MOOC Spotlight: Khan Academy

Khan Academy helped kick off the third-party provider online education boom in 2006. The site hosts 3,600 micro lectures on subjects ranging from healthcare and nursing to history and 380 practice exams, primarily in mathematics. Khan Academy has delivered more than 200 million lessons to 202 million viewers, and recently launched a mobile device app.

Because Khan Academy relies so heavily on the charisma of its founder, Salman Khan, the site’s history, unlike other massive open online course providers, is linked closely with Khan’s own biography. In 2004 Khan, who has degrees from MIT and the Harvard Business School, was working as a hedge fund analust at Connective Capital Management and was using Yahoo’s Doodle Notepad to tutor his cousin in mathematics.

As other relatives began asking Khan for help he decided to distribute the tutorials through Youtube. Over time the popularity of Khan’s videos prompted him to quit his job and devote himself full time to the tutorials. He established a not-for-profit organization, named Khan Academy, to fund the development and distribution of the lectures across the states.


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Since 2009, when he left the hedge fund world to work in online education full-time, Khan has been able to secure significant donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Ann and John Doerr and Google. In 2010 Google announced that it was giving Khan Academy $2 million to create more videos and translate the core library into the world’s most spoken languages.

To accomplish the translation Khan Academy partnered with online learning community Amara whose members translated Khan’s videos into Indoneisan, German, French, Italian, Swahili, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Xhosa, Greek, Belgian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Hindi, and Chinese.

Unlike other massive open online course providers all of Khan Academy’s videos are issued under a Creative Commons license and are being utilized in community colleges and charter schools throughout the United States and is being adapted into offline versions for distribution throughout the developing world.

Follow Alex Wukman on Twitter @alexwukman

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