Khan Academy: The Era of E-Learning Is At Hand

The concept of e-learning is relatively new and not fully explored yet. The ideas it builds upon are most interesting.

There are a range of website dedicated to helping people improve their brain functioning and learn more, such as lumosity.com, engineerguy.com, cnx.org, apple.com/education/itunes-u, code.google.com/edu, youtube.com/edu, moms.org/modernteachers etc.

The Khan Academy brought about a turning point with Founder, Salman Khan’s, less-than-sophisticated videos. He began by recording several of them while tutoring his cousins, in a closet at his home with a Logitech headset. Many believe he has stumbled on to the secret of solving education’s middle-of-the-class mediocrity.

For years, teachers have complained about the frustration of standing at the whiteboard and teaching to the “middle” of the class. They make futile attempts to get 25+ students to learn the same stuff at the same pace. Advanced kids get bored and tune out. The slower ones lag behind and tune out too. Soon enough half the class isn’t paying attention. Since the rise of personal computers in the early 1980’s, educators have hoped that technology could solve this long standing issue by offering education tailored to each student. Technology has been tried and tested but nothing has come of it.

The Khan Academy is an educational website that is focused on letting anyone “learn almost anything – for free.” It encompasses roughly 2,400 videos on math, science, economics, and a couple of social science topics thrown in to the mix. The videos are on average, 7-14 minutes long, consisting of a chatty, unscripted voice-over by Khan explaining mathematical concepts that appear on screen in hand-scribbled formulas. The website offers software that generates practice problems and rewards good performance with videogame-like badges – for answering a number of questions correctly and quickly. Once questions are answered without mistakes the site recommends new subjects to move on to.

Khan’s intention is not to replace current educational curricula but rather supplement it and allow a varied approach to learning. Nevertheless, critics argue that his videos and software encourage uncreative and repetitive drilling and leaves kids staring at computer screen instead of interacting with teachers. Khan himself admits to being a regular nerd who “improvised a cool way to teach people things.”

 

The software that began as a tutorial for his cousins has stretched far beyond and is sought by college graduates, adults, people stalling with their education – basically anyone looking to learn. Khan’s most notable fan and contributor is none other than Bill Gates whose foundation has invested $1.5 million on Khan’s site. Following that Google pitched in another $2 million.

Check out the site at KhanAcademy.org

 

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