Khan Academy

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Khan Academy
Web address
Slogan A free world-class education for anyone anywhere.[1]
Commercial? No
Type of site Online education
Registration not required
Available language(s) English, Bengali, Indonesian, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Swahili, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Xhosa, Greek, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Malayalam, Hindi, Chinese, Thai, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean ,Telugu, Tamil, Kannada
Content license Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA)
Owner Salman Khan
Created by Salman Khan, founder and Executive Director
Launched September 2006
Alexa rank 4,903 Global, 2,165 US (May 2013)[2]

Khan Academy is a non-profit[3] educational website created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan, a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School. The stated mission is to provide 'a free world-class education for anyone anywhere'.

The website features thousands of educational resources, including a personalized learning dashboard, over 100,000 exercise problems, and over 4000 micro lectures[1] via video tutorials stored on YouTube teaching mathematics, history, healthcare, medicine, finance, physics, general chemistry, biology, astronomy, economics, cosmology, organic chemistry, American civics, art history, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and computer science.[4] All resources are available for free to anyone around the world. Khan Academy reaches about 10,000,000 students per month and has delivered over 300,000,000 lessons.[5][6]



The founder of the organization, Salman Khan, was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States to a father from Barisal, Bangladesh and mother from Calcutta, India.[7] After earning three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (a SB in mathematics, an SB in electrical engineering and computer science, and an MEng in electrical engineering and computer science) he pursued an MBA from Harvard Business School.

In late 2004, Khan began tutoring his cousin Nadia in mathematics using Yahoo!'s Doodle notepad. When other relatives and friends sought similar help, he decided it would be more practical to distribute the tutorials on YouTube.[8][9] Their popularity there and the testimonials of appreciative students prompted Khan to quit his job in finance as a hedge fund analyst at Connective Capital Management in 2009, and focus on the tutorials (then released under the moniker "Khan Academy") full-time.[9] Bill Gates once said, "I'd say we've moved about 160 IQ points from the hedge fund category to the teaching-many-people-in-a-leveraged-way category. It was a good day his wife let him quit his job".[10]

The project is funded by donations. Khan Academy is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization,[3] now with significant backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ann and John Doerr, Lemann Foundation, and Google. In 2010, Google announced it would give the Khan Academy $2 million for creating more courses and for translating the core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages, as part of their Project 10100.[11] In 2013, the Carlos Slim Foundation made a donation to Khan Academy to expand its Spanish library of videos.[12]

Khan Academy has eclipsed MIT's OpenCourseWare (OCW) in terms of videos viewed. Its YouTube channel has more than 300 million total views, compared to MIT's 58 million. It also has more than twice as many subscribers, with 1,538,000.[13][14][15] Khan Academy currently provides various levels of mathematics courses, and Salman Khan has stated that with the help of teachers, tutors and experts,[16] Khan Academy now has topics beyond just math, such as physics, chemistry, finance, computer science, logic, biology, art history and more.[17]

Khan Academy also has thousands of resources translated into other languages. It launched the Spanish version of the website in September 2013.[18] It is supported by partners and volunteers in languages including Indonesian, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Swahili, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Xhosa, Greek, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Hindi, Malayalam, and Chinese.

Khan Academy also launched a computer science module in September 2012.[19][20]

Technical format

Garfield's proof of the Pythagorean Theorem, Khan Academy[21]

The Khan Academy started with Khan remotely tutoring one of his cousins interactively using Yahoo Doodle images. Based on feedback from his cousin, additional cousins began to take advantage of the interactive, remote tutoring. In order to make better use of his and their time, Khan transitioned to making YouTube video tutorials.[22] Drawings are now made with a Wacom tablet and the free natural drawing application SmoothDraw,[23] and recorded with screen capture software from Camtasia Studio.[24]

All videos (hosted via YouTube) are available through Khan Academy's own website, which also contains many other features such as progress tracking, practice exercises, and a variety of tools for teachers in public schools. Logging into the site can be done via a Google or a Facebook account for those who do not want to create a separate Khan Academy account. The material can also be accessed with the Khan Academy Modern UI application available free of charge from Windows Store.

Khan chose to avoid the standard format of a person standing by a whiteboard, deciding instead to present the learning concepts as if "popping out of a darkened universe and into one's mind with a voice out of nowhere" in a way akin to sitting next to someone and working out a problem on a sheet of paper: "If you're watching a guy do a problem [while] thinking out loud, I think people find that more valuable and not as daunting".[25] Not-for-profit groups have distributed offline versions of the videos to rural areas in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.[8][26] While the current content is mainly concerned with pre-college mathematics and physics, Khan's long-term goal is to provide "tens of thousands of videos in pretty much every subject" and to create "the world's first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything".[8]

Khan Academy also provides a web-based exercise system that generates problems for students based on skill level and performance. The exercise software is available as open source under the MIT license.[27] 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.[9] The tutorials are touted as helpful because, among other factors, they can be paused by students, while a classroom lecture cannot be.[28]

The success of his low-tech, conversational tutorials—Khan's face never appears, and viewers see only his unadorned step-by-step doodles and diagrams on an electronic blackboard—suggests an educational transformation that de-emphasizes lecture-based classroom interactions.[29]


In 2010, Khan Academy introduced badges. There are currently 6 types:

  • Meteorite badges — These badges are easy to earn and come with small energy point awards.
  • Moon badges — These badges are harder to earn than the meteorites and have larger energy point awards.
  • Earth badges — These badges are harder than moon badges but some are still easy to earn.
  • Sun badges — These badges are harder than the Earths and unlike the previous categories, earning them is a challenge.
  • Black Hole badges — These badges are unknown and extremely hard to earn and there are only 3 available to earn.
  • Challenge badges — These are earned when one finishes all exercises of a certain topic.

Services and vision

The major components of Khan Academy include:[30]

  • a personalized learning engine to help people track what they have learned and recommend what they can do next
  • a video library with over 4500 videos in various topic areas and over 300 million lessons delivered.[5][6][31] These videos are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License.[5]
  • automated exercises with continuous assessment; as of August 2013, there are 100,000 practice exercises, mainly in math. As of February 2013, over one billion problems have been answered on the site.
Homer's The Life Line, Smarthistory[32]

A November 2011 grant of $5 million from Ireland-based The O'Sullivan Foundation, founded by Avego MD and cloud computing pioneer Sean O'Sullivan, will be directed to three initiatives:

  1. Expanding the teaching faculty
  2. Extending content through crowd-sourced contributions following a Wikipedia-style model
  3. Developing curricula to help users blend the content with physical teaching through STEM learning

Recent teaching appointees as a result of the grant include Dr. Steven Zucker, formerly of Pratt Institute, and Dr. Beth Harris, from the Smarthistory project at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, to produce art and history content. YouTube video creators Vi Hart and Brit Cruise have also joined the teaching faculty.[33]

Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education, TED[34]
  • In 2009, the Khan Academy received the Microsoft Tech Award for education.[26]
  • In 2010 at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Bill Gates endorsed the learning resource, calling it "unbelievable" and saying "I've been using [Khan Academy] with my kids".[10][35]
  • In 2010, Google's Project 10100 provided $2 million to support the creation of more courses, to allow for translation of the Khan Academy's content, and to allow for the hiring of additional staff.[36]
  • An article featuring Khan Academy and Salman Khan appeared in the August 2011 issue of Wired Magazine.[37]
  • In November 2011, the Khan Academy received a $5 million grant from the O'Sullivan Foundation.[38]
  • In March 2012, Khan Academy was featured on CBS 60 Minutes.[39]
  • In April 2012, Salman Khan was listed among the Time 100 Most Influential People for 2012[40]
  • The Khan Academy app features in many 'best educational apps' lists, including the one from BBC Active[41]

Educational impact

There are many who support Khan Academy for its technological ingenuity and its ability to introduce different educational dynamics. The Khan Academy's ability to freely distribute lessons has demonstrated technology's ability to eliminate economic barriers that prevent effective education, as long as an individual has regular access to an internet enabled computer. Since Benjamin Bloom's 1984 study on the effectiveness of "one-on-one tutoring," close student-teacher interaction has been aggressively sought after.[42] However, both the cost and the realistic implementation of this ideal has been an issue. Critics promote that the Khan Academy has addressed these issues, through both cost-free nature of the site and its wide accessibility via the internet.