Introducing MOOCs: Khan Academy

3 Aug
English: Salman Khan, famous for the Khan Acad...

English: Salman Khan, famous for the Khan Academy, speaking at TED 2011. Cropped from the original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love Khan Academy. It’s mission is to provide “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere“. Khan Academy is an old classic, and I didn’t even consider it a MOOC until Udacity started up and created a lot of press about MOOCs. It originally focused mostly on mathematics, finance, and economics, but it has branched out a lot and now features videos on art history, civics, chemistry, and much more.
Khan Academy is mostly created by one guy, Salman Khan. This guy is a hero and a pioneer. Recently Salman has gotten a lot of press and funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google, but for most of Khan Academy’s history it was just him and his computer. Similar to MRU, Khan Academy offers collections of his short videos (micro lectures) categorized into different topics and subtopics, such as finance, algebra, history, etc. Many of the videos are very simple and seem to have no budget for production, consisting of nothing more than Salman’s voice and a few sketches which he uses to illustrate the idea. However, that doesn’t stop him from delivering high quality content. Salman obviously knows what he is talking about:  he graduated from of MIT and from Harvard Business School, and most of the videos are very elementary for someone with his education. This shines through clearly with his lectures, as he explains the topics smoothly and lucidly.
There are a few ways that Khan Academy is doing things right which I want to highlight. The length of the videos The videos are excellent. Normally around 10 minutes long, these videos are easy to focus on. Two summers ago I had the evening habit of watching one Khan Academy micro lecture each night before bed. What a great daily habit! Some online courses have videos that are an hour-long or longer, and it is difficult to focus on a single video or lecture for 30 or 60 minutes unless it is truly, rivetingly interesting. iTunes U is often just a video recording of a normal college class, and they sometimes go on for 90 minutes. One of the advantages of online education is how we can get straight to the point. We are able to cut out all the fluff and go straight for the crunch. MRU tried to focus on this a lot, and some of the Coursera classes are forgetting this. Usually it is better to have a short video containing a higher density of content than a longer video with the information more spread out. Few longer videos are so engaging as to keep attention for long periods of time. (Randy Pauch comes to mind as an excellent exception)
Another thing that Khan Academy is doing right is the sequential nature of the videos. After watching a video on the fiscal cliff, a video on the debt ceiling is within the same group. After learning about traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs I am nudged towards a video about 401(k)s. This grouping of videos in a logical sequence, and with related videos on the same topic, is fantastic. For a collection of videos as large as Khan Academy has, I would say that it is also necessary, but there are a shocking number of places on the internet with just as more content at Khan Academy with virtually no system of organization.
As if just creating Khan Academy wasn’t enough Salman also is proposing a new type of education for the future. Check out his TED Talk to hear about some of his ideas:
So I’ve only had positive experiences with Khan Academy. You won’t earn a degree from the sight, but you will learn a lot. I sure did. When I took a finance class from Coursera (which was excellent) there were many concepts that I didn’t fully understand. I watched many of Khan Academy’s finance videos while I took the Coursera class, and they were excellent supplementary material. They helped me to better understand the content of the Coursera class, and they gave me a broader (but light) introduction to finance. Now I feel that I have a basic understanding of finance, but I plan to continue watching Khan Academy videos to learn more.

One Response to “Introducing MOOCs: Khan Academy”


  1. Basics of Business Finance | The Dividend Gamer - September 1, 2013

    […] Introducing MOOCs: Khan Academy ( […]

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