Khan Academy: A Free World Class Education – Salman Khan@Stanford

It was always a dream of mine to visit Stanford University and after visiting Stanford today, I now have much bigger dreams when it comes to education – Thanks to Mr. Salman Khan.

I could’ve visited Stanford University on another day but I decided to visit today because there was a speaker I didn’t want to miss. Through the Stanford events page, I found out that, you guessed it right, Mr. Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy would be speaking on campus for the Stanford’s DFJ Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Series. I knew I couldn’t miss this opportunity, and I’m glad I didn’t because his talk was worth every minute!

“For the next 10, 15 years, this thing called education, we can make it much more equal, we can make it more like water, a fundamental human right.”

Khan Academy has changed the lives of students from all over the world

Khan Academy has changed the lives of students from all over the world


Mr. Salman Khan didn’t only keep the talk entertaining by dropping jokes and puns here and there, but he also kept the audience on board by using powerful stories, anecdotes, lessons and real-life experiences that left us all inspired.

(The video will be soon uploaded at the Stanford website: http://events.stanford.edu/events/433/43305/ and http://etl.stanford.edu/)

How it started

Mr. Salman Khan started his speech by talking about the journey of Khan Academy and how it all started. He went way back to the moment where he encountered a simple problem that he wanted to solve. This problem was his cousin having a hard time in math.

It started out with him tutoring his cousin, then cousinS, and eventually, even more cousins. It got to the point where he was repeatedly answering the same questions and encountering the same challenges that he thought of how he could manage his time. A friend suggested that he use Youtube. Although, he initially wasn’t a fan of the idea, he decided to give it a shot.

A few thank you comments here and there on Youtube, and Salman Khan decided to use his computer science knowledge (He graduated from MIT and from the Harvard Business School) to build Khan Academy.

Believing in the fact that everyone should have access to it, and wanting to stick to his desire of helping others, he decided that Khan Academy would be a non-profit that had a mission of “Providing free world class education for anyone, anywhere.”

Lucky breaks

Like most entrepreneurs, he was optimistic at the start, but people started asking him how he would fund his life. His lucky break came when Ann Doerr, who had used Khan Academy along with her daughter, donated $10,000.  And after a meeting in an Indian Restaurant, she decided to donate another $100,000 to Salman and he was set.

However, it didn’t end there. In the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2010, Bill Gates himself enthusiastically mentioned Khan Academy as one of the ideas he was most excited about. And before Mr. Khan knew it, he would be flying to Seattle to meet Bill Gates and just like that, Khan Academy had just gained another prominent supporter.

Focusing on the foundation

What makes Khan Academy so effective is the fact that it focuses on building a really good foundation. It takes you step by step through the learning process and really makes sure you’ve mastered the lesson before moving on to the next.

Mr. Khan noted how the problem with education and schools these days is that more often than not students don’t master the basics and therefore have a hard time as the lessons get harder and harder. The problem is that not all students learn at the same pace yet they are forced to move on to the next lesson even if they aren’t ready yet.

He compared this to building a house and how you can’t just give a set time and not adjust it if the foundation isn’t ready yet. The problem in education today is that you give the students one week to learn a topic and at the start of the next week, even if they’ve only mastered 50% of the first topic, we already start teaching the next topic.

This is the gap that Khan Academy helps solve by focusing on student centered learning, proficiency and mastery.

Staying focused on the bottom-line and mission of Khan Academy

When asked about the future of Khan Academy, Mr. Khan talks about how he wants to stay focused on the bottom-line and the mission he started with. Although, it can be tempting to turn the company into a for-profit one or to have an IPO, he opts not to because he believes in staying true to the mission of Khan Academy which is to provide FREE world class education to anyone, anywhere.

The partnership of Khan Academy and College Board is great news for high school students all over the world!

The partnership of Khan Academy and College Board is great news for high school students all over the world!

Education is a huge spectrum of things

Admittedly, Khan Academy focuses only on the learning aspect of education. This is why it cannot completely replace classroom education. Education is more than just the numbers.

Mr. Khan himself said that when looking for potential hires, he doesn’t focus solely on the GPA; he focuses on your portfolio, what you have created, what your community thinks about you and what you have done to make a difference. With that, Khan Academy is also starting to explore ways to promote creativity and create outlets for students to really think freely and create actual products.

“Your day to day isn’t a lecture hall; your day to day is making things on campus.”

Inspired

I left the talk more inspired than ever. The future truly is bright for our generation with people like Salman Khan constantly finding ways to reach out and genuinely make the world a better place. What started out as tutoring his cousin which he even called his hobby at that time has turned into Khan Academy, the website that has transformed the lives of millions of students, both young and old all over the world.

It was such an honor getting to hear this man speak live at Stanford!

It was such an honor getting to hear this man speak live at Stanford!

His story is definitely one worth sharing, a story that inspires us to do be kind, to find ways to solve the problems of our world and to stay true to this mission no matter what. I hope that by sharing his story, I too can help inspire others to take action as I firmly believe in Salman Khan’s vision of education.

“For the next 10, 15 years, this thing called education, we can make it much more equal, we can make it more like water, a fundamental human right.”

Without a doubt, we’ll be hearing a lot more about Khan Academy in the future especially with the plans Mr. Salman Khan has in store. (Watch video below to learn more about his future plans *hint: A PHYSICAL KHAN ACADEMY??)

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