education | May 12, 2013

1 Billion Lessons: Salman Khan On The Khan Academy's Success [VIDEO]

As education speaker Salman Khan has proven, YouTube can be used for much more than watching "cats playing piano." It can, in fact, be a valuable tool for learning mathematics and other complex concepts. His online video-based learning platform, The Khan Academy, has become a popular aid for teaching students of all ages and abilities the skills they may be having a hard time with in school. Or, in some cases, it gives them an opportunity to brush up on knowledge they may not have gotten in school and wish to learn after they've graduated. In fact, as he told the audience at the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit 2013, The Khan Academy has now taught over 1 billion video lessons.

In the early days of the Academy, Khan used to make videos to help tutor his cousins. After working with them for a while, he recalls his family telling him that they preferred him on YouTube rather than in person. "Viewing the positive angle of that feedback, I think it actually made a lot of sense," he says in his keynote. "They were saying, look, they appreciated the time I was spending with them, they appreciated the tutorials, but the first time that you learn something it is stressful." It's sometimes embarrassing to admit you don't fully understand something right off the bat, he says. It's even more stressful to admit that you don't have the foundational knowledge you're expected to have from lessons past in order to understand new concepts. By providing them with online video lectures, however, his students can access the material without that added stress of having to comprehend the material after the first exposure to it.

"There's an almost infinite social return on investment here," Khan explains. Currently, he is working toward implementing his program in schools as a core learning tool. Ironically, he says, allowing students to access the content in this digital format at their own pace has transformed the physical classroom into a more human-based environment. Teachers can access their students' progress through tools on the site, and then devote their attention to the specific needs of each child. The site also provides teachers with advanced metrics so they can easily track each student's success rate. Several schools have already jumped on board and incorporated Khan's platform to various degrees. As he discusses in his book, The One World School House, and in his speeches, interest in his work is continuing to develop and the uses for his platform are constantly expanding. Khan is rethinking education in the hopes that one day, a "free world-class education" will be available to "anyone, anywhere."

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