COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — Last month, Forbes named Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy as “The Most Influential Person in Education Technology.”
Khanacademy.org is an educational website that offers both tutoring and mentoring services and most admirable, all of these services are completely free. Anyone has the ability to sign up and begin using tutorials and tests.
Khan started his website in 2006 when his cousin, Nadia, needed some help with her math homework, and he decided to start making software that could help. He allowed Nadia and her brothers to use the database he created, as he thought that could help students who struggle with gaps in learning.
Khan’s goal is to make world-class education available to everyone, with the website offering instruction in various math courses, sciences like biology, chemistry and physics, as well as both history and finance. The programs are structured to allow each student to work at his or her own pace.
Problem solutions are broken down and hints are available for use. Additionally, all of the problems are generated randomly, so students can never run out of practice problems.
Khan’s voice appears on most of the videos in which he explains whatever subject the video is covering and then has the student take an online test afterwards. His software answers the questions and gives feedback on how students answer. When students have successfully completed the topic, you can move to another topic.
He started with making videos focused on algebra and found that he enjoyed making them. He then moved on to trigonometry, geometry, pre-algebra, chemistry, and history. Khan not only developed the subjects for use on his website, but was able to re-learn information that he had learned in previous years.
By 2009, Khan had finally quit his job at a hedge fund and soon after, his company was set up as a not-for-profit with funding from both the Gates foundation and Google. What started as one person with a computer has grown into a program that has over 6 million regular users every month with millions of views on its 4,000 videos.
When Khan was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2012, Bill Gates said, “I’ve used Khan Academy with my kids, and I’m amazed at the breadth of Sal’s subject expertise and his ability to make complicated topics understandable.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been an incredible supporter of the academy, with Gates further saying, “He started by posting a math lesson, but his impact on education might truly be incalculable.”
Khan Academy has been able to help students in the United States and around the world. On the site, Khan communicates his hope for anyone who wants to learn to use khanacademy.org. He writes, “It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology.”
The United States education system has taken note of Khan Academy, with the Los Altos school district in California that started a pilot program that used the website. With support from fundamental backers like the Gates Foundation and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, teachers in both Idaho and Kansas are being trained to use the site.
Education is a great equalizer for students worldwide. This type of education that Khan Academy provides at no cost gives the opportunity to anyone, regardless of financial status to raise their standard of living as well as laying the foundation for their children and future generations.
– Julie Guacci
Sources: The Guardian, Forbes, Khan Academy