Imagine a school that provided high quality education to anyone who wanted it. Whether young or old, rich or poor, its doors would be open 24 hours a day. Imagine that it provided instruction on topics from basic mathematics to vector calculus. From chemistry to astronomy. Microeconomics to Healthcare. Imagine that this school held a million students and provided them with more than 150 000 lessons each day on nearly 4000 different topics.
Now imagine that this isn’t some utopian and futuristic pipe dream. Its real. Welcome to the KhanAcademy – a global classroom of students learning almost anything, for free.
The KhanAcademy is the brainchild of Salman Khan, a former hedge fund analyst and Harvard MBA. Khan began teaching Maths to his younger cousins who lived in a different city using Yahoo Doodles – a whiteboarding website which allowed him to teach them in real time.
After finding some success with this approach, he began recording additional lessons – complete with audio and photos to illustrate his points – and uploaded them to YouTube where they could watch them at their leisure. That’s when he made two surprising discoveries:
First, his cousins told him that they no longer wanted him to tutor them “live” as they preferred it when he recorded himself. This makes sense – the last thing a student learning something for the first time needs, is someone standing over them saying “do you understand?” The recorded lessons let them rewind when they missed something, or fast forward when they are confident. It let them each go at their own pace, without the fear of embarrassment.
Second, Khan discovered that several thousand other kids – across the world – felt the same way, and had begun using his lessons to improve their Mathematics.
Teachers began noticing his videos, and started integrating them into their teaching. Using aspects of the Flipped Classroom philosophy, these teachers began asking their students to watch Khan’s videos for “homework” and replaced their own in-class lectures with exercises to put into practice what they had been taught.
Over the next 5 years, Khan produced some 3000 lessons, eventually quitting his day job in 2009 to work full-time on his vision for the future classroom.
The KhanAcademy.org website now features student and teacher portals that offer engaging exercises for students and detailed performance tracking data for teachers. Entire school districts in the USA have migrated from a textbook-based curricula to using Khan’s videos.
This is not some mere re-incarnation of Educational Television. Nor is it a substitute for a highly competent teacher in a well equipped school. This is an entirely new approach to disseminating knowledge. So much so, that we now group the Khan Academy and other similar projects under a common movement – Open Education Resources (OERs).
At Umoya, we’ve realised that our country’s lack of reliable internet access and poor connection speeds are preventing our kids from joining this global classroom. We believe that we cannot wait for connectivity to improve while thousands of students disappear out of our schools each year.
We’re working to make Open Education Resources like the Khan Academy available to learners who don’t have high-speed internet connections. We’re partnering with schools, districts, NGOs, and telecom providers to make this content available to every student. Its a massive challenge. But if a guy with a microphone and an internet connection can teach maths to an entire generation of kids, we think that we should be able to enable access to this world-changing resource.