Free and Open Education with the Khan Academy

The Khan Academy is a free to use educational platform which allows individuals to easily find and view lessons and lectures in a wide range of areas such as mathematics, history, finance and biology. The ultimate goal of this nonprofit organization, is to provide a freely and easily attainable education to anyone across the globe, through an open and social learning environment.

With over 2,600 educational videos in dozens of areas of interest, the Khan Academy is not only rapidly approaching this goal, but is also beginning to completely revolutionize the way people are approaching education in digital space. With continued support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Google’s Project 10^100, the Khan Academy has already begun to challenge traditional outlets for educational viewership on the web, and there is really no limit to the project’s potential.

This in depth look at the Khan Academy will cover everything you need to know to get started, and will additionally demonstrate how students of all ages are already benefiting from their time online with this system.

Accessibility & Mission

With for profit and nonprofit educational institutions increasingly relying on digital content to draw in potential students, educational media on the web is an area that surprisingly breeds intense competition for viewership. Challengers such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare, iTunes University, and private offerings such as, all compete for viewer attention, and in many cases also their money.

This is where Khan Academy separates itself from the crowd, by providing a host of free lectures, practice problems, an integrated coaching system, and deep accessibility options that competitors simply don’t provide.

Visitors can learn about everything from the creation of the Earth to treasury bond prices and yields, and then in applicable areas also practice what they’ve learned through a quizzing system that will help you perfect your skills.

Video Example

Example Video

Each single video is accompanied by an option to view subtitles, and if they’re not yet available in a specific language, there is actually the ability to ad a brand new translation if you are multilingual and able to do so. This not only caters to diverse populations in a social and open culture, but is also driving the community to improve the product themselves, much like Wikipedia.

Video with Subtitles Enabled

Video with Subtitles Enabled

Presentation & Interface

The Khan Academy is extremely intuitive to use, and really presents no more of a challenge than selecting your topic and diving into desired material.

Numerous Areas of Interest

Numerous Areas of Interest

Video is presented in high definition and sound quality is excellent across the board. It is clear that the organization has chosen to integrate Google technologies into their offerings, such as Google Maps, Analytics, & Youtube (likely the result of Google’s financial contributions to the project), and if you have ever used any of these tools in the past, then you wont have any trouble mastering different aspects of the Academy.

Overall, the platform has been designed from the perspective that it should be accessible to anyone with even an elementary education, so the entire process is very streamlined and simple to use.

Educational Videos

Every video that is produced by the organization is also published to YouTube, however there are benefits of watching a video directly from the Khan Academy website. Video pages provide you with embedded links to related material on each of the pages you visit, and also the ability to ask questions about content in an organized environment.

Example Questions

Example Questions & Responses

One of the extremely cool features of Khan Academy videos is that they are also available for direct download from the website (.mp4 format), which truly expresses the openness of the platform and allows learning on the go without internet access. The organization also offers the ability to directly share videos via email, Twitter, or Facebook, and has recently partnered with the website Smart History to greatly expand their catalog.

Smart History

Smart History

Practice Problems & Game Mechanics

The Khan Academy additionally provides users with integrated practice problems, and rewards them with badges for making progress.

Generally speaking, at this point problems are only available in the field of mathematics, however with the system already in place, it is essentially infinitely expandable. As you can see from this lecture from, the organization has already been implementing their system within live classrooms, and because of this have been able to develop advanced analytical tools to track progress across courses for students.

This is a compelling and proven element of the Academy’s efforts, and one that would greatly benefit from an expansion into other areas.

Sample Practice Problem & Badge

Sample Practice Problem & Badge

Analytical tools are available to anyone and everyone as well, not just teachers and students in the classroom. When you register for a free account you are not only provided the ability to track vital statistics about the videos you’ve watched and the areas that you’ve focused your attention in, but also individual and overall exercise progress over time.

Vital Statistics

Vital Statistics

There are integrated badges to be achieved, which essentially turns the whole system into a game, and as the site states they have introduced advanced level badges that could take upwards of a year to actually acquire. It all depends on how fast you work and how good you are at a particular subject.

Badge System

Badge System

All of these incentives are baked directly into the system, so it almost reminds you of a video game where you are constantly being driven towards new accomplishments.

Coaching & Volunteering

Individuals seeking to either get involved with the organization or become a coach for their students, ultimately are provided with the ability to do both.

For teachers, tutors, or educational coaches, Khan Academy provides the ability to track multiple students on both an individual and group basis with a host of advanced metrics. This allows mentors to identify areas of concern for their pupils, and spend time with them addressing actual areas of concern. With these abilities embedded in the system, a coach can identify who is excelling and who has become stuck, and how they can most effectively help students succeed.

Add a Coach

Adding a Coach

For individuals who are just looking to get involved, the Khan Academy provides the ability to share videos, improve translations, or contribute to the product’s direction through submissions to their discussion groups.


All things considered, the Khan Academy is an inspiring effort to bring free education to the masses in an accessible fashion. With the cost of education skyrocketing over recent history, it is a welcome development in the arena of digital providers.

With the addition of badges and game mechanics to the system, the Khan Academy has ingeniously chosen to dangle a carrot in front of its users that drives their involvement and keeps them coming back for more. This is even an enticing element for older users who want to refresh their skills or just try to game the system. It’s easy to see how the Khan Academy is now drawing over a million visitors a month, and are poised for expansion both currently and in the future.

Take a few minutes to submerse yourself in the interesting world of the Khan Academy, and you might just find yourself following that carrot down a rabbit hole.