Last week I got a glimpse into the future of education through the eyes of two visionaries: Salman Khan (founder of the Khan Academy) and Martin Bean (Vice President of the Open University). Both speakers talked about how online learning has had, and is still having a massive and transformative impact on education, and how it has the potential to vastly improve society. Khan’s website now has roughly 6.5 million unique users a month and it’s videos have had more than 200 million, while the Open University has had more than 1.5 million people graduate from their courses.
What is the Khan Academy?
The Khan Academy is a non-profit online learning environment that was set up in 2006. Salman’s continuing mission is to create a world class education for anyone in the world at any time; so that there are no barriers for people to gain the skills they want to develop. With more than 3,600 online video lessons, viewers can master a variety of subjects at their own pace, such as maths, physics, history, economics… even how physics can be related to an NBA basketball player.
Khan suggests that the ability to remedy gaps in someone’s knowledge at their own pace is one of the websites greatest assets and is turning people who shuddered at the thought of tackling a long division questions into “mathletes” who are now entering maths courses at degree level.
Four aspects of the future of education
Four themes were common across the talk:
- Access: Education was once only something for the extremely well-off people in society, but now with the global reach of the Internet and the power of online video, a world class education can be accessed by almost anyone in the world, at any time.
- Agility: One of the greatest features of the Khan Academy is the ability to go off and master a concept in your own time, so that there won’t be gaps in your knowledge before you move onto the next stage of your learning. The Khan academy gives students the tools to see where they have gaps in their knowledge, and is developing a tool to send users relevant material and members who can help you progress to the next level.
- Analytics: Khan and his team have been using the website to perform a wide range of experiments on the site, which they are then using to increase student’s engagement with the learning material. One of the best parts about online education is that Salman and his team have constant feedback about how users are engaging their educational material and using web analytics and A/B testing which they can experiment to make the material more engaging for learners.
- Improvement: Growth Mindset is the idea that learners should be rewarded for improvement rather than their attainment. Khan has taken this idea and incorporated it into the website, by giving users motivational quotes during their exercises and has found that this has greatly increased the amount of time people spend doing problems and exercises.
Other education options online
Millions people are now regular using the Khan Academy to educate themselves and their families and come from a wide range of ages, incomes and geographies. However, the Khan Academy isn’t the only way to learn online and here are a few other options to think about:
- iTunes University hosts lectures form some of the best higher education institutions in the world and is a great place to find great courses on a whole range of fascinating topics, such as “Principles of Nutrition”, “Playwriting” or even “Exploring the Hobbit”.
- TED.com is a global set of conferences and lectures that was formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading” and can be watched on smart phone apps or from the comfort of your own desktop. There are many interesting lectures from the some of the world’s most innovative thinkers and this is definitely a place to go if you are looking for something new to inspire you.
- Lynda.com is an online training library that trains users to use a variety of software title, scripting languages, graphics design and web development platforms and also provides a handy section of videos to improve your business skills.
With all these wonderful learning opportunities, it is going to be amazing to see what benefits we will see from people grasping the many learning opportunities that are emerging online.