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Khan Academy

Contributor(s): Lowell Thing

The Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that provides free video tutorials and interactive exercises. The Academy’s declared mission is “changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.” 

The lessons were conceived primarily for distance learning but are also suitable for use in the classroom. The tutorials are informal in style and organized for building knowledge one concept or lesson at a time. Many lessons are delivered as electronic blackboard talks by someone with an apparent enthusiasm for the topic.

Khan Academy website users can maintain records of their progress. Through the website, teachers can also monitor the progress of students who are using the site. In pilot experiments, schools are using a concept called “flipping the classroom,” which involves students watching the Khan Academy lectures at home and then using classroom time for exercise and testing. In this model, the teacher’s role is changed from lecturer to tutor and progress monitor.

Salman Khan, a hedge fund manager, created the first video to help his young cousin with her math. Khan, who has three degrees from MIT and an MBA from Harvard, found he was able to create short, informal lessons very quickly (he used Yahoo’s Doodle notepad). Encouraged by his own progress and, very soon, a large YouTube following, Khan quit his hedge fund job and started the Academy.

Bill Gates discovered the site as a source of learning for his son and began to offer the financial support of his charitable foundation. Today, supported further with contributions from Google and others, the Khan Academy has a dedicated professional staff headed by the founder and a growing number of volunteers who lend their expertise to create lessons in new subject areas.

The Khan Academy can be seen as one of the best publicized and most promising examples of the power of the Internet to educate and to transform traditional education. As of 2015, the Academy offered over  learning content for over 5,000 subjects -- a great many on mathematics and the sciences but also including, for example, economics and art history. According to the Khan Academy’s website, it has delivered over 132,909,653 lessons.

The Khan Academy is part of an ongoing trend to making educational resources freely available online for users all over the world. Related resources include MIT's OpenCourseWare (OCW) and various massively open online courses (MOOC).

See Sal Khan’s presentation at TED Talks 2011:


This was last updated in November 2016

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