What Is the Khan Academy?
As states and the federal government grapple with ways to improve the education system, one man has taken it on himself to create free, online classes that cover all the basics of a good education. The Khan Academy has more than 10 million students who regularly tune in to get help with math, English or social studies. What exactly is it, and what is its place in the future of education? This Khan Academy Review will move you to the head of the class.
What Is Khan Academy?
It describes itself as “a nonprofit with the mission to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” Founder Salman Khan says he wants to give students the tools they need to master academic fundamentals. The classes are primarily aimed at K-12 students.
Online Learning Made Easy and Accessible
The academy’s online setup makes it easy to cover a lot of academic ground quickly. Most of the instruction videos are about 10 minutes long. They feature a similar setup with an unseen teacher going over the major points of the subject.
The online learning center directs you to thousands of videos covering a dizzying variety of topics including:
- Early math.
- World history.
- AP physics.
- Electrical engineering.
- AP biology.
- Art history.
In addition to every academic subject imaginable, offerings also include career-related courses like college admissions, entrepreneurship and managing personal finances.
Five Things You Need to Know About Khan Academy Online
1. It’s Designed to Be a Supplement, Not a Replacement
The Khan website provides a way for students to supplement their classroom learning. Some people seem to think that Khan wants to replace classroom learning, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Khan website itself stresses that its users are there “to get personalized help with what you’re studying or to learn something completely new.”
2. It’s Basically an Online Tutor
The academy is a way to get additional tutoring for certain subjects. It’s also a help to teachers who don’t have time to individually tutor struggling students. If a student is having trouble with a certain subject, they can turn to the academy to get the help they need.
While an automated lesson can’t replace the individualized approach or results of a live tutor, it can fill a gap for people who can’t afford to hire tutors.
3. It’s Especially Good for Learning Math
If you, your child or your student is having a particularly hard struggle with math, consider using Khan Academy Online to help. There are a lot of math and technology courses on the site.
One of the benefits of a computer-based program is its ability to constantly generate new numbers for math problems. The Khan system provides hours of practice for problems ranging from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus. It also provides a step-by-step breakdown of each problem to show you how to solve it.
4. It’s Hugely Popular
As an article in Forbes notes, “Over the past two years, the videos have been viewed more than 200 million times. The site is used by 6 million unique students each month, about 45 million total over the last 12 months, who have collectively solved more than 750 million problems…and the material, which is provided at no cost, is part of the curriculum in 20,000 classrooms around the world. Volunteers have translated Khan’s videos into 24 different languages, including Urdu, Swahili and Chinese.”
This online academy is clearly doing something that students around the world find useful.
5. It’s Free for Everyone
The Khan website shows off students in poor countries with underfunded schools who are learning from the website. There’s no denying its ability to bring a standard level of teaching to everyone.
The website is free to all users. You don’t even need to set up an account, although it’s easier to use if you do. Many of the instructional videos are available on YouTube. There are no advertisements or “premium levels” for purchase.
The academy is nonprofit and gets its funding from donations. Big-name supporters include Ann and John Doerr, the College Board, Bank of America and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
What Are the Downsides of Khan Academy Online?
Although the Khan website is another in the line of so-called “disruptors,” and it can be helpful to fill some learning gaps, it can’t replace traditional learning.
Online Learning Isn’t Enough
Education researcher Bethany Qiang, while recognizing the benefits of the academy, identified four drawbacks of this type of online learning:
- It’s less interactive than learning from a live teacher or tutor. You can’t ask questions or ask to explore a topic in more depth.
- There’s only one learning model. Every class uses a standard visual teaching technique. If you have a different learning style, you may struggle to learn from the videos.
- You lose the benefit of classroom collaboration. There is no way to get input from fellow classmates because you don’t have any.
- It lowers spontaneity and creativity. As Qiang writes, “A fundamental part of education is not only learning the material. It’s also generating ideas and being able to execute them.”
Is It Really World-Class?
In a review in PC Magazine, William Fenton writes that, “Although the site is available worldwide, I am not yet persuaded that an education founded on YouTube micro-lectures and machine-graded assessments is ‘among the best in the world.’.”
At the same time, Fenton concluded that, “Khan Academy earns an Editors’ Choice award for its efforts not to supplant traditional education, but to expand access to those who have been previously, and perhaps systematically, under-served and overlooked. If skeptical of grand promises and media hype, educators ought to support Khan Academy’s idealistic goals, open-source assessment and not-for-profit motives.”
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