Friday, February 21, 2014

Blog Post #3

World with country flags

Review of the Khan Academy

The Khan Academy is an online academy that is available worldwide. The website Khan Academy shares pictures of students using Khan Academy in Mongolia, Mexico, Burma, South Africa, Peru, and the United States. Their mission is to provide "A free world-class education for anyone anywhere" (Khan Academy Mission).


The Khan Academy offers a wide variety of courses including: math, science, economics, humanities, and computer programming. Common Core resources are available. Math starts at a 3rd grade level and extends to college level math content. The science, economics, and humanities courses are organized by topic, not grade level.


The Khan Academy uses instructional videos to teach students online. Some online quizzes are available. If the quiz question is missed you have the opportunity to click on hints to help you answer the questions correctly the next time.

Reported Successes and Support 

Bill Gates is a Khan Academy supporter (CNN Money Article). And why wouldn't he be? The Khan Academy reports numerous success stories on their website. Success stories include scenarios from adults going back to college that need remediation; elementary students using it to learn math; high school students struggling through the math, sciences, and preparing for college entrance exams. The majority of the successes reported were from students who were high school age or older; and the majority referenced math in their success story.  

Reported Weaknesses and Critics

To find reported weaknesses I of course had to leave the Khan Academy website. Valerie Strauss reported on the Khan Academy in 2012 in the Washington Post. The original critiques, followed by a response from Khan, followed by a response by Strauss can all be accessed by following the links in this article Washington Post Critique. Strauss includes critiques from math professors / teachers . The opinions of the critics and supporters overlap and contradict. One main weakness of the program that is discussed in the critique is that teaching is more than just presenting content. Every student is different and every student learns in a slightly different way. Another weakness is that the videos teach some concepts with important details unexplained; a few mathematical examples are given in the article. The critics agree that there are problems with the videos, but the critics do not all agree when it comes down to the technical details of how to teach specific lessons. Khan responds to the critiques defending his academy.  Khan even admits in his response, "We have never said that we are a cure-all…" (Khan’s Response ).

Examination of Their Courses

I concentrated on high school geometry when examining the program because that is my area of expertise as a teacher. I was a high school geometry teacher for four years at Theodore High School and I am currently tutoring a geometry student. Geometry is a one year course taken sometime between the 8th and 12th grade year. The geometry course at Khan Academy starts with a history of Euclid. I have to admit, the video gave a better history lesson of Geometry than I ever did as a Geometry teacher. He moves on to a video about the difference between lines, rays, and segments that was very similar to my classroom lecture on the topic. I viewed the videos of how to calculate perimeter and area, trigonometry, and congruence of triangles. They were all good and very similar to what I would have included in my lectures. By watching these videos it is possible for students to learn, but would all students learn from them? Teaching is not just a lecture. Yes a few students in my class would listen to the lecture and learn how to work the problems on their own but most of them had to learn by listening, practicing, applying concept, and asking questions. I can remember teaching...answering questions...teaching the topic again in a slightly different way...answering questions again...quizzing the students...answering more questions...and still have one or two students in the class that I was working one on one with trying to figure out what they did not understand. The website does advertise a coach, but when I researched the coaching a little more I found out that the Khan Academy does not supply/offer coaches, you have to find your own coach. Khan Academy recommended finding one in your community. Overall the videos are comprehensive and clearly explain the topics. 

My Personal Conclusions  

My personal conclusion is that the Khan Academy videos are successful as a supplemental resource and they will be successful in the future. What a wonderful solution to parents of students who are taking calculus, physics, or computer programming and are not able to help them. I will show my Geometry tutoring student the Khan Academy because she will be able to use it through college. And in the future I may even use a video as a lecture substitute to add variety to my Geometry class. But in my opinion the videos are a lecture substitute, not a teacher substitute.


  1. Anastasia,
    Great job on your post! I agree with you that the Khan Academy is a helpful tool in teaching and learning but not a substitute for a teacher. While researching the Khan Academy, I read, and you may have too, that Sal Khan doesn't usually prepare before he teaches the video lessons. I looked at the Math lessons also, and I'm sure most of it is rather easy for him, but a teacher has to think about the lesson from different angles and prepare it in a way that all students will understand. These videos can be beneficial but cannot replace a teacher-student classroom discussion.

  2. BYOC Bring Your own Coach!

    Thorough. Thoughtful. well done.