Sal Khan – Changing the World of Online Education

When hedge fund manager and Harvard graduate Sal Khan originally designed online tutorials in math and science, he did not hope to change the world. He only wanted to help his cousins in far off Bangladesh understand some crucial concepts. Today, his nonprofit website, Khan Academy, has more than 3.7 million unique visitors and 42 million page views. The website has more than 3,200 videos in math, science and other subjects. Even Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, has also acknowledged using Khan Academy videos to teach his three children.

Salman ‘Sal’ Khan was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to a Bangladeshi father and an Indian Mother, both of whom immigrated to the United States for a better life. He was predominantly raised by his mother, who worked in a series of jobs and small businesses. Khan went on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a Bachelor of Science degree in math. He followed it up with Master’s degrees in computer science and electrical engineering. He completed his MBA from Harvard Business School. He worked as a venture capitalist for technology companies and as a hedge fund analyst before creating the Khan Academy.

Khan started tutoring his cousin in 2004 using the Yahoo! Notepad Doodle. He started creating YouTube videos under the user name of Khan Academy in November 2006 when his other cousins requested him to teach them as well. His videos gained immense popularity. The number of hits and user comments motivated Khan to quit his job as a hedge fund analyst in 2009. With the help of his long-time friend Josh Gefner, Khan began focusing on his YouTube channel. He received more than 20,000 hits for each of his videos on average. Khan’s aim was to make education accessible. He wanted to teach the way he wished he was taught as a child. He also used his videos to teach underprivileged children in remote areas of Asia and Africa.

The latest Khan Academy website has an extensive library of video tutorials and interactive assessments for the students. Teachers, parents and other educators can supervise and check what their students are doing on the website. Most videos, including the K-12 ones, are about 10 minutes long, and can be viewed on any computer with an internet connection. Students can practice math on the website, and work their way up to the complicated concepts. All problems are generated randomly to make sure student’s never run out of practice problems. The website will also deliver useful statistics to students and coaches about the child’s progress. All information is completely confidential. You can also access the Knowledge Map on the website. This tool will guide you and recommend best skills for you to work on.

Khan has been recognized extensively for his work. He was named by the Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People for the year 2012. He received the Microsoft Tech Award for Education. He also received a $2 million grant from Google to improve Khan Academy.  He has been featured in most nationally recognized television and print media outlets for his contribution to education.