The Future of Learning
The future of learning is online classes. This is a well known fact in the college atmosphere. Almost Every college offers online courses for their students. The problem with online courses is the impersonalization that occurs in this environment. For some people this isn’t a problem, but in a more difficult subject, one on one time with an instructor or tutor becomes very important. This is a problem that Salmon Khan, the founder of Khan Academy is trying to remedy.
Salmon Khan is attempting to make traditional classroom learning a thing of the past. Khan Academy is a nonprofit organization with a goal of providing anybody, with an internet connection, a world class education for free. Their website is chock full of lecture videos and exercises designed with foundational learning in mind. As of now they currently have over 2600 videos to watch.
The courses are designed to help the student master a subject. How long it takes is dependent on the student. This is different from traditional classroom education in that the students only have a set amount of time to learn the material before the end of a particular term. With the old structure, the student is not guaranteed that they will build the foundation that they need to move on to harder subjects. Khan Academy uses a module generator to create an almost infinite amount of questions on a particular subject in order to help the students develop a solid foundation of the material.
Khan Academy ran a pilot program at the Los Altos school system in California for a class of 5th and 7th graders. The students were still given lectures by the instructor, but they were supplemented by the online videos from the Academy. What was discovered in this program was that the students performed better than the other classes at the school that were not part of the pilot program. The 7th grade class was the most surprising, it was a remedial math class. By the end of the year the students had progressed further than the other 7th grade students, in more advanced math classes, at the same school.
How was this done? The instructor was able to see the progress of the class through a dashboard on their computer. The instructor was able to find the problem areas and tailor their lectures to those particular areas. The data they took away from this program showed that even though some students fell behind in the material, they were able to improve and become highly proficient in the material. The program did so well that the Los Altos school system implemented this program throughout the whole district.
So what does this really mean for traditional college-level classroom teaching? Not much yet, the lessons offered can help strengthen the foundations for lower level math and science courses. But time will tell with the successes of the Khan Academy. They are adding more videos all the time. Give them some time and they may revolutionize education.
For some more information, check out this video from the 2011 Web2.0 Summit