Could one guy making free education videos in his closet alter the entire multi-billion dollar educational landscape forever?


Salman Khan left his lucrative hedge fund career in his 30’s to spend full-time making educational videos for Khan Academy. Now with grants from entities like Google, Microsoft, and Kleiner Perkins, his short-term goal is to cover K-12 education in 10 languages.

Khan Academy’s Mission

Our goal is literally to be a free classroom for the world — give a world-class education to anyone anywhere.

Khan Academy’s Motto

Watch. Practice. Learn almost anything for free.

Authors @ Google – Salman Khan

Best Quotes

It’s as though he had more fun teaching me than I had learning from him.

He’s reaching 2 million unique viewers per month, the UC system is reaching 10 times fewer. This is with his own efforts and free hosting like YouTube and AppEngine that let people build incredibly useful things for free.

(In other words, Khan basically disrupted and disintermediated the whole education system)

One thing that happened was teachers started adopting it on their own. We started getting letters from editors saying, “Hey, you’ve already given the lecture so we’re using those to flip the classroom. So instead of me giving the lecture, me the teacher – , I’m assigning your lectures as homework. And then what used to be homework, I’m having the students do in class.” And it’s a very simple concept, but it really changes what a class is all about then. Now all of a sudden, instead of you literally have 30 people silent and completely passive, most of them zoned out, a teacher having to give this one-size fit-all lecture, even a great teacher, they’re losing probably 2/3 of the class, now that happens at home. You don’t have to be embarrassed and rewind something you might have missed, or fast-forward if you are bored, or pause something ten times; you don’t have to interrupt the whole class. And now, when you actually go to class, you actually have all your peers, you actually have the teacher to help you out. And it’s interesting. One thing I had mentioned in the TED Talk, “that’ll work for motivated students, but what about the students who aren’t going to do that?” And I was like, “Well, if you’re not going to do anything at home, period, it’s still better that you’re doing the exercises in the classroom, because that’s, frankly, where you’re doing to do most of your learning and if you didn’t do it, watch the video in the classroom, too. And so the paradigm is where you really learn stuff and where you’re really getting your head around something, you want other people to be around you. When you’re actually tying to solve the problem. But when you’re trying to listen to a lecture, you don’t want people around you. You don’t want people around you.

Our goal is literally to be a free classroom for the world — give a world-class education to anyone anywhere.

The best way to get people to do the homework is just to track it.

How to increase student usage – “gamifying”. Giving badges, points, stars.

The delivery cost is actually zero (cost of the education).

“How do you dance around the issue of copyright?”
“I have a very loose interpretation of fair use.” – SK

A lot of people are not self-motivated because they have these gaps in their knowledge that traditional education can’t address… And if you allow them to re-mediate without feeling embarrassed and they can do it in a game framework and they get points and badges, that actually solves a lot of the actual motivation problem.

There are a lot of studies, double-blind control studies and the learning style is kind of a myth; there is actually good instruction and bad instruction.

I think for everyone in this room, if you were a school teacher, this would be a more fun way to teach. You get to go into a room. You don’t have to prepare. And you get to be a mentor for these students.

One thing I hope we can do, in a non-touchy-feely way, because a lot of people say “No grades,” it sounds very touchy-feely. It’s the opposite. We actually want people to master — everyone should be an A+ student. Everyone should have a hundred percent mastery if they really want to get to some future level.

My Notes

  • Khan started out by teaching his cousins. His first video was on division.
  • The cousin’s first feedback was that they preferred him on YouTube than in person.
  • He created a Javascript based website that generated math problems to solve, which included his suggestions. At one point he got too many users and since he was paying $50/month he just turned it off. Bad idea for a start-up!
  • KA model turned costly and time-intensive self-paced learning into a low cost model.
  • KA doesn’t penalize you for not getting it right away by just moving on. You don’t advance until you get 10 questions in a row. Fast learners aren’t held back and slow learners aren’t penalized for the rest of their lives. (Customized economy)
  • Google funded Khan Academy with $2 million, half for translating existing content into 10 languages and the other half to complete the knowledge map: all of K-Calculus (300 modules).
  • How do you help traditionally not self-motivated? Gaming is a huge thing to help them.
  • 3 ways to learn: lecture (video), problem solving, peer interaction

Salman Khan Talk at TED 2011


Our model is, learn math like you’d learn anything, like you’d learn to ride a bicycle. Stay on that bicycle, fall off that bicycle, do it as long as necessary until you have mastery. In the traditional model it penalizes you for experimentation and failure, it does not expect mastery. We encourage you to experiment and fail, but we do expect mastery.

(All the Khan Academy courses) fit into this knowledge map.

We can teach everything (every subject to mastery) that can be taught in this type of format (video lesson, computer generated quizzes).

We don’t view this as a complete education, it frees up time. This is the blocking and tackling.

Our paradigm is to really arm the teachers with as much data as possible. Data that in almost any other field is expected if you are finance, or marketing, or manufacturing. That teachers can actually diagnose what’s wrong with the students so they can make their interaction as productive as possible. Now the teachers (and parents) know exactly what the students have been up to, how they’ve been spending every day, how many videos they’ve been watching.

When flipping the classroom, the teacher time is now 100% personal interaction with students. No more lecturing or grading papers. Using technology to humanize the classroom. (paraphrase of long quote)

What’s emerging is this notion of a global one-world classroom. That’s essentially what we are trying to build.

I think you just got a glimpse of the future of education – Bill Gates

Khan Academy on PBS NewsHour


I want to do everything, I want to do history, grammar, literally every subject (on Khan Academy).

If the US education system is Waiting for Superman, have we found him?