Sunday, May 23, 2010

Interview with Sameer Bhatia, E-Learning Innovators Series

Effective assessment in an online course is not easy to achieve. Courageous developers have tackled online quizzes. It is interesting to look behind the scenes and see the challenges. Welcome to an interview with Sameer Bhatia, founder of

1. What is your name and your involvement in e-learning?

I am Sameer Bhatia, the founder of, an online learning community. Prior to ProProfs I ran an IT certification products company that has been in the business of providing e-learning centered around Cisco certification products.

2. What is and the learning philosophy behind it? is the knowledge FREEway, providing free resources and tools for online knowledge sharing. ProProfs is dedicated to offering new services and content that reflects the diversity of interests and topics in which today's users are engaged. Founded on the idea that knowledge should be freely available to people from all walks of life, features free schools on SAT & IT certification, and offers an ever increasing portfolio of tools for social knowledge sharing including quizzes, flashcards, blogs, forums and games.

3. What is your view of how best to assess whether or not students have achieved learning outcomes in an online course?

We created ProProfs Quiz Maker ( to address this need. By allowing educators to create tests, practice questions and quizzes around any topic and then embed them directly into their class websites, learning management system or e-learning courses, we allow educators to ascertain if students are achieving the learning objectives. We also aggregate the data across all attempts so a teacher can better understand what areas of learning the class as a whole needs more attention on.

4. How might assessing if students have achieved learning outcomes be different in a mobile learning course?

While content created using Quiz Maker ( displays fine in most mobile browsers, we are in process of creating a special version so assessments can be distributed to a classroom easily via mobile devices such as iPhone and iPad. Watch out for this in our upcoming version.

5. what is Quiz Maker and how does it work?
ProProfs Quiz Maker ( is a free learning tool that enables educators to utilize the power of the Internet to create online quizzes and practice tests for their students. The Quiz Maker provides an easy access for students and educators, without the hassle of downloading bulky software. In addition to the ability to create custom quizzes, we also offer the largest collections of freely available online quizzes, ranging from K-12 education to topics such as technology certification, SAT, GRE and even general trivia.

6. Are there any really bad quizzes or quiz styles that should be avoided at all costs? If you don't mind, describe a very bad (ineffectual or even potentially problematic) quiz and then compare it with a very good quiz. What makes the difference? What do instructors and instructional designers need to keep in mind?

One of the key issues we have seen is the choice between long/short quizzes. Educators need to choose the test style after careful consideration. Long tests have their place in education; for example, many instructors use them during mid-terms or finals. However, to ensure that students are understanding the material, short quizzes in practice mode (with answers revealed immediately after a question is attempted) work much better. These create a stress free environment and students feel encouraged to take the quiz repeatedly. The repetition brings remembrance and helps students master the subject. Using short quizzes in conjunction with larger tests for mid/end of term, have reported strikingly positive results.
With a lot of feedback from teachers we have built features to allow secure & timed long tests as well as short quizzes that can be run in practice mode with customizable results to make learning fun. Educators however need to choose carefully based on the learning objective.

7. Do you have any plans for the future?

Our next version will be available in just a few weeks. Key features would include tracking of who took the quiz, ability to store results and provide more customization of end of quiz results.

8. Please share the name of two good books you've read lately.

The Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steven Gary Blank is a must read for entrepreneurs. The other book I read recently is Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson. While both these book are not directly related to e-learning, they have had a big positive influence on how we build our e-learning products. We have stepped up on our feedback loop with educators to ensure we build something that they totally love.

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