Watching YouTube to learn calculus or get help with the SAT may seem a very unlikely approach to education, but Khan Academy allows millions of students to do just that.

Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that had its beginning back in 2004 when Salman Khan provided tutoring to his cousin using Yahoo!Doodle Images. When more members of his family started using the tutorials, Khan made instructional videos which he published on YouTube. The videos became so popular that Khan quit his job and devoted himself to Khan Academy which he describes as “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.”

Khan AcademyAlthough Khan has created over 3,000 videos personally, the Khan Academy has over 100 employees who work to not only produce the online educational tutorials, but also utilizes the website to provide classroom teaching materials, practice exercises, and progress measurement to provide a way to learn that is personal to each student. The videos are unique in that there is no teacher appearing onscreen, but only a digital blackboard on which the narrator draws to illustrate the key points of the 10-minute lecture given. Khan uses ArtRage to do the electronic drawings and records the videos via computer.

Pros and Cons

Khan AcademySome criticize Khan Academy because several of the video lessons were thought to be inaccurate. Critics have also used data to show that the Khan tutorials are not as appealing to young students as other styles of presentation, such as cartoons. Khan himself has been criticized because he does not have a formal teaching background. The academy has responded by correcting any errors found in its videos and this non-profit organization now has over 200 content experts. Salman Khan himself views the videos as a supplement to classroom learning and he does not wish to replace a classroom teacher.

This modern-day tutor, however, has many supporters and Khan Academy is funded through donations by such organizations as Google and AT&T, and individuals like Bill Gates and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. Yuri Milner, a Russian physicist who invested in online giants such as Facebook, Groupon, and Twitter, is quoted as describing Salman Khan “the world’s first superstar teacher.”

Students and teachers can use the Khan Academy website to view what the academy has to offer. Volunteers for the non-profit organization have translated the videos into 36 languages to make them available to students in countries where they may not have traditional educational opportunities. The Khan Academy website lists math, science, computer programming, history, art history, and economics as subjects available for any students who wishes to further their learning outside of the classroom. Partnerships with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT allow specialized content to be offered.

Whether learning a new subject, or seeking help with a school subject in which they struggle, students may take advantage of this free online tutoring at any time free of charge. Khan Academy’s slogan encourages students of all ages — “You only have to know one thing: you can learn anything.”

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