Khan Academy: Virtual Classroom, Real Results
On Monday, we asked the question: are colleges worth the price of admission?
The answer is very much up for debate and the issue is neither black nor white. But if we accept that a quality, affordable learning experience is becoming less tangible with every education budget cut and tuition hike, what “troublemaker” will change the system.
What about a 33-year old “ebullient, articulate Harvard MBA and former hedge fund manager?"
Meet Salman Khan.
After raking in about one million dollars at his Silicon-Valley based hedge fund, Khan started his not-for-profit virtual Academy. Its mission? To provide a world-class education, for free, to anyone in the world. The Khan Academy hosts over 1,400 video tutorials and lectures accessible via YouTube, ranging from basic arithmetic to trigonometry, calculus, anatomy, banking, and physics. (He has almost completed the entire kindergarten through 12th grade math curriculum and done so with a tech budget around $300.) The Academy is also working on series of web applications that will allow students to practice and assess their knowledge of subjects in addition to the opportunity to generate their own content.
Khan has an impressive vision for his project:
I see a world where literally anyone with access to a computer and the internet will be able to go to the Khan Academy and get a world class education. It will be the worlds free virtual school.
His optimism is understandable. He already has over 70,000 subscribers on YouTube, over 22 million upload views, and reaches nearly 200,000 students each month.
Not surprisingly, the Khan Academy and what his educational offering stands for have received criticism.
Kimberly Knapp, a math teacher at the all-girl Castilleja School in Palo Alto, California, said that:
I don’t think that there’s a perfect replacement for the work that we do and the kind of conversations that students and teachers engage in together.
Fair point. But I would go as far as to say that when you’re trying to change a system, you are not looking for a “perfect replacement,” but for a well-executed improvement.
In its current form, the Khan Academy isn’t able to directly field questions from students in the virtual classroom in real-time. But there is no reason this sort of evolution could not happen in the near future. To counter, Khan believes that lecture halls and classrooms have their own limitations, which is why he has produced all of his content in digestible 10 to 20 minute parts. “I’ve gotten researches telling me that ‘You don’t realize, 10 minutes we’ve done studies is how long someone can have a high level of concentration, and anything beyond that you lose it,’” says Khan. “I think we’ve all had that experience sitting in college where you be with the professor for ten to fifteen minutes and then you lose it.”
After a conversation with Khan, PBS believes that:
Internet instruction, be it the Khan Academy of taped university lectures, revolutionize education in remote, third world locations where access to high quality instruction is frequently unavailable.
Khan’s goal is to cover everything – producing videos until the day he is no longer physically able to. The Khan Academy's “student body” will attest to the effectiveness and the impact of Khan’s instruction. It is simple, it works, and it is FREE! Amazing.