of students take part simultaneously in the learning process, interact among themselves, interact, among themselves and/or the server and interact among themselves and/or a tutor.
25. Teaching process, which comprises the steps of: Defining one or a plurality of teaching units; Assigning to each pupil one or more teaching units;
Appointing times for each pupil to receive said assigned teaching units; When a teaching unit requires the participation of a teacher in real time (that is, are "synchronic" form the instructor-student interaction point of view), establishing, at the appointed times, a long distance communication between the pupil and the teacher, said communication involving the exchange of spoken and/or written messages; Composing one or more exercises that are asynchronic, viz. do not involve the participation of a teacher in real time, coordinated with the teaching ■units and registered in an exercise center;
When requested, establishing a long distance communication between a pupil and the exercise center.
26. Teaching process according to claim 25, wherein at least some of the teaching units are organized into synchronic courses.
27. Teaching process according to claim 25, wherein at least some of the teaching units are self-contained.
28. Teaching process according to claim 26, which comprises assigning to each pupil a synchronic course.
29. Teaching process according to claim 26, which comprises:
Defining the guidelines of a plurality of synchronic courses comprising a plurality of synchronic teaching units;
Composing, for each course, a plurality of asynchronic exercises, coordinated with the teaching units and arranged in programs coordinated with synchronic courses , and registering the same in an exercise center; Assigning a pupil to a synchronic course and a corresponding asynchronic exercise program;
Defining, whenever possible, a timetable of teaching units for the pupil, or receiving from the pupil separate requests for a teaching unit or teaching units, and arranging communication meeting with the appropriate teacher; At the appointed times for a teaching unit, establishing a long distance communication between the pupil and the teacher, said communication involving the exchange of spoken and/or written messages; Receiving from the pupil requests for communication with an asynchronic exercise center and causing said communication to be established; and Developing the exercises as programmed.
30. Teaching process according to claim 29, wherein the teaching units are lessons.
31. Process according to claim 25, further comprising providing an enrollment database and enrolling a pupil.
32. Process according to claim 25, wherein the long distance communication is established by long distance communication means (LDCM) chosen in the group consisting of mobile, including cellular, telephones, conventional fixed line telephones, and computers, including PCs and laptop handheld computers.
33. Process according to claim 25, further comprising one or more of the steps of:
Registering the teaching units and the exercises of each pupil in a database;
Evaluating the progress of each pupil;
Providing emergency integrations of the pupil's progress;
Providing certification of the completion of a course by a pupil, comprising evaluation;
Providing pronunciation evaluation;
Estabhshing communication through Web sites and or Internet and providing the necessary databases.
34. Process according to claim 25, further comprising operations for obtaining from the pupil payment for the services enjoyed.
35. Process according to claim 25, further comprising providing, upon request, special instructions outside the regular teaching units.
36. Process according to claim 25 or 29, wherein the subject of teaching unit, or course is a language.
37. Process according to claim 27, wherein the self-contained teaching units provide knowledge required for carrying out a specific task.
38. Process according to claim 37, wherein the specific task is chosen in the group consisting of communicating with specific interlocutors, formulating specific documents, carrying out a negotiation, effecting a calculation, preparing for meetings in unfamiliar languages, and formulating offers or understanding offers or other documents or messages in unfamiliar languages.
39. Apparatus for carrying out the teaching of a number of pupils through lessons and exercises, which comprises:
A - for, each pupil, at least one long distance communication means (LDCM);
B - for each teacher, at least one long distance communication means
(LDCM); c — a server comprising:
I. an administration section, programmed for enrolling and financial transactions;
II. a course guideline database
III. a long distance teaching center, comprising an exercise center, including a database and an exercise management programs.
IV. a learning/management section;
V. a pupil database;
VI. a special request management section; VII. an adjournment section;
VIII. a phonetic section
IX. an external database section
X. a phonetic section;
XI. a long distance center database.
40. Apparatus according to claim 39, wherein the server is a single device
41. Apparatus according to claim 39, wherein the server is a combination of devices.
42. Apparatus according to claim 39, wherein the long distance communication means (LDCM) is chosen in the group consisting of mobile, including cellular, telephones, conventional fixed line telephones, and computers, including PCs and laptop handheld computers.
43. Teaching process, substantially as described and illustrated.
44. Apparatus for carrying out long distance teaching processes, substantially as described and illustrated.
45 Method for creating immediate and temporary access to instructional contents and processes that allows: a To instantly create a virtual examination room for performing the exam b To create such a virtual examination room with or without requiring a physical classroom and with or without the physical presence of the examinees c To register, store and process the answers provided by the examinees d To provide the examinees with a feedback in real time or in very short time after the examination is completed, e To provide such virtual examination room in an inexpensive way without a fix infrastructure, like a computer network f To limit the possibility of copying or bias in the course of the examination. g To allow each examinee to optionally start and end the session at a different time
46 Method according to claim 45 for granting such an access to any form of content and processes including informative and entertaining ones and not just instructional ones in the narrow sense of the word.
PCT/IL2003/001110 2002-12-30 2003-12-29 Distance learning teaching system process and apparatus WO2004059593A2 (en)

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WO2005076243A1 (en) * 2004-02-09 2005-08-18 The University Of Queensland Language teaching method
US20100304342A1 (en) * 2005-11-30 2010-12-02 Linguacomm Enterprises Inc. Interactive Language Education System and Method
WO2019147811A1 (en) * 2018-01-24 2019-08-01 Swing Al, Inc. Methods and systems for providing physical activity instruction
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CN109584653A (en) * 2019-01-15 2019-04-05 安徽大尺度网络传媒有限公司 A kind of intelligent tutoring system of integrated speech operating function

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Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
WO2005076243A1 (en) * 2004-02-09 2005-08-18 The University Of Queensland Language teaching method
US20100304342A1 (en) * 2005-11-30 2010-12-02 Linguacomm Enterprises Inc. Interactive Language Education System and Method
WO2019147811A1 (en) * 2018-01-24 2019-08-01 Swing Al, Inc. Methods and systems for providing physical activity instruction
CN114023125A (en) * 2021-10-11 2022-02-08 四川九洲空管科技有限责任公司 Intelligent maintenance method and intelligent maintenance training system based on virtual reality technology
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