The format is simple, a few illustrations with a voice over instructing the viewer on the topic at hand. Yet it appears to be pretty successful and it looks as if the unique approach to education at Khan Academy could change the way many learn.
Running the show is former hedge fund analyst, Sal Khan, an intellectual man with a great willingness to learn and capacity to teach. He began his online school after tutoring his niece in math and receiving a lot of positive feedback on the Youtube videos he made for her. In an interview on CBS, he said, “I started getting feedback like, ‘You know, my child has dyslexia, and this is the only thing that’s getting into him.’ I got letters from people saying, ‘You know, we’re praying for you and your family.’ That’s pretty heady stuff. People don’t say that type of stuff to a hedge fund analyst normally.”
That was in 2004 and by 2009, Khan was able to devote himself, full time, to his new-found cause of creating accessible lectures that people could utilize to learn about topics such as math, biology, history, physics, and more, for free. His lessons got the attention of Bill Gates, who in turn endorsed Khan’s online school as a high quality source of education.
Following the seal of approval from Bill Gates, Khan was able to gather over $30 million to hire expand his vision and start developing software meant to change the way children learn. Already the change that Khan Academy is offering students seems to be significantly impacting their education, at least in format.
In a school in San Francisco, kids are given software containing math lessons and encouraged to view the lessons after school. Then, during class, instead of listening to lectures, they practice the material covered by the at-home lessons and are able to utilize more one-on-one time with their teachers as problems arise. Many of the children like the video format because it allows them to control the flow of the lesson, pausing and rewinding as they need to thereby controlling the rate in which the information is presented.
According to Khan, the purpose of this approach is to allow teachers more freedom to address specific concerns with specific students. He argues that his approach allows interactions in the classroom to be more personal and effective.
At present, there is little data to back up his claims, however his math software is currently testing in 50 schools and the data is being collected. Khan promises that it is part of his mission to use the data and tweak the approach based on what actually works so that eventually the software can be expanded to reach more schools and cover more subjects. In time, he wants to be able to reach out to high school and college students as well.
Khan says that his mission is to provide free education and he has no plans to charge for his lessons. His data demonstrates that millions of math problems are being completed in a single day and he wants what he hopes will be an impactful program in education to remain available to everyone. Khan Academy is still in development but it could very well prove to be a drastic change in the way that education is delivered in the future.
Written by: Vanessa Blanchard