Khan Academy was started in 2008 by educator Salman Khan as a tutoring project for family members. Now, Khan's project is a full-fledged, non-profit serving students and teachers across the globe.
Offerings from Khan Academy include math, science, engineering, ELA, art, economics, grammar, test prep, and more. While it began as a math-focused project, it has broadened to include many other subjects.
It is funded by philanthropists and big brands alike with one shared goal
: “to empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom.” Here’s why you should know about this resource, as well as a list of the best ways to use Khan Academy for remote learning.
5 ways to get the most from Khan Academy
There are so many online and distance learning companies and educational platforms available today. What makes Khan Academy different? Most notably, it is always free. Kids, parents, and teachers can access 100% of the content without paying a dime.
Because the site’s content is vetted (and in many cases taught directly) by the site’s founder Sal Khan, it’s all easy to understand, full of credible information, and appealing to learners of all ages.
Khan Academy supports pre-K learners through college and beyond. We’ve laid out 5 ways you can get the most from this free online education resource to help you, your child, or your student learn better.
- Learn how to use Khan Academy as a student
- Move toward mastery
- Search for individual skills
- Embrace electives
- Use all available Khan Academy resources
Khan Academy is brimming with information, videos, quizzes, and discussions, so it can be slightly overwhelming to know how to jump in and get the most out of it right away.
There are many tutorials and how-tos across the site for your convenience, but the best way we’ve found to harness the power of this global online learning tool is to follow these best practices. There are specific perks for classroom teachers as well, which we’ll cover later in the article.
1. Learn how to use Khan Academy as a student
One of the best ways to see all the perks that Khan Academy offers is to put yourself in the student’s shoes. There are many reasons for doing this, but the most important is that it helps you know how to communicate with kids when giving them assignments and sharing your expectations for their work.
Sign up for a student account and fill in the information as if you are a new student. You'll notice right away that parent permissions may be required, depending on the student's age. You'll also get a feel for how to log on, what the assignment dashboard looks like, and how badges and streaks work.
Since gamification is a major perk of the site, familiarize yourself with the award system to help you understand the thrill kids get when accomplishing mastery tasks.
Try some problems and be sure to get a few wrong. Note how easy it is to ask for help or find skill-specific answers. Take notes about your experience so that when you teach students later, you can present the information in a relevant way.
If you experience any frustrations, note these as well, and provide workarounds for students ahead of time.
2. Move toward math mastery
Prior to June 2020, Khan Academy allowed kids to learn and retain new math skills through their “Missions” program. This has now been updated to something they call “Mastery,” and it’s based on the theory that kids will retain information better over time when skills are repeated, even after they’ve learned them. Research supports
the practice of mastery, and Khan Academy has built-in learning challenges to help students easily achieve mastery across all math grades.
In addition to standard quizzes and tests, there are self-paced Mastery Challenges that kids can take to make sure they still know the associative property, for example, even if they haven’t formally covered this skill in the past year. If the student doesn’t do well in the Mastery Challenge, they’ll level down, giving them more opportunities to work on this skill until they can pass the challenges without issue.
If they pass the Mastery challenge easily, this signals to Khan’s system that they may be ready to move on. Mastery is currently available for math, but Khan hopes to move this tool to other courses in the near future.
Note: Challenges can’t be assigned because they’re self-paced. But you can encourage students to try them when they can. There’s no way to mess things up by letting kids explore this feature. They can’t jump too far ahead and do Challenges for topics way above their proven skill level, and their Mastery opportunities are only available for their familiar skills.
3. Search for individual skills
What if, despite all of your live classroom time, numerous worksheets, and endless explanations, your student just can’t seem to grasp the idea of the Pythagorean Theorem? How can you support a child who needs to brush up on long division, when you don’t have the time to walk them through the process right this minute?
This is one of the more worthy features of Khan Academy. Searching for individual skills is easy to do, just by going to the top of any page. A search for “long division,” for example, brings up three predictive search results: long division, long division of polynomials, and long division with decimals.
You’ll also see many “top results” to choose from. You can easily see which one is best for your student’s situation by the video or lesson description. A quick glance will show you a video for long division with remainders, for example, right before one without remainders. Since you know the skill your student struggles with, you can pick the coordinating video for them to watch.
For more support, consider tasking them with the entire lesson including exercises and a quiz. There’s no harm to their grades in doing so, and it’s an easy way to give them practice, along with Khan’s signature wonderful math explanations.
Many kids find his way of teaching to be just what they need to get over the hump. You should also encourage students to search for help on any skill, at any time, as a way of taking responsibility for their own learning before coming to you to review a skill.
4. Embrace electives
Math is the most popular way to use Khan Academy, but it is far from the only thing this learning platform offers. When exploring the courses, consider how electives can take shape through the various video offerings.
With many school and homeschool budgets making it difficult to hire teachers for courses such as art history or economics, it’s nice to know that these are available as free Khan Academy courses.
Khan’s partnerships with other organizations provide some very unique opportunities to learners of all ages, including “Imagineering” with Disney
(also called "storytelling"), where kids build their own theme park.
The Hour of Code
is a top choice, too. There's even a personal finance course that covers paying for college, taxes, and how to calculate compound interest. Look for more courses to be offered in the future as Khan’s partnerships grow.
5. Use all of Khan’s resources
In addition to the brilliant courses that the platform offers, there are other highlights to explore:
- Daily schedule samples with resources by age and grade, which is especially useful during at-home learning and for those new to homeschooling or self-taught summer school.
- Hundreds of free books for summer reading programs or ELA enrichment, thanks to the Khan Academy Kids app.
- A regularly updated blog that shares the new Khan Academy features, as well as best practices for managing classrooms, sharing resources, and more.
- The comment section of each lesson, which allows you to see what kids are asking about each skill, as well as helpful tips from other teachers.
- Test prep courses that cover the PSAT, SAT, LSAT, Praxis, MCAT, NCLEX-RN, GMAT, CAHSEE, and IIT JEE.
Even if you never use Khan Academy in a formal classroom environment and only pick and choose from the tools you like, there are easily years of content for learners of all ages to explore. Adults can enjoy many of the courses, too!
Extra perks from Khan Academy for schools
While the tips we mentioned can help anyone get the most out of Khan Academy, there are some very unique perks to embracing the site for classroom and institutional use. From distance learning
newbies to longtime homeschoolers, consider these popular classroom uses:
- Classroom management, including assigning of lessons, units, and tests, with the ability to see how each student is progressing on assigned goals.
- Incorporation of tools, such as Google Classroom, to communicate lessons to students and get their feedback.
- The basis for your own reward system that uses gamification to encourage kids and gives teachers a way to add bonus points to external grades, award gifts, or give classroom perks for badges earned.
- Test-prep modules that save classroom time for those who need extra help with the PSAT and SAT, either for college admissions or as graduation requirements.
- AP-based resources, taught by instructors who know the AP materials intimately, giving you another way for students to prep at home before they take their exam. Current offerings include AP courses in world history, art history, calculus AB/BC, statistics, macroeconomics, chemistry, and more.
While there are new distance learning options popping up every day, there are no other programs like Khan Academy in terms of scope, breadth, and affordability. The test-prep resources alone are incredible resources at your fingertips that easily rival paid alternatives.
Whether you use Khan Academy as a learning tool for your existing curriculum, or choose to embrace it as a stand-alone learning module, expect this resource to grow and offer more flexible ways for kids to learn in the coming years.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.