Not very long ago Salman Khan was a young, successful hedge fund analyst. With three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Master’s degree from Harvard, he is by all accounts “smart.”
Sal began tutoring his cousins by making YouTube videos explaining math concepts. That way they could pause, rewind and replay the videos as many times as they needed to and do it on their own schedules. The videos themselves were very simple with Sal giving conversational instruction while writing on an online blackboard.
It wasn’t long before strangers started watching the videos. Sitting in a converted closet/office in his Silicon Valley home, Sal continued to record and post more lessons. In September 2009, he quit his job and poured his energy full-time into what had become Khan Academy.
Today Khan Academy is a nonprofit online education platform where students of all ages can view 10-minute lessons on mathematics, science, finance, and history. In addition to a library of more than 2,400 videos, the Academy now offers mastery-based software for students to practice lessons, and data tracking tools for teachers, parents, learning coaches and students.
Students begin by locating their current learning level on Khan Academy’s “Knowledge Map,” where the now eight-person team has charted math and science concepts from single digit addition to calculus. Watch the video below.
Students can watch the instructional videos, then complete the 10 exercises in a row necessary to move on to the next concept. The data tracking tools provide real-time graphs showing individual student progress, repetition of videos and exercises, focus areas and more.
Schools have begun to deploy Khan Academy lessons in the classroom. The Los Altos School District in California is piloting a program for fifth- and sixth-graders where students watch Khan Academy lessons for homework and do their exercises in the classroom. The data tracking tools allow teachers to monitor student progress and intervene in-person during class time.
To build student motivation, Khan Academy has created game-like features including “badges” and points. Students can earn badges by getting a certain number of exercises in a row correct, answering questions or solving problems quickly, demonstrating good listening skills, persistence and more.
More than 75 million Khan Academy lessons have been delivered to students worldwide. Users include middle and high school students, homeschoolers, college students, academically advanced students, autistic students, retirees, classroom teachers, teacher training institutions and more.
Sal plans to add content in a number of other subjects and insists that the Khan Academy remain a free resource. Volunteer teams are currently working to translate lessons into as many languages as possible.