The Khan Academy: Future of education?

Website provides alternative model of instruction

WRITTEN BY: Danielle Adams
Khan Academy founder Salman Khan
Image Source: Steve Jurvetson via Wiki Commons
Khan Academy founder Salman Khan

The Khan Academy started out as a guy helping his younger cousin pass algebra. It has since evolved into “a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere,” with over 3000 educational videos, reaching over 4 million students across the world each month.

The Khan Academy website provides digital lessons on a range of subjects, including K-12 math, sciences and humanities. All the material and resources are available completely free of charge. The videos are approximately 10 minutes long, a “digestible chunk,” and feature simply a voiceover and diagrams. “Look, if there’s a human face, especially a funny-looking human face, then it’s actually hard to focus on the math,” said Sal Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, on 60 Minutes.

Khan, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Business School, began this venture in 2004 when he agreed to tutor his cousin in algebra. He posted the tutorials on YouTube and then branched into other subjects. After receiving a lot of really positive feedback, he quit his job as a hedge fund analyst to make videos full-time. “I teach the way I wish I was taught. The lectures are coming from me, an actual human being who is fascinated by the world around him,” said Khan as quoted on the Khan Academy website.

The project is funded by donations with notable contributions from Google and the Gates Foundation. This money has enabled the Khan Academy to expand and is now available for use by schools, not just individuals.

In addition to the video lectures, Khan Academy provides exercises so the student can practice at his or her own pace. Each problem is randomly generated, so you never run out of practice material. Problems can be broken down step-by-step if the student needs more help.

Khan’s staff has created a “dashboard” for teachers that monitors the progress of individual students. Teachers can register their classes at the Khan Academy, giving each student their own account. The dashboard keeps track of the class as a whole as well as each individual student. Teachers and coaches can access student’s data and can see at a glance, which students are struggling and which are ahead of the curve. Students can even register their parents as coaches for additional support.

This style of teaching is also useful for those who dislike the traditional way of academics. Many people who fail out of high school or the early stages of college excel when given an alternative way to educate themselves. "I'd like to see a reality where if someone wants to work when they turn 18 to help support their family, they can learn at their own pace on something like the Khan Academy, and still get the training they need," Khan said in an interview with Fortune .

The Khan Academy has impressed and inspired millions, leaving many to wonder what impact the website will have on the future of education in America.

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