Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Why I Love Khan

Khan Academy is one of the best known free educational sites on the internet. Here you can view hundreds of short videos on a wide range of topics, work on sample problems and chart your own progress all for free.

I know that the lecture format isn't the most ideal way to learn, but there are some excellent reasons why this format is popular. Here are the reasons I love Khan:

1. The videos are short, well sorted and well explained. This allows anyone to quickly look up a topic and clarify points easily.

2. Khan has a friendly, relaxed manner that puts you at ease. He doesn't re-film his errors, just corrects himself as he goes, showing students that it's OK to make mistakes and that you just need to double-check and keep going.

3. You can access these anywhere, replay them as often as you want and can learn at your own pace in privacy. Chances are good that if you still don't understand a topic, someone will have posted the question you have in the comments. The community here is strong, and the questions tend to be answered thoroughly. The explanations are clear and broken down into logical steps. He makes no assumptions about the connections the viewer will make automatically--everything is explained. When you understand a part, it is very easy to skip ahead as needed.

4. It is available free of cost to anyone who has an online connection. The videos do not require high speed connections to run.

5. Sal Khan is an excellent role model. He took a huge risk in order to develop this site, and has put much of his own time and money into it without resorting to charging fees or hosting ads to pay for it. As an owner of a website, I can tell you it is not easy to avoid the need to allow advertising since site hosting does not come free. When you consider the hundreds of hours spent making and organizing the videos and website, the immense size of this task is truly overwhelming.

6. You can progress from basic operations right through to graduate level math through this site. Although it is always best to use a variety of resources for your studies, the list of topics covered within the math section at least is quite extensive and thorough.

7. You can access all parts of the site without having to provide any personal information. The only thing you miss out on if you don't provide info is a record of your progress through the videos and lessons.

8. The colour coding helps keep things visually organized.

9. Unlike textbooks, it provides both visual and auditory explanations.

10. The short length of the videos makes them more manageable and allows for natural breaks between sections and concepts.

11. They are accessible to people who struggle with the concepts. They are non-threatening and can be watched and completed in privacy, which makes them more attractive to students who need a little more or a little less time to master a concept and would prefer to move at their own pace without being put on the spot to answer questions in public.

12. Vi Hart has partnered with Sal Khan for some videos and if you are familiar with her work, you will immediately understand that this is a very good thing!

There are other free educational courses available online, including many open courseware options, but the short video format fills a need not found in many other places. Both are excellent opportunities to extend your learning of specific topics without having to travel or commit large amounts of time or money.

Thank you Sal, and all the others who provide us with valuable and accessible educational resources.