Khan Academy

I have been using the Khan Academy to assist with my study of Mathematics for over a year and I would like to share my experiences with you. For those of you who have not heard of the Khan Academy, it’s a free educational website consisting of 2600 videos and 306 practice exercises. It is predominantly focused on Science-based material and is the brainchild of Salman Khan, former MIT and Harvard graduate (not to be confused with the Bollywood megastar of the same name). You can find out about how and why this website started from http://www.khanacademy.org/about and the Ted talk Salman Khan gave, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTFEUsudhfs (I seriously encourage you to give this a watch).

When I first started to pursue Maths again, almost a decade after completing an A-Level in the subject, I had almost no knowledge of the subject; was hopelessly out of practice and had only my enthusiasm to go on. Enter Youtube… Youtube??? … but I thought this was a post about Khan Academy? Well it is. However, to share my experiences and thoughts I need to start somewhere near the beginning.

There are many great educators on Youtube who provide free lessons in a multitude of disciplines and these have long played a central part in my learning. The ability to pause, skip forward and go back allows me to learn at a pace that suits me. I can equate my time appropriately to the areas I am weak in. I have however found some things lacking, specifically reinforcement through ‘doing’ and a way of categorising and tracking what has been learnt and what should be learnt.

On these last two points Khan Academy excels when supporting Maths. It provides a sophisticated set of exercises, statistics, a map of your knowledge and, as they put it ‘Badges worth bragging about’, which are earned through the completion of challenges. The beauty of this almost game-based approach is that it can become obsessive and therefore encourages mastery of a particular topic before moving on. Simply move through the videos and exercises and follow the path laid out for you. You never know, while you are at it, you might actually have some fun!

Khan Academy has meant, and continues to mean, a lot to me. My feelings towards it are akin to those shown towards an inspirational teacher, wanting to do well by them. This flies in the face of those who think that a learner’s experience will be inherently worse for not having actual physical or real-time contact with their teachers. When I watch a Khan video, I feel like he is speaking directly to me: just a pupil and a teacher with the latter never judging; always patient and forever willing to repeat himself…

3 thoughts on “Khan Academy

  1. Thanks for sharing this Sam. What a brilliant website- simple, open and interactive. I think sometimes the importance of the user-friendliness of an education platform can be overlooked. Nothing in this is hidden away or difficult to get to- it’s a link, to a website, straight away you see ‘watch’ in the top menu and there is the list of videos nicely categorized and titled appropriately. Watch a video and you then have the opportunity to try out what you’ve just seen or ask a question. It’s so refreshing- no barriers eg. login pages (I’m very pro-open source.) That all sounds like common sense and a user friendly design would be a top priority for a good website (not many people would struggle to use google) but unfortunately this isn’t always the case with learning environments.

    I’m also very encouraged by the fact that the subject matter of these videos is maths, which I think some people wouldn’t see as traditionally a subject that translates in to video. I sometimes wonder if some academics, perhaps in the less ‘visual’ course areas, dismiss video as an option for their learning materials as they can’t immediately think of ways to use it for their modules. (If there is anybody reading this that feels like this, please get in touch with me- I love helping people to explore the possibilities for their subjects.)

    Watching that Salman Khan clip, I’m also really impressed with the idea of ‘flipping the traditional classroom script’ by ‘giving students video lectures to watch at home and do “homework” in the classroom with teacher available to help.’ I feel like this would work very well for me as a student.
    Again, thanks for sharing.

  2. Pingback: Lecture Capture and Flipping the Classroom | The University of Derby Learning Technology Blog

  3. Pingback: Event Review: ALT Large Scale Curriculum Redesign 21st May 2012 | The University of Derby Learning Technology Blog

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