The Khan Academy is a free online school covering a variety of subjects at all educational levels. The brainchild of Sal Khan, the Khan Academy has more than 1,600 video tutorials on topics ranging from math to physics, to biology, to economics, and many things in between.
The goal of the Khan Academy is to be “the world’s first free, world-class virtual school where anyone can learn anything-for free.”
The educational videos, each created by Khan using a few hundred dollars’ worth of equipment and some free software, run about 15 minutes, and feature diagrams drawn by Khan as he talks about the topic at hand. He is easy to listen to, his tone is conversational, and even when he’s explaining the most complicated issues, never condescending.
Khan has a background in science, math, computer science, and investment management, which makes him knowledgeable in the subjects his videos cover. But the best way to find out if Khan Academy videos are truly effective is to watch one yourself. There are plenty to choose from.
The arithmetic section covers basic math such as addition and subtraction, biology covers topics from Reproduction to Oxidation and Reduction in Cellular Respiration, or you can learn about Napoleon and the War of the Fourth Coalition or The French Revolution in the history section.
More current events are covered in topics such as Current Economics, the Geithner Plan, and the Paulson Bailout.
For people looking for a lighter educational experience at the Khan Academy-or just a little bit of fun-there’s a brain teaser section, as well. Eight brain teasers and their solutions are presented, including the well-known liar-truth teller.
If you’re not familiar with liar-truth teller, it goes like this: there are two doors-one leads to riches, one to pain and suffering-and two people, one who always lies and one who always tells the truth. You get to ask one of them one question, say, which door leads to riches. (They both know the correct answer.) Which person do you ask, and what question do you ask to find out which door is which?
I never even knew how to begin to solve this problem, but in just under seven minutes, the Khan Academy video gave me a solution that made total sense.
Brain teasers are one thing, and more serious topics another, so I put this online school to another test. I watched a video about something I knew almost nothing about, to see whether I could understand it in 15 or so minutes. While I’m no expert after watching the video, I do have a much greater understanding of the topic.
The website is easy to navigate, with all the videos presented on the first page, making it easy to use. You don’t even have to register to watch.
The Khan Academy is achieving its goal. It is a free online school, and does seem to be able to teach anyone anything. It worked for me. And it worked for Bill Gates and his son, according to an article in the September 6 issue of Fortune.
Fortune, Bill Gates’ Favorite Teacher, by David A. Kaplan, September 6, 2010