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SAMaker v1.2 (Self-Assessment Maker)
Educational software for the web
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Curtis Dyreson
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What is a self-assessment?

A self-assessment is a sequence of true/false, multiple-choice, many-choice, and/or exact answer questions that a student works through at their own pace. When a student tries a question (or page of questions), feedback is immediately given on their performance. Please try the demonstration self-assessment at your leisure. Because SAMaker is multi-lingual, we did the same tutorial in German, which you can also try. The translation was performed by the Altavista translation service so we have no idea if it is correct, but it looks like German! You can also look at collected statistics on demo questions, or the stats on the German demo.

What is SAMaker?

SAMaker (Self-Assessment Maker) is a free tool that you can use to produce a WWW-based self-assessment. It is very easy to use SAMaker by doing the following.
  1. Edit a text file with the questions and appropriate tags. This is the source text file for the example (and here is the source for the German example).
  2. Run the text file through SAMaker. We have set up a Makefile for you to use, so that all you usually have to do is type 'make'.
  3. SAMaker produces a self-assessment entry page and a statistics page so that the teacher can monitor how well students are performing on various questions.
SAMaker consists of a perl script to convert the text file source into the appropriate databases and pages, and the CGI-bin scripts to process those pages.

New - LessonMaker

Multiple self-assessments can now be directly included within any HTML document. LessonMaker is a tool (distributed with SAMaker) that automatically constructs the embedded self-assessments. To get an idea of how it works, we have embedded the two example self-assessments in a lesson. The lesson was generated from an HTML text.

Does it really work?

We have used SAMaker in most every first and second year subject here at James Cook University over the past two years. Collectively, students have attempted over five million SAMaker questions in hundreds of different quizzes. So this software has been extensively field-tested. Furthermore, this software is actively maintained, if you find a bug please e-mail a bug report to Curtis.Dyreson at and we will fix it.

What features make SAMaker desirable?

  1. Multi-lingual - This is a World-Wide Web, not just an English-Only Web. Every bit of SAMaker's output is entirely under your control. The optional FORMAT tags control the formatting of every page and question.
  2. Hints and explanations of answers are supported.
  3. Development in text editors - Our goal in writing SAMaker was to make a self-assessment fast and easy for a teacher familiar with a text editor to create. Never write a SAMaker self-assessment from scratch. Copy an old one and edit that as you see fit. Furthermore SAMaker can be seamlessly layered with other tools such as the fabulous latex2html.

How can I get the code?

Perl 5.002 code (SAMakercode.tar.gz 28K).
  • Latest release: v1.3, March 7, 2001.
    • cleaned up STATS-PRESENTATION
    • Should now be able to configure for Windows as well as Unix.
  • Latest release: v1.2, June. 17, 1998.
    • added STATS-PRESENTATION format to control formatting of statistics
    • Installation script fixed.
    • LessonMaker v1.0 included.
  • v1.1, Mar. 10, 1998.
    • bug fix to chmod routines in LessonMaker
  • v1.0, Dec. 12, 1997. New features include:
    • no longer uses DBM files,
    • multi-lingual, all formatting is entirely under author's control,
    • and as many questions as desired on each page in the self-assessment.
  • First release: v0.8, Aug. 10, 1995.
To use the software you will need Perl 5.002 (or above) and the ability to install CGI-bin scripts on your server. Contact your server administrator to determine if you lack any of the above. If you have all of the above, the software should be relatively easy to install and use for someone with a limited knowledge of Unix. It has been successfully installed and used at numerous sites. Please send e-mail to Curtis.Dyreson at if you have successfully installed the software or are having problems. The software was written on a DEC-Alpha in a Unix environment using Perl 5.002.

Further Information

If you'd like further details, or a description of the tags, consult the the SAMaker paper, presented at ACSE '96 ( 158K). If you are interested in software to make assessable quizzes take a gander at QuizMaker. If you would like software to make a student survey you can hop over to SurveyMaker.
Curtis E. Dyreson © 1995-2000. All rights reserved.
  E-mail questions or comments to Curtis.Dyreson at