The Power of a Virtual School on the Internet

In August 2004, Salman Khan (a.k.a. Sal Khan) a former hedge fund manager, began helping his niece, Nadia, with her math homework. Sal began helping Nadia, by doing videos about different math problems, and how to solve them. Sal uploaded all the videos to YouTube™, and as the time moved one, Sal uploaded more and more videos. Suddenly he had uploaded around 2K of videos, and he became famous and created a virtual school named Khan Academy. However, in this article I will be talking more about this fantastic idea, I will also provide more details about Khan Academy, and the benefits of having it, and the bad things regarding it.

The Khan Academy
Khan Academy is a non-profit (or not-for-profit) organization, with the mission to provide a free world-class education service to anyone, anywhere at any time on earth. The Khan Academy now provides around 2400 around 3500 videos, and consists of a software program which allows anybody to test their skills. The greatest part is the opportunity to be able to test your math skills after watching one or two videos, because you then know exactly how much you’ve learned by watching those videos see Figure A.


Figure A: A video at Khan Academy covering Simple Equations

The software which is built-in into this service is used for practice purposes, and it is a very good option. The software consists of a database, badges and points, and a knowledge map (Figure B).


Figure B: The map is produced using Google™ Technology, and is a very colorful map. The map
provides different levels, for example: Addition, and Addition 2, 3, and so one. Each of these
destinations, provide unique questions which allow the user or a student to put their math skills to the test

The math-games are fun, every time you succeed you’ll get a positive smile, and every time you fail, you’ll get the negative smile, very straight forward (Figure C). However, another very cool thing is that while playing, you can decide to go and watch a video related to that math level (Figure D).


Figure C: Playing subtraction level 4


Figure D: You can directly navigate to a video that covers information about that specific math level, and problem

Note: You can still go back and continue with the current level in the game, without losing everything.

The point and badges system however is really nice. Every time you complete a test in the knowledge map, and every time you watch videos for an amount of time (hours) you’ll get points (Figure E).


Figure E: My account, I have 101,365 points currently

The badges are awesome, and they exist in different types, there are six types, Meteorite, Moon, Earth, Sun, Black Hole and the special Challenge Patches (Figure F).


Figure F: Example of the badges, those are my earth badges on Khan Academy

There are so many things you can do at Khan Academy, why wait when it is available for free just go to the official website http://www.khanacademy.org/.

Conclusions 
People have been doing videos about all types of subjects, for example you have education videos which teach physics, math, chemistry and much more. Just visiting YouTube™ and searching for simplifying rational expression will give us over 2K in result, and you will find a lot of videos, different people have done that teach you how to simplify an rational expression. However the Khan Academy is very different, you have short videos with a lot of examples, and the voice in these videos is awesome, Salman is very good at speaking and explaining things. The entire idea and system with Khan Academy is really awesome, I personally like the way it is organized. This idea is also great, because Khan Academy can be reached by people all over the world however there is a down-side for those who do not have access to either a computer or Internet.

However, another thing that has been discussed very much in the Media, when Salman Khan appeared on the news, is the following question, Will Khan Academy replace ordinary schools? – remember this is like a virtual school available on the Internet. The clear answer is NO, and this is very obvious as students still need to do the tests, and teachers cannot be fired, just because someone invented the virtual school.

In addition, I personally think that Khan Academy can be used as an extra hand, in case you are home and you get stuck in a math problem which you cannot solve at that moment, because you do not remember how to apply a specific formula. Khan Academy will be your best hand in helping you to successfully solve the math problem, and learn it to the next time. However, a real school is still the best place, and I prefer that rather than going to a virtual school, but that is me.

Additional information and resources:
The Official Khan Academy website: http://www.khanacademy.org/ 
About Khan Academy: http://www.khanacademy.org/about
The Khan Academy Channel on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/khanacademy

Leave a Reply