By TARA THIAGARAJAN
Like any secondary school student, I had faced many challenges in my academics.
My most memorable one being balancing chemical equations – a rudimentary concept students taking Chemistry should know by the first month of starting the subject.
After multiple failed attempts to understand this concept, I resorted to YouTube.
Of chemical equations and solutions!
I typed, “balancing chemical equations” in the search bar, and a 14-minute video of the same name popped up within seconds.
It was a miracle! Finally, someone explained balancing equations in simple English and I could completely understand it by the time I got to the seven-minute mark!
It was the first of hundreds of Khan Academy videos that have helped me throughout my years in secondary school.
It now offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personal learning dashboard to monitor one’s learning progress.
Its mission is “to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.”
Yes, we ‘Khan’!
Khan Academy provides online educational resources for people of all ages, available in over 40 languages worldwide, free to access via smartphones, tablets or laptops.
Salman Khan, the mastermind behind Khan Academy established in 2006, is its founder and executive director.
Khan started his career as a hedge fund analyst after graduating with three degrees from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
During his time as an analyst, he was also teaching algebra to his cousin online using his tablet.
Then, his other relatives and friends also began seeking his help.
This led to him coming up with a more efficient way of teaching by recording videos of himself illustrating the concepts he was teaching on his tablet while speaking into a microphone.
He then began uploading these videos on his YouTube channel, Khan Academy.
Innovation in education
Soon, strangers started watching his videos and subscribing to his channel, praising him for breaking down complex ideas into a simple manner.
Due to the growing audience his YouTube channel was gaining in 2009, Khan decided to quit his job to pursue making educational videos full-time.
These videos soon garnered the attention of Bill Gates, who mentioned that he used Khan’s videos to help teach his children.
From then on, Khan Academy grew into a bigger organisation, funded by Google and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Now, it has developed software that helps students learn more independently at home whilst providing online modules used in classrooms for teachers to monitor their students’ progress.
Khan’s innovative take on teaching radically changed the way many students like myself study.
Students can pause, rewind and replay an educational video, allowing them to learn at their own pace.
He took a huge risk by leaving his well-paying full-time job to pursue this humble yet bold idea to educate the masses.
What is surprising about Khan is that he doesn’t come from a teaching background. It goes to show that innovative ideas can come irrespective of one’s field of expertise.
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Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 24 January 2015