It’s a well-known story now:  A young engineer and hedge fund analyst begins helping his niece understand algebra during a family visit.  The lessons work so well that the young man continues to tutor the girl online using Yahoo’s Doodle notepad.

Then, other relatives and friends want help in mathematics as well so the analyst moves his tutorials to YouTube where he creates an account so he can meet the demand for his help and…

But, wait.  There’s a YouTube video that’s a collaborative effort of Reddit’s entrepreneur community and the Google Cloud Platform called “Sal Khan’s (Khan Academy) Formative Moment.”  It tells the story better than I can.  CLICK HERE to see the video….


In the beginning, the teaching videos were hand-made by Khan for his cousins.  The earliest ones were about math and followed the interests and needs of the cousins.   The videos show step-by-step doodles and diagrams on an electronic blackboard.

As he put them together, Khan presented short, often funny, lectures explaining what he was doing and why.  Khan listened to the feedback from the cousins, working with them to make the things more effective as learning tools for his students.  He was surprised when the videos attracted the attention of literally thousands of viewers from around the world.

Later, after Khan had quit his day-job and stayed home, working with his close friend Josh Gefner to develop the content of his YouTube channel; after they put up the Khan Academy website (khanacademy.org) as a wrapper for the videos hosted on YouTube; after Khan spent a great deal of effort and time promoting the Academy and their mission; and after the Academy began receiving donations to support their work, it began to grow by leaps and bounds.

The Academy was able to expand its faculty and offer courses about history, healthcare, medicine, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, cosmology, American civics, art history, economics, music, computer programming and computer science.  The lesson library continues to grow.

The organization also developed a network of content specialists who help put together the courses as well. Besides the broader range of subjects and lessons, updates have included collaborations with the Stanford Medical School, and even math and science explorations with NBA star LeBron James.

In August 2015 Khan Academy partnered with Disney & Pixar Animation Studios to launch Pixar in a Box on Khan Academy. The goal, they said, was to show how academic concepts students learn in school are used to solve creative challenges in the making of Pixar films.


All of the videos available on the Khan Academy website are licensed under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) 3.0 license.  Khan really did mean it when he said he wanted to make opportunities for learning available for everybody.

Tools on the website like the Coach Resources section (aimed at parents, tutors and teachers) has helpful tutorials on using the site as well as monitoring software to help track the progress of students.

An adaptive web-based exercise system that generates problems for students based on their skill and performance was also developed.   Teachers and tutors could track a student’s progress without having to subject them to the stress of testing.

Software for doing the exercises with feedback and continued assessment was made available as an open source project under the MIT License.

The dashboard on the site improved over time.  Navigation got easier and lessons could be recommended based on student progress.  Students were able to pause the lessons and return to it at a later time.

A companion iPad app allowed video downloads for off-line viewing.

Meanwhile assorted non-profit groups distributed offline versions of the videos to rural areas in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

Over the years, thousands of Khan Academy resources have been translated into other languages and is supported by partners and volunteers in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Hindi, Indonesian, German, Czeck, Italian, Swahili, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Polish, Russian, Turkish, Xhosa, Greek, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Malayalam, and Chinese.

The website has been translated to 23 languages and its videos to 65.  There are seven “official” websites now, each in a different language.

On September 15, 2014, a brick-and-mortar Khan Lab School opened in Mountain View, California.  The work continues.


Khan and his Academy have won all kinds of prestigious awards nationally and internationally.

The Academy is entirely supported by donations from assorted foundations and is used as a tool by many educators and parents, mostly because it apparently works.

Kids and adults learn.  They like it.

Students can sign up using a Google or Facebook account.  An e-mail address will also work.

Khan wrote a book about his vision of education, THE ONE WORLD SCHOOLHOUSE:  Education Reimagined,  in 2013.  In it he presents a case for returning to “mastery learning,” a concept that, he says, was abandoned in the last century.

The One World School House (via Amazon.com)


The Academy and Khan do have detractors.

Professional educators who don’t like the Academy harp on the fact that Khan does not have a background in pedagogy.

What’s “pedagogy”?  Apparently, it is the “art and science of teaching.” It’s the way teachers teach and nurture child development according to the theories behind modern education methods.

There are different flavors of pedagogy and a number of different schools of thought.

Khan and the instructors who put together videos for the Academy don’t work on trying to develop anything in their students.  They just want to share the nuts-and-bolts of how to solve a particular problem and to add to the factoids and thoughts already in the learners’ heads.

The Khan Academy seems to have some virulent haters as well as rabid fans.

The critics say there is nothing “new” about teaching through lectures.  Some haters have even gone so far as to call Khan “boring” and “incompetent.”

It is true that the Academy lesson videos are basically just simple lectures that show students how to do things.  They tend to present the practical, procedural side of things.

Sometimes there are inaccuracies and errors.  There are sometimes confusing bits in some of the videos, especially when the whys and wherefores of a system of doing things are discussed.  These inconsistencies are quickly corrected when they are found.

The videos themselves are plain.  There’s no music, no distracting cartoons, no fancy tricks, and no talking heads in them.  There’s just the lesson.

Students can concentrate and focus on what they are doing.

The best thing about these videos is that the students control the pace of the learning and they can go back over the parts that don’t make sense to them again and again.

Khan points out that he has always said that the Academy can be used as a tool for the classrooms and for education.  He, himself, has never advocated replacing more traditional paths with the Academy videos.  “I think they’re valuable,” he says, “but I’d never say they somehow constitute a complete education.

The haters, however, especially take issue with Khan’s idea for “flipping the classroom.”

A part of his vision is for students to watch his lecture videos at home, try some of the problems and when the class meets, the students and their teachers can engage and try hands-on projects.

They can have more discussions among peers as well as more one-on-one interactions between the teacher and students.

Academy critics have been called bitter and threatened.  Khan’s “followers” are accused of being a part of a “cult.”


My own thought on this is that Khan has succeeded in making a remarkable product.  (Folks remark on it…and the buzz continues.)

Here’s another Evan Carmichael offering in his YouTube video series of the “Top 10 Rules for Success.”

Internet entrepreneur and social media marketeer Evan Carmichael has an ongoing project to collect the top ten Rules of Success held by assorted successful people in every field of endeavor.  He’s put together videos featuring writers, artists, musicians, film makers as well as assorted business people.

You may want to check out Carmichael’s website, #BELIEVE (EvanCarmichael.com .)

These are Salman Khan’s top 10:

And here’s a poem:


Writing down the bones

Helps in ways that

Echo down through the years.


You do not forget so easily….

The daily grind does not wear away

That blade of pain

That lances through your complacency,

Presenting you with the steaming guts

Of another deader-dream.


You remember, and you honor

The ephemeral beauty of

The joys that grab your heart and

Buoy it up and up

Until it floats ‘mid nebulous clouds of stars

In the deepest dark,

Catching rides on chuckling comets and

Tickling the edges of black-hole mysteries.

And you savor again the enveloping warmth

Of the welcome home.


You do not, cannot muck it up

With think and double-think

When the raw is sitting on the page

Waiting for you to touch it yet again.


The lessons transmute and morph into

Axioms that divide into precepts and corollaries

And “whereas-es” and “wherefores” spiral out and out

As your mind expands…

Big enough to contain mountains,

Big enough to cradle the sky…


As Dragon uncoils from sleep,

As Phoenix burns in flight,

As Tiger stalks through the underbrush

And Turtle moves, deliberating,

While the winds of change blow through.


It’s a hard road, this writing down the bones,

And the tracks of the tears running down your face

Mark the paths down which it takes you.

by Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  Salman Khan at TEDx talk (cropped from original by Steve Jurvetson on Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you…)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below.


















20 thoughts on “RISE OF THE KHAN (ACADEMY)

  1. It is absolutely wonderful that such an amazing educational product was developed due to a visitor helping a young student. How amazing this world is and we can only commend those who have the foresight to follow through from small beginnings to wonderful achievements.
    Of course there will always be opposition. That is the way of human beings throughout the world.

    Thank you for this review which has been enlightening to read.

    Best wishes

    1. Hey Valerie: Thanks for your visit and your comments. Please do come again!

  2. I remember seeing a video on the Khan Academy about two years ago at a work conference that I was at and I was very impressed with his teaching method as he had a lot of success in how he was going about it.

    Reading your post here, describing how he started teaching his niece to see what it has become now with YouTube is nothing short of amazing.

    Also the video by Evan Carmichael is quite inspiring as well, the 10 rules for success are excellent tips for anybody in business or for individuals, so thanks for your post.

    1. Hey Adrian:

      Thanks for your visit and your comments. Please do come again….

  3. Thank you for this post. I agree with you that Khan came up with a remarkable product. I think that he has a huge but simple dream. The sincerity of his goal makes it simple and clear. I believe in making education available to all. I believe in the use of technology to make this happen. The world has changed so much already and this idea of his can enable so many to keep up somehow.

    1. Hey Cassia: Thanks for your visit and your comments. Please do come again…

  4. Hi.

    Thank you for this article. I have a teenage son who has a learning disability/comprehension problem with both Math and English. I’m always looking for YouTube videos that we can watch together to help him with his homework. Classroom sizes are so big, and everyone’s ability to learn is so different. Teachers just don’t have time to wait for students that need a little extra time to catch up with the rest of the class. Places like this, online, are invaluable to me (I sucked at Math

    1. Awesome, Kim! I do hope it helps!

      Thanks for the visit and your comment. Please do come again….

  5. Very helpful content and i love the addition of videos.the social proof this page has being linked to every social media platform which is outstanding. The description and help that you give is very useful and i can see high traffic rates visiting this website. Helping people is the best thing you can possibly do, keep up the good work and you will be rewarded. Love it!

    1. Hey Clancy:

      Thank you for the visit and for your comments.  I do appreciate it.

      Please come again….

  6. Todd Matthews says:

    The Khan Academy is something I came across a few years ago when speaking to a personal training client, of all people, and they endorsed it that very second, as it helped one of their relatives understand mathematics in a better sense; something they struggled with since school. I think those with a traditional teaching background, not in schools or anything, but those at the research level are ones who aren’t great fans of the Khan Academy due to its more unorthodox way of rising; simply someone without the “art and science of teaching background.” But hey, if it’s a product and it works, it deserves to be in business for a long time. 

    1. Todd, I do thank you for your visit and your comments.  

      I do believe that the more vociferous opponents are often the ones who have the most invested in the traditional ways of teaching and such, as you say — “those at the research level.”

      I agree with your conclusion as well…it is an effective product…it does work…long may it wave!

      Please do come again….

  7. Hey there, I’m a bit confused about your indication that Khan Academy haters are calling their followers a ‘cult’.  I’ve never heard this before and I think claiming such is a bit extreme.  I’m not an active hater on a website so I guess I wouldn’t know the full extent of where people go to deplatform Khan Academy.  From what I’ve seen, the whole ‘just the lesson’ part is what turns many people off because they find the lessons as boring.

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, Andrew.

      I have seen some of the more extreme views about the academy, but it may just be that I happened on a few of the more rabid opponents of the thing.  

      I am most impressed by how much the Academy has achieved doing its own thing.

      And you are right that for many the only turn-off is the fact the lessons are plain-vanilla with no song-and-dance.  Having grown up in the Dark Ages, B.S.S. (Before Sesame Street), I personally like them.   Some things don’t need the sprinkles and other fancy stuff; they just need to go down.

      Please do come again.

  8. Amzy Khan says:

    Hi Netta!

    I remember using this at school. Our teacher provided us this platform to study and help us revise for our GCSEs. It was really helpful and made it easy for us to understand. I really liked using this for revision. I had 5 maths exams and I ended up getting a B and I was so proud of myself for achieving a good grade. I really recommend using this for any type of maths revision. 

    Thank you for sharing this article with us and I wish you all the best!


    1. Amzy, thanks for your visit and for sharing your story.  Cool!  

      Please do come again.

  9. This is one of the best articles I have read in a long time. I have checked out the video and found it very genuine and informative. 

    Checking out the website I find that he basically sticks to math’s and science, economics and computing. I was looking for English, however I found very little in that modality, although it was not an in-depth search. . 

    Still, math’s is the reason he began online tutorials so I can understand why he has not expanded out past his area of expertise. 

    More power to him and hopefully the “haters” will fade into the depths of irrelevance. 

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your story, Michael.  

      Khan Academy does have a grammar module and I wonder if that might be a help to you.  The link for that is:  https://www.khanacademy.org/hu

      As for the “haters,” I think a lot of that is about experts getting all up in arms because he was treading on their turf.  Whatever.  If it’s useful and works for you, use it, I say….

      Please do come again.

  10. I can understand why Khan academy would be a hot topic of debate, as it can both be a beneficial tool while also being a source of frustration. I have been surprised at how much educators rely on it, and although it wouldn’t be my preferred way to learn, I can see where it would be better than having no guidance at all. I wasn’t familiar with the background – thanks for sharing this interesting lesson!

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Aly.  I do appreciate it.

      Please come again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)