Salmon Khan ’98, MGN ’98 was an analyst at a hedge fund in 2004 when he started tutoring his cousins in New Orleans. He made a few YouTube videos as extras to help fill in the mathematical concepts. First, he found out that his cousins preferred the YouTube version of his teaching. Why? They didn’t have to tell him they didn’t understand something—they could just replay the video until they got it. Second, he started getting comments from people who had stumbled across the videos and found them fun ways to learn challenging concepts. A mother of a 12-year-old autistic child, who was desperately struggling with math, wrote that her child was excited—he finally understood decimals. Clearly, sometime was working right.
In his recent 20-minute TED talk, “Let’s use video to reinvent education,” Khan elaborates on why he founded Khan Academy, a not-for-profit that publishes carefully structured series of educational videos—more than 2,100 to date. Each month this collection of short videos is viewed by one million students around the world; each day learners see more than 100,000 videos. He started with mathematics and now offers basic addition to advanced calculus, physics, chemistry, and biology. And it’s all online and free.
Khan, who earned degrees in mathematics and electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and an MBA from Harvard, is looking at ways to reshape the educational experience. One innovative idea he champions is asking teachers to give students video lectures to watch at home and then do “homework” in the classroom with the teacher available to help. The website includes tips for students and for parents and teachers.
Visit Khan Academy to watch the videos to learn or just try something new. Beyond the core subjects, you might try banking, brain teasers, cosmology and astronomy, or venture capital and capital markets.