Fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice exercises of different sorts have a place in language instruction. They are just one more tool in getting language students to figure out and assimilate the workings of a language. Even in modern, communication-based approaches to language learning there is room on the side for this type of exercises, as long as they don't take up central stage.
HTML pages and scripts have added a new dimension to this type of exercises, by providing a medium which adds instant feedback, a major problem with the paper version, the possibility of endless repetition (as well as saving paper).
Although HTML-form-based exercises are not yet ubiquitous, technologically savvy language instructors have already begun to create their own exercises and to share ideas and methods with other colleagues.
Coding by hand
Barbara Kuczun Nelson, of Colby College has some interesting exercises as well: Spanish Grammar Exercises and Resources: Here she has links to her own web exercises as well as those of others.
Juan Ramón has managed to get some very interesting exercises which allow for instant feedback, including hints and explanations at every step of the way. For an example of what I mean by this, you can visit some of their pages:
Getting coding help
Now, creating exercises such as these is not for the technologically challenged, Juan Ramón's tutorial notwithstanding. Here is where software which will allow you to create the exercise web pages comes in. There are a few such products out there that can help exercise creators with the coding.
Hot Potatoes, by Half-Baked Software, is the most complete and user-friendly program -- a suite of programs, actually -- that I have found for making language study, interactive web pages. Half-Baked Software is a pseudonym of three members of the University of Victoria CALL Lab Research and Development team. They provide this suite free of charge. In their own words:
"The Hot Potatoes suite is offered as freeware (for non-commercial educational applications) by Half-Baked Software and the University of Victoria CALL Laboratory Research and Development team."
See a review of Hot Potatoes.
You can visit sites made with Hot Potatoes from this list at the Half-Baked Software Site.
Hot Potatoes allows you to give instant feedback to learners at every step of the way, which is crucial if these Web exercises are to be used for learning rather than for testing. Try it, you won't be disappointed.
Another place where you can get help with making/coding your own exercises is at Gary Smith's website. Gary has designed a program, WebPractest©, just for this purpose:
Until recently, the program only worked with version 4.0 or higher of Netscape Navigator, but now (August 1999) the program supports Internet Explorer as well.
"You can sample the interactivity of Webgen at http://home.uleth.ca/mod and clicking on Language Labs, then clicking where "a little chat about learning a language" is proposed. Netscape 4.06 or higher is required (or IE 5), and at present the wrinkles are being ironed out in the Mac-specific code, so the posted version won't run properly on the Mac."
Vasu Renganathan, of the Language Resource and Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania, reports on another site to help you "make web-based exercises on the fly". It's called the Web Assisted Learning and Teaching of Languages (WALT): "Special CGI programs are used to write the code for you. Types of exercises one can make using this page include: multiple choice, question/answers, translation, cloze, interactive reading, true/false, yes/no and others."
Interactive Exercise Makers
WordDragon: Drag'N'Drop Puzzles for Language Learners:
Before learning about programs and websites that help you with coding exercise pages, I started thinking myself of ways of making hand-coding of the sort made by de Arana and Nelson more automated. I came up with the idea of using templates. The advanced text-processor that I use, NoteTab Pro, allows you to create templates which then when you invoke them allow you to fill in the holes and it produces a text document (PERL scripts are often used to do a similar thing). I figured that if I created a few templates, I could then use them to make exercises of different types with ease. I made, for example, some multiple choice (2 choices (sample), using templates (Download: aske_web.clb 98KB).
Page URL: lrc.salemstate.edu/aske/webexercises.htm
Last updated: January 25, 2000