Review: Khan Academy

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I am incredibly passionate about Khan Academy for more than a few reasons. Like, to the point that you shouldn't insult it in front of me because it probably won't end well for you. (To be fair, I'm always game for a healthy academic debate, but I am unquestionably biased.) So let me back up a bit, and tell you the short history of Khan Academy.

The History

Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, was attending MIT in 2004, when he was asked to tutor his cousin, who lived across the country. He obliged, using the means available at the time: a telephone and the drawing function of Yahoo chat. When he wasn't available to speak live on the phone, he would record himself explaining the concepts over a video on MS Paint (RIP). Eventually, his cousin admitted to him that she preferred the videos over him being live on the phone, because she could watch them as many times as she needed to, while being able to skip to the specific parts that she needed, skipping over the rest without seeming rude or disrespectful. Eventually, he started tutoring more of his extended family, and ended up posting many of his videos on YouTube. Unexpectedly, his videos began to garner more and more attention from other YouTube users, and by 2009, Khan realized that he needed to do something more. So he quit his job, and began to create what is now known as Khan Academy.

I just want to take an aside her and say, that is one of the coolest stories illustrating the idea that even the littlest things can grow into a huge movement (one that's funded by Bill Gates and Google, among others). Khan realized that he could start a revolution in education, and help people who had trouble with conventional education, and he was willing to take a gamble on himself in order to help the world.

Khan Academy Now

Khan Academy has grown a thousandfold since the days of voiceovers and MS Paint. While its videos are still hosted by YouTube, the website puts the videos together into a syllabus that you can follow (or not, if you like to skip around), and adds in exercises and quizzes to help you practice and absorb the information that the videos provide. Chief among its programs is World of Math. They test for mastery of specific skills, automatically moving on to the next skill when a particular idea is firmly grasped. This allows for highly personalized learning sessions, allowing struggling students to continue practicing the skills they have trouble with, and helping others to spring far ahead of what they learn in school, fostering a love for the subject rather than the boredom that occurs when you already understand the subject being taught.

As evidenced by World of Math, Khan Academy is geared mostly toward the K-12 crowd, supplementing the core subjects of math, science, history, grammar, etc. They have even done a partnership with College Board to help high school students with SAT prep. (I wish the GRE was there too, but hey, it's a different company.) However, they have also done some EXTREMELY cool partnerships with big name companies like NASA and Pixar. Another one of their early partnerships was with the Green brothers (also known as the Vlog Brothers) for Crash Course World History, Biology and Ecology, and Chemistry (you can see my Crash Course World History post here).

The Bottom Line

A final note: one of the reasons I love Khan Academy and everything they stand for is that they are "For free. For everyone. Forever." I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH how much I admire this in a time where many companies are choosing to capitalize on the growing edtech and online learning trend. I continually look forward to seeing what their next step is in providing a free education for anyone who wants it.