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Website Review: The Khan Academy

When Salman “Sal” Khan’s cousin Nadia was having trouble with math a few years ago, Sal agreed to remote-tutor her using YouTube.  Before he knew it, other people were writing him to thank him for helping them with math– and the Khan Academy was born.

The Khan Academy main page.

Screencap of the Khan Academy main page.

In September 2009, Sal quit his job as a hedge fund manager to make videos for the Academy full-time.  His mission is to make it so anyone with an internet connection can get a world-class education, and with over a thousand videos, the mission is well underway.

The Khan Academy currently consists of videos on subjects from elementary math to calculus, biology and chemistry (even finance and brainteasers) and a program where you can put the concepts you learned in the videos into practice.  Sal’s goal is to expand the Khan Academy to include every subject, like grammar, literature, and history.  Funding for the program is mostly the time Sal puts into it, and the Academy accepts donations using a credit card or PayPal account.

Sal has been interviewed on such shows as the PBS NewsHour, NPR’s All Things Considered, and IT Conversations.  He also gave a talk at the Castilleja School.  The Khan Academy also won the 2009 Tech Award in Education.

I was skeptical of the Khan Academy at first, thinking it would just be a collection of dry lectures, but my fears were thankfully wrong.  In minutes, I knew more about the atom than any textbook cared to teach me.  Sal’s conversational tone and the way he explains each concept in digestible chunks is a great way to make the information stick, and the ten-to-twenty minute videos are just short enough that your mind doesn’t wander.  What I’m trying to say is that the Khan Academy brings together two words that don’t seem like they should be in the same sentence: “cool” and “educational”.

To read the whole story of how the Khan Academy got started, go to the Khan Academy FAQs and search for How did you get started?

Go to http://www.khanacademy.org/ to see the whole list of videos available on YouTube.  (Note: If you’re typing the URL in, be sure to write the h in khan right before the a, since typing it in after the a will take you to kahnacademy.org, another site that is unrelated to the Khan Academy reviewed in this post.)

One last note: There are no ads on the Khan Academy site at the time of this post.  However, since the videos are posted on YouTube, there will be ads as you watch them.

3/11/10 Update: It now appears that when you click to view a video, it sends you to khanexercises.appspot.com rather than  YouTube, with the same videos and fewer ads.  However, it does have a link to the YouTube version.

4/29/10 Update: Sal has begun adding history lessons to the Academy, starting with the French Revolution.

1/2/17 Update: I haven’t been by the Khan Academy in a while, so I was surprised and pleased to see how far they have come!  The Academy has courses for a variety of subjects, from the math that Sal began with to history, from economics to test prep, and even animation and design.  It’s always worth checking out every now and then to see what they have added.

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