Khan Academy

What is Khan Academy?
“Khan Academy is a not-for-profit educational organization started by Salman Khan in 2008.”

What is Khan Academy’s goal?
“Khan Academy’s goal is to change education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere. Khan Academy’s vision for the classroom includes individualizing learning by replacing one-size-fits-all lectures with self-paced learning; taking a mastery-based approach to learning critical knowledge and skills (every student takes as long as he/she needs to learn each concept fully); creating collaborative learning environments with students solving problems together and tutoring one another; using focused coaching by the teacher to address students’ individual needs; and providing guidance to the teacher through real-time metrics and reporting on student performance.”

The Ivan Illich Learning Webs Scoring System

Network 1: Reference services to educational objects.
Score = 3.
Key Components:
Check mark symbol Educational objects.
Check mark symbol Educational objects available 24/7.

Khan Academy takes advantage of a variety of educational objects. These educational objects include videos, exercises, and data. Their are thousands of videos on topics including Math, Science, Economics, Finance, History, and many more. All of these are 12 minutes long and consist of Khan’s voice and sketches on a digital blackboard. Khan Academy has made these videos accessible at all times to all students who wish to learn. After watching a video, students are able to complete exercises. These exercises can be broken down step-by-step. After completing an exercise, a student’s coach can view their student’s performance through the use of their data. Completing a certain number of exercises leads to a student’s achievement of badges. After achieving badges, a student can map their progress on a “knowledge map.” A “knowledge map” shows all of the challenges, skills, and concepts they have completed within Khan Academy. The use of these badges and “knowledge maps” have led to the creation of a “liberating education.” A “liberating education” is characterized games. Illich thought that when “games were removed from the sphere of leisure; they became tools used to translate playfulness into competition, a lack of abstract reasoning into a sign of inferiority.” This is evident in any sort of education environment. Whether it be as simple as a cross-word puzzle or as complex as jeopardy, the use of games introduces new elements into the learning process. These elements form a self-motivation for the student. This self-motivation is nearly impossible to artificially create.

Network 2: Skill exchanges.
Score = 2.
Key Components:
X symbol/Check mark symbol Models can list their skills.
X symbol/Check mark symbol Models can list the conditions under which they are willing to serve as models.

Khan Academy necessitates the exchange of thousands of skills. These skills take form in videos. Though Khan serves as the educator, he does not serve as a model for others who want to learn. A “coach” serves as a model for others who want to learn. In relation to a conventional educational environment, Khan serves as the textbook while the “coach” serves as the teacher. A “coach” fills this role due to their level of involvement. Illich envisioned a “coach” to be “more like custodians, museum guides, or reference librarians than like teachers. From the corner biology store, they could refer their clients to the shell collection in the museum or indicate the next showing of biology videotapes in a certain viewing booth.” This level of involvement is hands on and hands off. A “coach” may guide their student but also lets their student guide themselves. A student may have multiple coaches or a coach may have multiple students. They may be anyone from a mentor, to a teacher, to a parent. They may use a student’s data to push them out of their comfort zone. This is something a student may be hesitant to do alone. By pushing a student out of their comfort zone, they can maximize their potential.

Network 3: Peer-matching.
Score = 2.
Key Components:
X symbol Includes a communications network.
Check mark symbol Allows students to inquire about a learning activity.

Khan Academy does not incorporate a communications network that allows students to discover one another. However, Khan Academy does allow students to inquire about learning activities. Students can inquire about learning activities by searching or by contacting Khan Academy. Kahn, with the help of Vi Hart, is continuously adding new content each day. Most importantly, Khan Academy indirectly includes websites in which students can inquire about learning activities in which they are interested. On these websites coaches may list specified topics they are interested in teaching and students may list specified topics they are interested in learning. These websites are not the communications network but parallel the communications network that Illich anticipated. He foresaw “an institution which increased the chances that persons who at a given moment shared the same specific interest could meet no matter what else they had in common.” Though a student must inquire about a desired learning activity in a roundabout way, Khan Academy does include a shared interest between the student and the “coach.”

Network 4: Reference services to educators-at-large.
Score = 3.
Key Components:
Check mark symbol Includes a educator(s)-at-large.

Khan Academy includes two educators-at-large. These educators-at-large include Kahn and Vi Hart. With the help of these educators-at-large, or educators who wish to share their knowledge for the common good, students are able to take their educational voyage in the direction they choose. Illich imagined that “if the networks were able to emerge, the educational path of each student would be his own to follow, and only in retrospect would it take on the features of a recognizable program. The wise student would periodically seek professional advice: assistance to set a new goal, insight into difficulties encountered, choice between possible methods.” This advice, assistance, and insight are ingredients that merge to form the educators-at-large. These ingredients are not only special but also rare.

Overall Score = 10.

“I teach the way that I wish I was taught. The lectures are coming from me, an actual human being who is fascinated by the world around him.”


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