I am incredibly passionate about Khan Academy for more than a few reasons. Like, to the point that you shouldn’t insult it in front of me because it probably won’t end well. (To be fair, I’m always game for a healthy academic debate, but I am unquestionably biased.) So let me back up a little bit, and tell you the short history of Khan Academy.
Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, was attending MIT in 2004 when his cousin asked him for some tutoring. However, his cousin lived across the country. So he used the means available at the time: a telephone and the drawing function of Yahoo chat. When he wasn’t available to speak on the phone, he recorded himself explaining concepts over a video of MS Paint. Eventually, his cousin admitted that she preferred the videos, because she could watch them as many times as she needed. She could skip to the specific parts that she needed, and skim through the rest without seeming rude or disrespectful.
Eventually, he started tutoring more of his extended family, and ended up posting many of his videos on YouTube. Unexpectedly, his videos began to garner more and more attention from other YouTube users. By 2009, Khan realized that he needed to do something more. So he quit his job, and began to create what is now known as Khan Academy.
I just want to take an aside here and say that this story illustrates the idea that even the littlest things can grow into a huge movement (one that’s funded by Bill Gates and Google, among others). Khan realized that he could start a revolution in education and help people who had trouble with conventional education.
Khan Academy has grown a thousandfold since the days of voiceovers and MS Paint. While YouTube still hosts the videos, the website puts the videos together into a reasonable order that you can follow or not, if you choose. It also adds in exercises and quizzes to help you practice and absorb the information that the videos provide. Chief among its programs is World of Math. They test for mastery of specific skills, moving on to the next skill when a particular idea is firmly grasped. This allows for highly personalized learning sessions, allowing struggling students to continue practicing the skills they have trouble with, and helping others to jump far ahead of what they learn in school. This strategy can foster a love for the subject rather than the boredom that occurs when you already understand the subject being taught.
As evidenced by World of Math, Khan Academy gears itself mostly toward the K-12 crowd, supplementing the core subjects of math, science, history, grammar, etc. They have even done a partnership with College Board to help high school students with SAT prep! (I wish the GRE was in there too, but hey, it’s a different company.) However, they have also done some EXTREMELY cool partnerships with big name companies like NASA and Pixar. Another one of their early partnerships was with the Green brothers (also known as the Vlog Brothers) for Crash Course World History, Biology and Ecology, and Chemistry (you can see my post about Crash Course World History here).
One of the reasons I love Khan Academy and everything they stand for is that they are “For free. For everyone. Forever.” I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH how much I admire this in a time when many companies are choosing to capitalize on the growing edtech and online learning trend. I continually look forward to seeing what their next step is in providing a free education for anyone who wants it.