The Khan Academy: Open source learning for future classrooms

Initiated by Salman Khan (a Bangladeshi-American educator), the Khan Academy is a non-profit organization founded in 2006. Their mission (as the website states) is to offer “free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” At least anyone with access to the web, all the sites’ 91,718,669 lessons are available to students and educators worldwide absolutely free of charge.

If that were not enough, the website also features an online collection of over 2700 micro lectures on subjects ranging from History to Healthcare. These video tutorials are available on YouTube as well. The idea came to Khan when he began tutoring his cousin using the Yahoo Doodle Images program. As other relatives became interested in online remote tutoring, Khan began imparting lessons through YouTube.

The website also features a host of other tools to aid school teachers – badges, practice exercises, and progress trackers to name a couple. Khan believes his academy points an opportunity to overhaul the traditional classroom by using software to create tests, grade assignments, highlight the challenges of certain students, and encourage those doing well to help struggling classmates. Let us take a look at how open source learning model is transforming the world of education.

The classroom — redefined

Students of the world have a tough enough time already getting out of bed in the morning to go to school! The ways in which open source learning aid students are many, but perhaps one of the most notable is that they are able to learn sitting in the comfort of their own home. This adds immeasurable value to the field of education, allowing slower learners to grasp concepts at their own pace, pausing the tutorial as and when they like.

Interactive at a personal level

No matter what the subject, the virtual world provides a forum for like-minded people to connect. Similarly, open source learning helps better understanding of topics for both students and teachers alike. It fosters an environment for people to comment, share and improve in general the topics that they are researching or studying. Not having the presence of a stern taskmaster to constantly watch their progress means that certain students can take their time and not feel the embarrassment of slowing down an entire classroom.

It’s free for all

According to UNESCO, despite steadily increasing enrolment rates over the past years, 67 million children of primary school age and another 72 million children of lower secondary school age were still out of school in 2009. There are also indications that progress towards universal primary education is slowing and that the goal will not be met by 2015 if current trends continue. This stems from a number of reasons; poverty and connectivity being the foremost of these. Open source learning is revolutionary in this sense, enabling students of all backgrounds to receive free and semi-formal education.

Towards a paperless future

In an era when offices and businesses of this world are rapidly going paperless, why should classrooms be left behind? Storing everything that meets your educational needs in one place eliminates the hassle of carrying, buying, maintaining books, and pads altogether! How could there possibly be a downside? While some may still prefer reading text from books as compared to watching videos, most would concede that studying through video tutorials is far more convenient. In addition to this, the elimination of books would lead to reduction in unnecessary expenditure.

Time Magazine has nominated the Khan Academy as one of the top 50 websites in 2011. The project relies on donations for funding, having found significant backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Google. As of September 2010, Google announced they would be providing the Khan Academy with $2 million to support the creation of more courses and to enable the Khan Academy to translate their core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages, as part of their Project 10100.

Offline versions of the videos on the website have been distributed by not-for-profit organizations across rural areas in Asia, Latin America, as well as Africa. While the Khan Academy’s current syllabus consists mainly pre-college mathematics and physics, Khan states that his long-term goal is to offer thousands of videos across all subjects. In the process of doing so, he hopes to create the world’s first free, virtual school! A noble cause indeed; you can follow the Khan Academy on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Source : Sen By Rudra