Byers, J.A. 1999.
Interactive Learning Using Expert System Quizzes on the Internet. Educational
Media International 36:191-194.
John A. Byers, Alnarp,
interactively pose questions at random with multiple choice answers. Questions
are ranked for difficulty based on prior student tests. During a quiz, the
system tracks the percentage of correct answers and adjusts the difficulty of
questions appropriately. A compiled BASIC program allows teachers to make
specialized web quizzes from text files of questions and answers, without the
Review the operation at http://vinsonlab.tamu.edu/john/papers/udt/exam1-f.htm
Download the Software at http://vinsonlab.tamu.edu/john/software/download/itquiz.zip.
Français: HTML et les pages Web du script JAVA posent de façon
interactive des questions au hasard avec des questions à choix multiples. Sur la
base de tests passés antérieurement par les étudiants, les questions sont
classées selon la difficulté. Lors d'une interrogation, le système localise les
difficultés et ajuste les questions en conséquence. Un programme BASIC permet
aux maitres de faire des interrogations spécialisées à partir de cartes de
questions et réponses, sans le besoin de connaitre les langages de programmation
stellen zufällig ausgewählte Fragen mit Multiple-Choice-Antworten interaktiv
zusammen. Die Fragen werden auf Grund der Ergebnisse vorhergegangener Tests mit
anderen Studenten nach Schwierigkeitsgrad geordnet. Das System stellt den
Prozentsatz richtiger Antworten während der Durchführung einer Befragung fest
und bewertet die Schwierigkeitseinstufung entsprechend neu. Ein kompiliertes
BASIC Programm ermöglicht Lehrern nun, selbst spezifische textbasierte Frage
Programmierkenntnisse besizen zu müssen.
Interactive quizzes are not
common on the Internet because they require use of either embedded scripting
languages, executable programs, or CGI server-side systems. Most interactive web
understood by all versions of Netscape (3.0 or greater) and Internet Explorer
(4.0 or greater) and requires Windows 3.1 or higher on IBM-compatible computers.
Java is the more powerful and complicated of the two languages but must be
compiled into an "applet" and requires 32-bit Internet browsers on Windows NT or
computer operating systems (Goodman 1996).
HTML (hypertext markup
Internet browser such as Netscape loads the HTML page from the Internet (or from
directed by the user's mouse clicks or keyboard input. Since an HTML file and
to make unique interactive databases or quizzes. Virtually any quiz or test can
be compiled in a word processor and saved as a text file. The compilation of the
performed by an executable program (QUIZMAKE.EXE) compiled from QuickBASIC code.
The software system described here will allow teachers and students in
practically any subject to make interactive expert systems of quizzes on the
Building a database of questions and
Students or the teacher make up multiple choice
tests of five answers per question and give these to other students. Based on
the success in answering questions, each is ranked for difficulty from 1 (easy)
to 10 (difficult). The text file of questions and answers can be in any order
although at least one question of each of the 10 difficulty levels must be
present. It also is better to have a balance of questions among the difficulty
levels but this is not required. Also, the more questions the better since this
will mean that the same question is not picked too often. The text file of
questions has a specific format as shown in Figure 1. There must be five answers
< a> to < e> although some can be left blank except for the label.
It is best to have five answers because if only two filled-in answers are used,
a student on average should get 50% correct without any knowledge, and thus the
difficulty levels less than 5 would rarely apply.
Fig. 1. Text
file of the format codes, at left of each line in brackets, and text of
questions and answers.
< ?> any question of 1 or 2 lines of
about 80 characters, there could even be 3
< ?> lines but one may need
to scroll, so it is better to just have 2 lines.
< level> 6
< a> a possible answer [a]; Note the number 6 under the
< level> , this means the
< b> a second answer [b]; difficulty
level of the question (from 1 to 10).
< c> a third possible answer -
which in this case is the correct one.
< d> the fourth possible answer,
keep each answer to a line of ó 83 characters.
< e> the fifth possible
< ?> The second question of 1 or 2 lines of about 80
< ?> second question continued...
< answer> a
< a> a possible answer [a], in this case the
correct answer, as indicated above
< b> a second answer [b]
c> a third possible answer
< d> the fourth possible answer
e> the fifth possible answer
A compiled QuickBASIC program, QUIZMAKE.EXE, takes a text file of
question sets made above, each with five possible answers, a correct answer, as
well as the difficulty rating for each question (1 to 10), and incorporates this
(my experience). Therefore, a large text file of questions and answers must be
turns out that about 40 questions and 200 answers of maximum 80 characters each
will easily fit within the 32K limit. The compiled program divides any text file
database into the necessary number of web pages and also incorporates the
expanded or modified since the number of pages and questions in each page (40
except the last page) must be fixed when the pages are
QUIZMAKE.EXE requires the following inputs:
(1) the name
of the text file with questions
(2) up to five letters for the parent name of
the quiz system, e.g. "flowr"
(3) the title of the quiz.
the name of the HTML file that will be visited by the browser upon exiting from
the quiz is input.
The HTML link to this page can be relative (the
page must be on the same server) or absolute (another URL "http://www"
address, Stanek 1996). Only relative links will work when running the quiz from
the hard disk. For example, to go to the menu in an upper directory use,
"../menu.htm", or if in the same directory use, "menu.htm", while if in a
subdirectory named java use, "java/menu.htm". Finally, a number from 1 to 365 is
input to control how many days the browser will remember the test
The compiled program then loads QUIZ.TXT and makes the web frame
setup page, flowr-f.htm, using the parent name example above. This file is the
page that is linked to from the main menu page. Flowr-f would then have the
names of the three frame HTML files: flowr-1.htm, flowr-2.htm, and flowr-3.htm.
Flowr-1.htm would contain the main control and expert system code (made from
QUIZ1.TXT) and be shown in the upper left rectangular frame (Fig. 2).
Flowr-2.htm is just the answer frame in the upper right corner (Fig. 2) while
flowr-3.htm (made from QUIZ-3.TXT) shows blank answers and buttons and gives
some instructions on how to begin. This frame during testing will look similar
but contain answers in the bottom frame (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2. Picture
of Netscape with interactive expert quiz
Before flowr-1.htm can be completed, the text file
with the questions and answers must be read to calculate the required number of
web pages to hold 40 questions per page so this information can be put into
flowr-1.htm. The text file of questions and answers is read again and
incorporated at 40 questions/answers per page into pages named, flowr1.htm,
read from the file QUIZP.TXT and incorporated by QUIZMAKE.EXE. Thus, all
are made automatically except the text file with specific questions and
All the .htm files would then be uploaded to the Internet server
so that anyone could use the system via the Internet. Alternatively, one can use
the system without an Internet connection via the hard drive. Simply open the
flowr-f.htm file in the appropriate directory using Netscape. This "open file"
facility is located in the "file" menu at the top left of Netscape 3.0, or "open
page" then "choose file" in Netscape 4.5.
Three frames are used, with the top left frame controlling
which question and answer frame in the bottom will be shown (Fig. 2). The bottom
frame determines whether the answer chosen is correct and returns this to the
top left frame as well as updates the top right frame with the selection and
whether it is right or wrong. This means that data must be transferred between
HTML frames and pages. This can only be done by using "cookies" (Goodman 1996),
a way of storing data on the user's hard drive in the file COOKIES.TXT using the
Netscape browser. The expiration date of the information in the cookies file is
set up to 365 days in the future each time a question is posed and answered.
Therefore, the test status is saved on the individuals computer hard disk
between Internet sessions. However, a reset button allows the user to begin the
The expert system in the top left frame selects questions
with ratings equal to the proportion of questions answered correctly. Thus, if 5
of 12 questions have been answered right, the difficulty would be
Math.floor(5/12 * 10)+1 = 5. The "Math.floor" means to round off the result to
the lowest whole integer. Then the range is taken into consideration, for
example ± 1 would mean that questions with difficulty of 4, 5 or 6 could be
selected. The range is also constrained by not being less than 1 or more than
10. The program selects a question by picking at random both a starting page and
starting question from those existing, and then preforming a linear search down
through the database until finding a question with a difficulty level included
in the range. If necessary, the search continues to the next page and from the
last page to the first and then to the second and so on. When a question of
correct difficulty is found it is presented and waits for the user to select an
answer in the bottom frame. Upon clicking a button, the answer is compared to
the correct one and the result, right or wrong, is shown in the top right frame
with the correct answer. Control is then returned to the top left frame and the
percentage of correct answers is updated along with a bar of correct to
incorrect answers (green:red colored, respectively). The current status of the
test results are remembered for up to 365 days in the "cookies" unless reset by
system is flexible in that specific names can be given to each quiz system, the
title can be chosen, and a link can be designated to go to when leaving the
site. The questions can consist of only a few words on one line to several lines
(but usually two). Answers, however, must only be on one line (usually under 80
characters) and there must be five for each question. There is hardly any limit
to the number of question-answer sets since the database is split into the
necessary number of HTML files so that none are larger than 32K (larger can
crash Netscape). The DOS file name length of 8 characters limits this to 999
files, 39,960 questions, and about 30 megabytes for a parent name of 5 letters.
Using fewer than 5 letters allows even larger databases of from 10 to 1000 times
(4 and 3 letters, respectively). However, regardless of the number of pages in
the database, the time required to select a question at random is the same since
the file to begin a search is called by name (e.g. flowr678.htm). An appropriate
question would likely be found in this file or the next one (flowr679.htm).
Question sets of various difficulty levels can be listed with no
particular order since a linear search will find the appropriate level of
difficulty. Of course if all questions of each difficulty are put in separate
files then the search will take longer than if the difficulty levels are mixed
in each file. Since the entry into the database is random, the first appropriate
difficulty level will also be chosen at random. However, the correct answers to
questions must be chosen in a balanced way so that there are not too many a's or
other letter in proportion to the others, as on all multiple choice
The system allows for many subject areas to be presented as an
interactive exam. The system can be used from the Internet or from the hard
drive. The compiled program and supporting text files makes it easy for anyone
to make a specialized database of questions and answers ready to run on the
Internet. The software can be downloaded from the Internet at the address http://vinsonlab.tamu.edu/john/software/download/itquiz.zip.
The zip file needs to be uncompressed by PKUNZIP.EXE or similar program. The
system can also be evaluated on the Internet: http://vinsonlab.tamu.edu/john/papers/udt/exam-f.htm
Goodman, D. (1996) Danny
Stanek, W. (1996) Web Publishing Unleashed. Sams.net,
John Byers was
educated at Colorado State University (B.S. and M.S.) and University of
California at Berkeley (Ph.D.) before becoming an Associate Professor of Insect
Chemical Ecology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences at Alnarp.
His main research interests are in insect behavior and chemical ecology, and in
computer simulation of behavioral and ecological models. He now has moved back to the