There are three ways for QA-Coach to determine if a test is successful, selectable by the user during the training session:
a) "Type mode" i.e. the user types the full text of the answer. This is appropriate for questions with short, literally fixed answers or where the spelling of the answer is important as part of the material to be learned.
b) "Think mode" i.e. the user tries to remember the answer without typing it, then requests to see the actual answer and "honestly" declares if he/she had guessed it correctly
c) "Hint mode" i.e. the user selects the answer from a random list of words from the right answer mixed with words from other (wrong) answers. This is appropriate with questions with literally fixed answers (short or long) where we want to make the remembering easier and avoid to type the answer.
As soon as a question reaches the desired target level, it becomes no longer available for subsequent work. The target level is a number from 1 to 10 indicating the quantity of consecutive times, separated by an appropriate minimum time period, in which you are able to remember the correct answer to a given question. You can select your preferred target level for each course.
When all questions have reached the target level, you can be sure of the success and completeness of your training.
QA-Coach may be used alone or as companion to other learning methods. As an example, if you want to learn a foreign language, you could study it with any appropriate method (traditional and/or computer based) to cover grammar, phonetics and basic conversation. At the same time, you could use QA-Coach to memorize the essential or advanced vocabulary of the language (single words or sentences).
The logic used by QA-Coach to guide you through the learning process is based on studies of the human brain and its mechanisms. Basically, these studies say that each new notion entering our brain goes through several stages (or memory levels) before being "fixed" in a form that can be considered final, i.e. virtually unforgettable over the years.
During the initial stages, the new information should be "refreshed" a number of times, otherwise it will be lost. But there is a more important consideration: there is an optimal "dead time", i.e. the time to elapse between two consecutive refresh events, which produces the best memorization effect. The optimal dead time increases exponentially with the number of successful tests for a given question. If the next test occurs too early in respect of the optimal dead time, the memorization performance is poor, although the answer may be easier to remember at that moment. Conversely, if the next test occurs too late, the probability of not remembering the answer may be too high, and the memorization effect will also be poor. In fact, it has been demonstrated that the best memorization effect occurs when the information is refreshed immediately before the moment in which the relevant information would otherwise be forgotten.
For this reason, QA-Coach remembers how many times a question and its answer have been "refreshed", and the date and time the question has been asked the last time. More precisely, QA-Coach distinguishes between successful and unsuccessful tests, and determines the applicable dead time based on the question's score, i.e. the number of consecutive successful tests counted for that question.
You can select the "target level" i.e. the number of consecutive successful tests at which you can consider a question/answer as learned. This is typically a number from 5 to 10.
A level number, or score, is dynamically attributed to each question. At each successful test the level number is increased by one or more units (depending on the time actually elapsed since the previous test). Each time a test proves unsuccessful the level number is reset to zero. When a question reaches the target level, it is considered learned and is no longer selected for further tests.
Since QA-Coach maintains an accounting of what happens in each session, the material to be learned cannot be shared by different users. Each user must have a personal copy of the questions and answers database.