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But in reality, things are not as simple as they are on paper. There are many factors to consider in building a web-based education site. One of the hindrances is the difficulties in creating assessments. The free and easy methods to build customized puzzles and quizzes are extremely rare. But I’m lucky to encounter one called Hot Potatoes.
The Potatoes Are Hot
Hot Potatoes is a free multi-platform quiz creation software that can be run under Windows, Linux (with Wine) and Mac (Java version). The latest version is version 6. Unfortunately it’s no longer supported by the developer. Users are advised to visit the discussion group instead. While the interface might be a little uninformative, I personally think that most everyday users will need no technical support as using Hot Potatoes is fairly simple.
The main interface consists of links to six tools: five types of quiz makers (JCloze, Jquiz, JCross, JMatch and JMix) and one tool to combine them (The Masher).
When you start Hot Potatoes for the first time, the app will ask you to provide a user name to register the app. The user name will be used as the author name for all the quizzes that you are going to create.
The best way to understand how Hot Potatoes works is by using it in real life. For example, if you want to make a cloze test (a test where the test taker should supply the removed words from the text), you can use JCloze to do it.
Click the JCloze link from the main interface, give the test a name and provide a reading text. Block words or phrases that you want to remove, click the “Make Gap” button and provide clues and alternative answers.
After you have finished covering all the words that you want to remove from the text, export the file as an HTML version 6 page using “File – Export – Create Standard V6 page“.
Hot Potatoes will ask you whether you want to view the result using your default browser. If you do, the HTML file will be opened by the browser.
There’s also a multiple choice test builder (JQuiz). This one is flexible enough to allow more than one answer. Make a check to the box(es) next to the correct answer(s).
Using the same export menu, you can create the HTML version of the quiz.
Click on the other links in the main window to access other type of quiz builders: JMatch creates matching exercises, JMix deals with jumbled items, and JCross is the master of crossword puzzles.
Creating A Crossword Puzzle
A crossword puzzle is the type of quiz which is also popular among non-students. You can add crossword puzzles on your websites to entertain your visitors.
To build one, click on JCross and then put the letters into their respective locations.
Then click the “Show Clues Window” button and write down the necessary clues for each word.
You can adjust the size of the puzzle by going to the “Manage – Resize” menu. Another available action that you can take from the “Manage” menu is to “Create Grid from List of Words“.
This action will help users to create a crossword puzzle without having to think about the placement of the words.
Whatever the building method that you choose (manual or automatic), this is more or less what the end result will look like.
The Masher is different from its siblings. The function of this tool is not to create quizzes, but to compile them into one group.
To start, click the “Add” button and build your collection of quizzes. You can re-arrange the order of the quizzes using the Up/Down button.
Masher will only accept files which are built using one of Hot Potatoes’ tools.
The file will be added directly to the group after you click “OK” in the confirmation window.
As a bonus, the Masher gives you the ability to customize the look of the end result. All of the options are under the “Appearance” tab.
You can add individual quizzes or groups of quizzes to your website by uploading them directly to your server. You don’t have to modify anything as everything is already in HTML. But if you are a CSS whiz, you could give the quizzes a little makeover if you want to.
Hot Potatoes might not look pretty, but it gets the job done. So whether you are creating exercises for your class, building educational websites, or just adding some fun quizzes for your visitors, Hot Potatoes might be able to help you.
If you know and use other alternative free applications to build educational exercises and quizzes, please share your knowledge using the comments below. It’s always nice to have options.