Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

Khan Academy: World's Free Virtual Private Tutoring Lessons In Math & Science

CJ Westerberg, November 18, 2010 12:57 PM


The Khan Academy: 
Eleven Hundred Videos "One Concept At A Time"

K-12 Subjects: From Basic Arithmetic To Advanced Calculus
Free, On-Demand, Anytime, Anywhere
by C.J. Westerberg

Basic Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, Biology, Physics, Statistics, Probability, SAT Prep, Geitner's Plan, Raising VC Capital, The Credit Crisis . . . 1,100 subjects and 1,100 videos - all about 10 minutes in length.  And they're free on YouTube.

I watched two which were good and thought what a great substitute for all or some of the endless $50 tutoring sessions many parents shell out (or wish they could), especially in Math and SAT prep.  A great leveler of the playing field - we like this aspect immensely, along with other possibilities such as a what a great way to supplement learning in the summer or on snow days (listening DC?).

The Khan Academy is the brainchild of Salman Khan who, while tutoring a relative long-distance, found how by video-taping his "tutoring session" with her, she was able to advance at her own pace and replay until she mastered each "concept".  From this early beginning, Khan's non-profit enterprise was born.

Khan also comes with an interesting background.  From the website:

"Prior to founding the Khan Academy, Salman Khan was the senior research analyst at a Bay Area investment fund.  He has also held positions in product management at Xerox PARC and Oracle. Sal received his MBA from Harvard Business School where he was president of
the student body.  He also hold a Masters in computer science, a B.S. in computer science, and a B.S. in mathematics from MIT where he was president of the Class of 1998.

Below are three videos:
#1  - Introduction to Khan Academy - 2 min.
#2 -  One of the Videos - 9 min.
#3 - Most recent PBS overview - 6 min.

According to the Khan website, with link here: 

"Several universities--most notably, MIT--have made videos of their courses available to the general public.  The need, however, is greatest in k-12 education.  Even the efforts to-date for university level topics, while extremely admirable, are a hodgepodge of live lecture videos putting the onus on the student to navigate through long lectures by professors of inconsistent quality (some of the top researchers make some of the worst instructors).  Students needing help on a specific concept (like the Chain Rule or Glycolysis) have no direct way of honing in on what they need to see."

I would agree . . . the free on-line lectures available from Universities have a way to go since there is an inconsistency in lecture quality and they are long.  Sometimes it takes twenty minutes into a lecture whether to tell if the subject will be as specific as you would like it.  With Khan, it's a 10-minute commitment with highly segmented and focused subjects, so from an attention-span and retention point-of-view, the time is ideal.  Plus it's short enough to allow for repetition if needed.  The website continues:

"As the dominant source of k-12 video content, the Khan Academy is already reshaping how "lectures" are done and consumed.  It is more personal, more intimate, and can be viewed at the viewer's pace and convenience.  The testimonials from users around the world speak to the effectiveness of Salman's library.  The software completes the offering by allowing instruction, practice and assessment to all occur in one data-driven environment."

 ". . . Primarily from word-of mouth, the site has already had 8.5 million video views and is attracting 80,000 students per month watching 35,000 videos per day (rivaling and surpassing the open course efforts of major research universities). . .  
  . . .All of this can reach millions of students around the world with a budget that is less than that of even the smallest physical schools.
. ."

Now to ask friends to try a video or two out on their kids.  Actually, it's also great for anyone who wants to refresh or learn (what is trigonometry, anyway?)  Let us know what you think --

Previously Published The Daily Riff February 2010

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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
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