In this guide:
- Making sense of KA
- How it works
- KA’s business model
- Why use KA or a competitor
- Getting started with KA
- Is Khan Academy safe?
- Is Khan Academy effective?
- Evaluating KA: Pros and cons
- Using KA like a pro
- Integrating KA in your LMS
- Khan Academy pricing
Is it possible to imagine an AI as a tutor rather than a tool that does the work for students? Khanmigo is what Khan Academy is launching, a GPT-4-powered learning companion coming up for educators, students and parents. The goal of Khanmigo is to help students develop critical thinking skills, and provide support and context for the content available in Khan Academy.
But while Khanmigo is still rolling out (only available in the U.S. and not free at writing), millions of users have been using Khan Academy regularly for years, to enhance the quality of their basic education .
Here you will find everything you need to know to understand Khan Academy and start making the most from it.
What is Khan Academy?
Khan Academy is a virtual school that offers free and high-quality education, primarily through videos. All you need is a device with internet access to access a vast repertoire that started with YouTube videos and has since become a comprehensive platform with guides, lesson plans, and other resources. And yes, it’s completely free.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Khan Academy users, both individuals and through teachers and institutions, skyrocketed. For educators in schools without prior experience in virtual education or with limited resources, the platform became a treasure trove for incorporating digital content into their teaching methodologies. Teachers around the world turn to Khan Academy to supplement their lessons, improve their quality, and connect students with interactive educational content and resources.
Studies cited by the organization suggest that its use is associated with positive impacts on expected standardized test outcomes. Non-peer-reviewed research reports link the use of Khan Academy to performance improvements in various contexts including El Salvador (PDF), Guatemala (PDF), and Brazil to name a few.
Led by its founder, Salman or Sal Khan, the nonprofit organization is supported by the capitalist and philanthropic couple, Ann and John Doerr, who were their first donors, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, Bank of America, College Board, Comcast, AT&T, and many others. You can find the complete list of donors to Khan Academy here.
Classifying Khan Academy
How do we understand Khan Academy within the vast and diverse ecosystem of educational technologies?
We could think of Khan Academy as an online educational learning platform, with its own general-purpose content designed for a broad audience.
KA also offers assessment tools and. Its distinctive format, applying to most videos, features an off-voice (often Sal himself) as the content is explained on a digital blackboard written on by hand. The format is one of KA’s most recognized features and dates back to its origins as a YouTube channel. Khan Academy also incorporates gamification elements, including badges and a scoring system.
The use of this platform promotes student autonomy to progress in activities and earn achievements. Educators from registered organizations can access usage reports from their students and assign lessons.
How Khan Academy works
On the Khan Academy website, students can access lessons for free in the subjects they want to learn.
The available subjects on the platform include math, science, economics and finance, arts and humanities, reading and language arts, life skills, and computer science. Within these subjects, students can find specific topics and examples they want to learn about, and advance their learning process.
Once they have accessed the platform, students can see the courses they have chosen, their progress, and the Khan Academy instructors teaching the courses on their profile.
While going through their lessons, students encounter brief assessments, usually used to recap and verify their understanding of the content.
Khan Academy still maintains its YouTube channel, which was its origin, with 7.9 million subscribers today and around 5,000 views per video, on a library of over 8 thousand items. Various KA channels have spawned subsequently, focusing on specific topics and languages.
How does Khan Academy make money?
Khan Academy is a nonprofit organization and does not charge its users, with the exception of the Khanmigo AI. The funds that sustain Khan Academy come from donations. Large corporations and individual contributions enable the organization to continue creating content, developing technology, and expanding through strategic partnerships.
Khan Academy has different donors, and on its website you can find information about the amount donated by major contributing companies. You can also make a personal donation.
In 2019, Sal Khan received the Princess of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, with the argument that his creation has been innovative and transformative worldwide by offering free online educational material for all ages. Other awards include the Heinz Award in 2014 and mentions from TIME magazine and the Shorty Awards for digital media.
Why Khan: Comparing Khan Academy to Similar Alternatives
When Khan Academy started gaining popularity in schools, online education was not a widely recognized concept, even among educators. Its initial reception on YouTube marked a watershed moment towards greater recognition.
Khan Academy began to change the way virtual education was perceived worldwide. Moreover, it demonstrated that it is possible to offer high-quality alternatives that are nonprofit and free from the commercial interests common among the internet’s educational offering: advertising, subscriptions, freemium models and the like.
Today, Khan Academy can boast one of the most comprehensive collections of quality educational videos online. While they do not align to one pedagogy or methodological approach, their repository of short and concise videos offers pedagogical flexibility when incorporating them into classroom lessons. Plenty of the content is aligned with the standards of the American education system, although the number of materials available and other languages is also increasing.
The lessons and quizzes that accompany the videos are created by expert educators in the respective subjects, contributing to the perception of the content’s quality.
How do I get started on Khan Academy as a teacher?
As a teacher, Khan Academy provides you with a range of tools that allow you to incorporate content into your curriculum. You can grab and share content as you need, but by enrolling your students into the platform you can assign them specific content and activities and track their progress.
The first step is to register with your email address, or you can sign up using Facebook. Remember that it is completely free. Be sure to select the option for “Teacher” during the registration process.
After completing this registration, you can choose the classes you want to teach.
Select the courses that interest you as an educator and add the name of your school or institution.
If you with to use KA in one of the dozen available languages, make sure you select your preference at the bottom of the page.
How do I log in?
It’s easy. You just need to go to the official Khan Academy website. In the top right corner of the screen, you’ll find the option to log in. Click on it, and a window will appear where you can enter your email address or username and password, and you’re good to go!
Is Khan Academy safe?
The information collected on the platform is stored securely and reliably for users. Content is not rated, but according to Common Sense Media, KA is recommended for users ages 5 and up.
A mobile app, Khan Academy Kids, is available for children ages 3 and up.
Khan Academy is dedicated to creating a safe environment for its users. Their privacy policies comply with U.S. legislation regarding rights in family and educational contexts (FERPA) and online child privacy protection (COPPA). You can check Khan Academy’s Privacy Notice here.
Khan Academy may ask for personal information such as your date of birth, email address, and password. If you’re a teacher or parent, you can register with your (institutional) email address. The collected information is not sold or rented to third parties.
The courses you have used will be saved in your profile. As a teacher (or parent), you can access information about your students’ progress and the percentage of completion. KA may use personal progress data for internal purposes.
Is Khan Academy effective?
In terms of the quality of its content, Khan Academy is as effective as other similar physical or digital resources. This means that it can have a minimal to moderate impact on an educational program or a complete course.
Anecdotally, some students report feeling more comfortable or enjoying the content, with cases of “video marathons” being mentioned. Likewise, common complaints include factual errors or misspellings in parts of the content.
An article on the effectiveness of Khan Academy published in the academic journal Computers & Education in November 2020 presents research results based on a study involving 27 secondary-level math students. Although these results are not representative, they provide an indication of the benefits offered by the platform:
- Consolidation of the notion of independence as a learner, associated with a higher level of awareness and commitment to knowledge acquisition actions.
- Students perceive teachers who implement Khan Academy content as more professional, dedicated, attentive to their students, and innovative. The study highlights the crucial role of teacher mediation in the use of KA.
- Use of Khan Academy suggests to promote independence, availability, and interest much better than a textbook.
- Learning math with Khan Academy is more enjoyable and motivating.
Overall, the student-teacher relationship is crucial in an effective use of KA.
Alternatives to Khan Academy: Who are its main competitors?
There are countless websites where you can autonomously learn about any subject of your preference. However, Khan Academy is quite unique in its combination of high-quality multimedia content, free access, and ad-free environment.
The alternatives listed below stand out for covering topics beyond those found in Khan Academy, offering a platform for distributing educational content (i.e., hosting and disseminating third-party content without creating their own), or providing alternatives in terms of interactivity and multimedia formats.
Coursera is one of the most well-known direct alternatives to Khan Academy. On Coursera, you can find courses from top institutions, featuring learning tools such as videos, exams, forums with teachers, assistants and fellow classmates, aimed at helping people learn about subjects primarily at a Higher Ed level. What sets Coursera apart from Khan Academy is that it offers other subjects to learn, such as nutrition and medicine, and the university (often Ivy League) affiliation.
These partnerships with globally and regionally recognized universities allow Coursera to provide certificates endorsed by institutions to those who meet the requirements. “Auditing” or checking out course contents is free, but certificates and scoring for exams require payment.
Coursera has over a million students worldwide and features one of the most comprehensive catalog of programs for self-paced learning. In the paid tier, it provides mechanisms for interaction with peers and the teaching team, a feature Khan Academy does not offer.
Self-proclaimed as the “university of the 21st century,” Udacity embraces a practical and project-based learning approach. It has over 100,000 students enrolled in its courses, which focus on technology, programming, and computer science topics. Courses are uploaded by individuals, most require payment and need to be purchased individually.
This platform offers courses on almost any subject for students in basic education.
With a distinct design, it utilizes interactive resources, eBooks focused on specific subjects, and also includes exercises. These resources are compatible with various platforms and mobile devices.
Unlike KA, CK-12 content can be integrates into a Learning Management System such as Open LMS, Chamilo or Moodle™️.
What to consider when evaluating Khan Academy?
Before evaluating Khan Academy, it is important to keep some context in mind.
- The platform is totally free and its supported by donations, mainly from wealthy donors.
- KA does not provide user support. If you encounter any problems you can go to the help center.
- Data is held internally, is never shared or sold. But they might be used for internal analysis and improvement.
- Most of the content on the website is freely available via YouTube, which lacks the interactivity on the site or apps.
- Teachers and parents can be part of their children’s progress, and can even accompany them at home.
Here are KA’s main pros and cons as teachers or eLearning professionals.
- Khan Academy is a free knowledge facilitator for people who are willing to learn virtually.
- Learning is individual and self-paced. With Khan Academy you can fast forward, rewind, pause and repeat lessons.
- The explanatory videos available on the platform and YouTube channels make learning easier, as it is as if the videos are the teacher explaining the class.
- It encourages debate and discussion, since one of its sessions a week the teacher and classmates are together to solve homework and also to solve any doubts students may have about the topic the teacher has explained.
- It allows the student to develop skills and competencies emphasizing autonomy and interactivity.
- Khan Academy does not replace a comprehensive classroom experience, let alone a human instructor to interact with. The idea that teachers can be dispensable goes against KA’s philosophy.
- While it promotes autonomy and independence, it can also create imbalances for students with lower self-study abilities.
- The need for devices with sufficient specifications and a constant internet connection. The reliance on videos can consume significant bandwidth.
- The possibility of interaction between students is virtually non-existent, and feedback or issues reported appear to take a long time to be incorporated.
- Some experts criticize KA’s excessive focus on content related to U.S. standardized exams.
How to make better use of Khan Academy?
Khan Academy continuously expands the tools that educators can use to create educational plans, track their students’ progress, and connect with peers.
In a physical classroom:
The most important thing is to make students aware that educational tools can be used in face-to-face classes, and it’s important to use them correctly and appropriately. Better yet, KA could be the cornerstone of an effective “flipped classroom” settings, where they consume content at their own pace and classes are use for coursework, discussions and questions.
If you’re an educator, the best way to incorporate Khan Academy into your classes is to use some of the problems available on the platform for students to work on together, practicing the topic covered in that class while you, as the teacher, provide complete instruction on the topic.
If your face-to-face classes have access to technology devices, you can assign activities such as completing questions and solving problems for your students to apply the concepts covered in class.
Using videos, images, sounds, music, and even movie clips can make classes more engaging and enjoyable.
In a live virtual class:
You can invite your students to explore the Khan Academy website, familiarize themselves with how it works, and encourage them to register and create a profile. You can even guide them to take extracurricular courses if they’re interested.
Khan Academy can be a great ally in virtual hour-long classes. You can have your students engage in platform activities at the end or halfway through the class to prevent boredom and monotony.
As homework or in self-paced mode:
Since KA supports autonomous learning, your students can explore as many courses as they want and choose the ones that interest them the most to complete.
You can take notes on the most relevant aspects of your lessons and answer the questions that appear on the right side of the screen. By answering these questions, you can level up your progress.
Can I integrate Khan Academy with an LMS like Open LMS, Moodle™️ or Chamilo?
The courses and exercises on Khan Academy cannot be embedded outside of the platform.
Any results, grades, or scores achieved on the platform cannot be exported to any Learning Management System (LMS) or classroom technology like Google Classroom. Currently, Khan Academy does not support integration with any LMS, including Moodle.
The only possibility is to use the embedded player option provided by YouTube to embed the video on a web page within a platform that supports HTML or multimedia web fragments.
How much does Khan Academy cost?
Khan Academy is completely free. There is no cost associated with registration, access, or taking the lessons.
The non-profit organization operates through donations, so if you choose to make a donation, it goes towards maintaining the platform, servers, and keeping the website free for everyone. Khanmigo, the AI tool slowly being released, has a fee that goes to the GPT-4 licensing and associated costs.
You can start by registering on the Khan Academy website. Whether you’re a parent, student, or teacher, you can begin your self-paced teaching and learning experience.
To sum up
Khan Academy is a non-profit organization created with the goal of providing free education to people worldwide.
It’s an accessible educational platform and tool that offers a wide range of courses to choose from.
If you’re a teacher and want to share your knowledge with the world, you can register as an educator on the platform and assign lessons in the subjects you’ve chosen. Khan Academy can also be used as a supplemental resource for your classroom teachings.
As a parent, you can register on the website to be part of your children’s educational journey and receive courses that you can teach them during their free time, keeping their minds engaged while they learn.
Khan Academy offers users a different and enlightening way of learning through its virtual platform, primarily based on video lessons where the quality of learning depends on the student’s engagement.
It’s a secure website where user data is not shared with third parties, and student progress can be monitored by the students themselves, their teachers, and parents if they choose to follow along.
The platform also promotes discipline and autonomy, both for students in completing assigned activities and for teachers in creating videos that reflect the lessons.
Over the years, Khan Academy has become increasingly popular, especially during the pandemic as teachers rely on such tools to strengthen their virtual classes and make them more engaging.
Khan Academy has helped over 60 million people worldwide, revolutionizing virtual and self-paced learning.
The organization has received positive feedback due to its high user engagement and the multitude of activities available on the platform.
Khan Academy’s impact as a business idea has been remarkable, thanks to its widespread acceptance and the donations it receives from companies and individuals. It has made education accessible to anyone, anywhere, by offering it for free.