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Why Not Linear Text?

Documents are typically one dimensional. That is, you start at the beginning and read as far as you can. This linear format has worked well for a wide range of writing from simple memos and letters to complex novels. The format is weak, however, when it is used by itself to teach or impart specific knowledge. Inquisitive minds frequently have questions, wishing to explore topics which would require involved and impractical "side trips" away from the main text. Educational programs benefit from continually testing and advising the student to insure a sound understanding of the material.

What is hypertext?

(D- - 4) is a method of writing in which the author does not expect the reader to read from the beginning to the end, but rather to turn from topic to topic as the reader wishes. Some topics will be referred to repeatedly, while others may be skipped altogether. Informational hypertext, such as this User's Guide, provides copious cross-references to related topics which are handy in reaching a quick understanding of a complex subject.

Educational hypertext allows the presentation of a subject topic by topic, with cross references to fundamental concepts for quick review as required, and multiple-choice question(s) at the end of each topic to make sure that the student understands each topic in sequence.

The student's answer to a question determines which topic will be presented next. The topics which correspond to "wrong" answers are typically short explanations which pinpoint the misunderstanding and fix it right there, and then return the student to the previous topic for another try.

Smart Characters uses hypertext for the help files, and many dictionary files. You may wish to write a dictionary, a reference guide, or a self-teaching text.

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Last Modified: March 23, 1996

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