“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” – Edward Everett
Education is supposed to pique one’s interest rather than dull or satiate it. In a world where there are almost no perfect educational systems, Students appear to have numerous grievances against the educational system. Sal Khan has lowered the student’s concerns by making his online academy free to everyone, everywhere.
Millions of students, teachers, and lifelong learners are grateful for Sal Khan’s contribution to changing the face of education for the better. He began by tutoring his cousin and created an academy that is now used by millions of learners around the globe.
With over 100 million users registered, Khan Academy is now the largest educational platform on the planet. Every month, users from 100 different countries and 46 different languages log 1.5 billion minutes of online time. Never mind that it’s a nonprofit organization that still needs to borrow money and beg for donations.
It takes a special kind of leader to pull this off. Here’s how Sal Khan, the e-learning revolutionizer, founded Khan Academy.
Salman Amin Khan (Sal Khan) was born in Metairie, Louisiana on October 11, 1976, to a Bengali Muslim family. His mother is an Indian native of West Bengal, and his father is from Bangladesh. He was the cartoonist for the student newspaper when he was in high school. Sal Khan enrolled in the University of New Orleans upper-division mathematics courses, and in 1994, he received the valedictorian award.
He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1998 with three degrees: a bachelor’s in electrical engineering and computer science, a bachelor’s in mathematics, and a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering and computer science. He also earned a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.
Sal Khan has created over 6,500 video lessons on a wide range of academic subjects, with a particular emphasis on math and science. He established Khan Lab School, a physical private school in Mountain View, California, in addition to Khan Academy.
Early in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Khan introduced Schoolhouse, a no-cost non-profit program that uses Zoom meetings to give small-group instruction to students all over the world.
Schoolhouse certifications, created in collaboration with the University of Chicago, assess and certify students’ subject mastery. Since then, MIT and Case Western Reserve University have joined.
In addition, he wrote The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined, a book about Khan Academy. Sal Khan has been cited as an influence by the founders of other online learning platforms, including Coursera and edX.
Khan received the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award, from the President of India in 2016. Khan also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University in 2021.
It all began within the family when Khan began tutoring his cousin via the internet. Khan’s cousin Nadia was having trouble converting units in August 2004. She was unable to be placed in the more difficult math track due to this “Swiss-cheese” gap in her knowledge.
Because Nadia was in New Orleans and Khan was working at a hedge fund in Boston at the time, he began tutoring her after work via phone and Yahoo Doodle. As Nadia’s math grades rose, word spread and Sal Khan began tutoring a few of his cousins and relatives.
Scheduling became a significant problem, so he decided to start filming videos in 2006 and uploading them to YouTube so that everyone could watch at their own pace. Since YouTube lectures offered time flexibility, Khan’s cousins preferred virtual Sal over real Sal.
They could rewind lectures on weak points, saving them the embarrassment of not knowing something when directly asked. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
People began to watch too, and Sal Khan has been making videos ever since.
After a few years, Sal Khan founded Khan Academy, an educational organization that provides free videos to anyone who wants to learn new things or help their children with their homework. The platform depends on donations and investors because it lacks a true business model.
In 2008, the organization was formed as a 501c(3) nonprofit. Khan kept working on Khan Academy in his spare time up until the fall of 2009 when he decided to leave his job working for a hedge fund and devote all of his time to the project.
For the first nine months, he survived solely on his savings before Ann Doerr gave him his first sizable donation. Khan Academy received significant funding from Google ($2 million) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in September 2010
Khan invited Shantanu Sinha to join as President & COO from McKinsey & Company. They were former New Orleans high school math competitors, MIT freshman-year roommates, and lifelong friends.
To oversee software development and design, they immediately hired Fog Creek Software’s Ben Kamens and Jason Rosoff. The small team relocated to its first office space in October 2010.
Sal Khan and his team released an iOS app in 2012, but it lacked many of the features available on the website. The app was completely redone in 2015, and an Android version was also made.
Both apps now meet their users’ needs and enable them to sync their progress across multiple devices. Long story cut short: The Khan Academy app allows users to improve their knowledge at any time and from any location.
Users are not charged to download or use the Khan Academy app. The fundamental idea behind the Khan Academy platform is that people can learn “almost anything for free.”
While the democratization of education was made possible by combining the web and the mobile app, the main purpose of launching an app was to expand the community and increase accessibility for those who don’t have a computer.
It is essential to have a solid foundation in mathematics for effective learning. Then why not begin at a young age? To provide smart apps for young children for free, a partnership between Khan Academy and the maker of kids’ apps Duck Duck Moose was established.
All Duck Duck Moose developers joined Khan Academy in 2016 so that they could work together on other projects and make their paid apps available to all preschoolers.
Everything was made possible thanks to the assistance provided by Omidyar Network, a charitable foundation, as TechCrunch noted at the time. At the same time, Bill Gates also values Khan Academy because he used it to help his children.
Long Beach USD was the first to offer Khan’s SAT prep to more than 300 seniors with low SAT scores in 2016 — students whose families couldn’t afford the expensive college test prep offered by private tutoring companies.
Nearly 40% of them, primarily students of color, used Khan’s interactive online tool and achieved the required score to be eligible to apply to state colleges and four-year universities.
According to a research analysis of the pilot program released by Khan in September in collaboration with the district, Long Beach teachers who used Khan’s videos and interactive tools for at least 30 minutes in one class period per week were associated with attaining a 22-point boost on the state math test compared to the previous year.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS?
Just getting started separates those who succeed. Khan did exactly that in 2008. He founded Khan Academy after quitting his well-paying position as a hedge fund manager. It was the first nonprofit online project with the stated goal of giving anyone, anywhere, free, top-quality education.
According to Sal Khan, a leader must have the courage to act. He defines great leadership as a constant balance of humility and self-confidence.
Khan led an “instantaneous pivot” when the Covid crisis struck. What was the goal? The online learning platform should be improved specifically to assist students, parents, and teachers who were suddenly faced with distance learning for the first time.
Khan continues to stretch its resources to help students, teachers, and school districts. It is also increasing the number of classes it offers to prepare students for the grade level they are entering. For instance, it ensures that students have the prerequisites for entering sixth grade with its “Get Ready for Grade Six” tutorial.
There is one aspect of Khan Academy that Khan promises will never change: free, top-notch education for everyone, everywhere. That necessitates constant innovation and disruption, as well as the ability to attract top talent. “It’s difficult to stick to your mission,” he admitted.
The more sincere your mission, the more difficult it will be to stick to it. But isn’t it the mission that drives you toward success?
Khan, unconsciously, set his sights high in 2004. That’s when he began tutoring his 12-year-old cousin Nadia in math. That quickly evolved into online distance tutoring with 15 cousins.
Khan did a lot of tutoring when he was in high school and college, and he was always drawn to educational projects. Even when he accepted his hedge fund job, he promised himself that he would do it until he could open his own school. After tutoring all of his cousins online, he had an epiphany that he could scale his online tutoring technique to cover the entire globe — which he did.
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