Perhaps the most famous authoring tool in our field is Hot Potatoes. This is a small Windows or Mac program that creates a variety of exercises and can be freely downloaded for educational purposes (http://hotpot.uvic.ca/). This program will install on your own computer and allow you to create web-based exercises of the following types:
• multiple choice
• short answer
• jumbled sentence
It also allows you to include audio files in MP3 format and will even allow you to store your exercises on a central server so that they can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. To get started, install the program and find it in your program folder From here you can choose one of the tools. Let's take a look at creating a simple exercise. Click on JQuiz to get started (see page 131 top). Here you can put the title of the exercise, and start by adding question 1. There are four answers to my first question, each with their own feedback, and answer B is marked as the correct one (see page 131 bottom). Now click the up arrow next to Ql on the screen and add a second question, with answers and feedback. Don't forget to mark the correct answer. Continue doing this until you have made your quiz.
Now it's time to actually create the quiz as a web page. First make sure you save your quiz so that you can return to it later to make edits if you need to (File - Save). Now we will turn this into an interactive web page. Click on 'File - Create Web page' and then choose the 'Webpage for v6 browsers' option. Give the filename and then save it. You should now be able to look at it in a web browser.
That's how the bare bones of all the quizzes generated by Hot Potatoes work. If you want to delve deeper into things like formatting the output, changing colours, and so on, then you should look in the Options menu when you are creating a quiz, or investigate the 'Help' file that comes with the program. There are also plenty of tutorial examples on the Hot Potatoes website (http://hotpot.uvic.ca/tutorials6.htm).
Once you have created a set of exercises, you can package them all together using 'The Masher'. This is a utility accessed from the start page of the Hot Potatoes program which will guide you through linking a set of individual items into a small learning package, with full navigation between the various elements. You can then distribute these on discs, or memory sticks or CD-ROMs, or put them on a website if you or your school has one.
Another area to explore in electronic materials, and a move away from straightforward test and practice exercises, is the creation of interactive stories where learners read scenarios and then make choices to decide what they will do at certain key points. These are excellent for reading comprehension practice or as small-group discussions that encourage collaborative and critical thinking skills. They encourage learners to develop a wide range of skills from listening to debating, agreeing and disagreeing and making points and supporting them. Since these are basically text-driven activities, you should be able to produce them for any level. You can see some examples of typical interactive stories (or reading mazes) here (http://www.halfbakedsoftware.com/quandary/version_2/examples/).
Indeed the area of online materials covers such a wide variety of formats and storage options that we are really only able to scratch the surface here. Exploring some of the sites and programs we have covered here will help to give you an idea of the kinds of things that can be produced with very little technical knowledge (designed, as the majority are, by teachers rather than technicians), but you will probably want to search further to get an idea of the bigger picture. Make sure that you brush up on your search skills from Chapter 3 before venturing on to see what's out there. To get you started, here are a few more examples:
Clarity Software (http://www.clarityenglish.com/)
Clarity has a long history in producing English language related products, and their authoring tools are both reasonably priced and easy to use. Have a look at their Author Plus Pro and Tense Buster programs, which can be used for a variety of different exercise types, including audio, graphics and video content, and allow for the creation of listening comprehension exercises, interactive dictations and presentations. It also has a sophisticated learner tracking option, allowing you to see your learners' progress through the materials.
Features Quandary and other useful tools including a marking program for incorporating into Word (Chapter 2), a cloze program called WebRhubarb and a text reconstruction program called WebSequitor, where learners reconstruct written texts from smaller chunks. These are all good programs, produced by the lead developer of the Hot Potatoes suite we looked at above.
This is a subscription-based service allowing for the creation of various types of activities, surveys and web pages, as well as extensive learner tracking options. The site offers a variety of ready-made templates for materials creation and the ability to set up a study space for your learners, as well as access to over two million activities already in the library.