MLE Courses on YouTube–WHY NOT? It’s FREE!

Salman Khan

I was searching the Internet for educational video lectures which could be used as a model for a more efficient  and relatively cheaper delivery mode of education to students in general, and for multilingual education (MLE) in particular, when I came upon this news item in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  In the wake of all the MLE training and workshops conducted thus far in compliance with Deped Order No. 74 s. 2009, I am hoping that an effort is made to distill all the best learning/training experiences, all the best learning materials developed or to be developed for each specific language that will be used as medium of instruction (MOI) to implement the Order and  that these best practices and learning materials will have found their way in some form of MLE YouTube videos to be utilized by everyone involved–both teachers and students alike.  As we acquire more experience in multilingual education, I’m sure there will be a need to improve and update the MLE videos–but the point is that MLE videos will have been utilized to document the best instructional practices and learning materials for MLE, but that is going ahead of the above-titled news item reprinted in full below, including comments thereto.

As Salman Khan demonstrates so clearly in his YouTube videos, our MLE course videos–or any educational video for that matter–could be developed with so little hardware/software expense, not very fancy technical skills.  According to Khan, his equipment to make his YouTube videos include a Camtasia Recorder ($200) + SmoothDraw3(Free) + a Wacom Bamboo Tablet ($80) on a PC. He used to use ScreenVideoRecorder($20) and Microsoft Paint (Free). His videos just have to be designed with what Kahn says the “single biggest goal… to try to deliver things the way I wish they were delivered to me.”

For those who are or are going to get involved in developing MLE course materials in our own languages, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel where Salman Khan has and is doing so for us.  Read the following from the Khan Academy’s Frequently Asked Questions:

How can I/you help?

The biggest thing is getting the word out. The students who use the site seem to really get excited by how quickly and deeply they can learn from it. Right now (5/2010), there are about 200,000 students using the site per month; no reason why it shouldn’t be 20 million!

If you like to code or work on user interface design, you might be able to help on the Khan Academy applications which we are doing as an open source project

If you want to be more actively involved and know a foreign language, translating the videos would be huge! Even better, if you know some topic deeply, are a good, down-to-earth teacher, AND know a foreign language, you could re-teach some subset of the videos!

If you’re an expert (especially at something that I’m unlikely to be able to learn in the next 5 years) and want to become a minor education celebrity (but a major one in your field), make a handful of videos and point me to them. If they gel with the style–conversational while focused on intuition and rigor–of the current library, it might make sense for you make a playlist or two (with all credit going to you of course).”

[NOTE about Salman Khan:  Salman Khan (Sal) founded the Khan Academy with the goal of using technology to educate the world. Sal received his MBA from Harvard Business School. He also holds a Masters in electrical engineering and computer science, a BS in electrical engineering and computer science, and a BS in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

You will find a comprehensive list of links to Khan’s educational videos by clicking on the “Khan Academy” page tab above or by visiting his website, Khan Academy.]

A Self-Appointed Teacher Runs a One-Man ‘Academy’ on YouTube

Are his 10-minute lectures the future?

By Jeffrey R. Young
June 6, 2010

The most popular educator on YouTube does not have a Ph.D. He has never taught at a college or university. And he delivers all of his lectures from a bedroom closet.

This upstart is Salman Khan, a 33-year-old who quit his job as a financial analyst to spend more time making homemade lecture videos in his home studio. His unusual teaching materials started as a way to tutor his faraway cousins, but his lectures have grown into an online phenomenon—and a kind of protest against what he sees as a flawed educational system.

“My single biggest goal is to try to deliver things the way I wish they were delivered to me,” he told me recently.

The resulting videos don’t look or feel like typical college lectures or any of the lecture videos that traditional colleges put on their Web sites or YouTube channels. For one thing, these lectures are short—about 10 minutes each. And they’re low-tech: Viewers see only the scrawls of equations or bad drawings that Mr. Khan writes on his digital sketchpad software as he narrates.

The lo-fi videos seem to work for students, many of whom have written glowing testimonials or even donated a few bucks via a PayPal link. The free videos have drawn hundreds of thousands of views, making them more popular than the lectures by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, famous for making course materials free, or any other traditional institution online, according to the leaders of YouTube’s education section.

Mr. Khan calls his collection of videos “Khan Academy,” and he lists himself as founder and faculty. That means he teaches every subject, and he has produced 1,400 lectures since he started in 2006. Now he records one to five lectures per day.

He started with subject matter he knows best—math and engineering, which he studied as an undergraduate at MIT. But lately he has added history lectures about the French Revolution and biology lectures on “Embryonic Stem Cells” and “Introduction to Cellular Respiration.”

If Mr. Khan is unfamiliar with a subject he wants to teach, he gives himself a crash course first. In a recent talk he explained how he prepared for his lecture on entropy: “I took two weeks off and I just pondered it, and I called every professor and everyone I could talk to and I said, Let’s go have a glass of wine about entropy. After about two weeks it clicked in my brain, and I said, now I’m willing to make a video about entropy.”

Some critics have blogged that this learn-as-you-go approach is no way to run an educational project—and they worry that the videos may contain errors or lead students astray.

But to Mr. Khan, occasional mistakes are part of his method. By watching him stumble through a problem, students see the process better, he argues. Sometimes they correct him in comments on his YouTube videos, and he says this makes students more engaged with the material. “Sometimes when it’s a little rough, it’s going to be a better product than when you overprepare,” he says.

The Khan Academy explicitly challenges many of higher-education’s most sacred assumptions: that professional academics make the best teachers; that hourlong lectures are the best way to relate material; and that in-person teaching is better than videos. Mr. Khan argues that his little lectures disprove all of that.

Watching his videos highlights how little the Web has changed higher education. Many online courses at traditional colleges simply replicate the in-person model—often in ways that are not as effective. And what happens in most classrooms varies little from 50 years ago (or more). Which is why Mr. Khan’s videos come as a surprise, with their informal style, bite-sized units, and simple but effective use of multimedia.

The Khan Academy raises the question: What if colleges could be retooled with new technologies in mind?

College From Scratch

Mr. Khan is not the only one asking that question these days.

Clay Shirky, an associate teacher at New York University and a popular Internet guru, recently challenged his more than 50,000 Twitter followers with a similar thought exercise:

“If you were going to create a college from scratch, what would you do?”

Bursts of creativity quickly Twittered in, and Mr. Shirky collected and organized the responses on a Web site. The resulting visions are either dreams of an education future or nightmares, depending on your viewpoint:

  • All students should be required to teach as well, said @djstrouse.
  • Limit tenure to eight years, argued @jakewk.
  • Have every high-school senior take a year before college to work in some kind of service project away from his or her hometown, said @alicebarr.

Some Twittering brainstormers even named their fictional campuses. One was called FailureCollege, where every grade is an F to desensitize students to failure and encourage creativity. Another was dubbed LifeCollege, where only life lessons are taught.

When I caught up with Mr. Shirky recently, he described the overall tone of the responses as “bloody-minded.” Did that surprise him?

“I was surprised—by the range of responses, but also partly by the heat of the responses,” he said. “People were mad when they think about the gap between what is possible and what happened in their own educations.”

Mr. Shirky declined to endorse any of the Twitter models or to offer his prediction of how soon or how much colleges will change. But he did argue that higher education is ripe for revolution.

For him the biggest question is not whether a new high-tech model of higher education will emerge, but whether the alternative will come from inside traditional higher education or from some new upstart.

Voting With Their Checkbooks

Lately, several prominent technology entrepreneurs have taken an interest in Mr. Khan’s model and have made generous contributions to the academy, which is now a nonprofit entity.

Mr. Khan said that several people he had never met have made $10,000 contributions. And last month, Ann and John Doerr, well-known venture capitalists, gave $100,000, making it possible for Mr. Khan to give himself a small salary for the academy so he can spend less of his time doing consulting projects to pay his mortgage. Over all, he said, he’s collected about $150,000 in donations and makes $2,000 a month from ads on his Web site.

I called up one of the donors, Jason Fried, chief executive of 37signals, a hip business-services company, who recently gave an undisclosed amount to Khan Academy, to find out what the attraction was.

“The next bubble to burst is higher education,” he said. “It’s too expensive for people—there’s no reason why parents should have to save up a hundred grand to send their kids to college. I like that there are alternative ways of thinking about teaching.”

No one I talked to saw Khan Academy as an alternative to traditional colleges (for one thing, it doesn’t grant degrees). When I called a couple of students who posted enthusiastic posts to Facebook, they said they saw it as a helpful supplement to the classroom experience.

Mr. Khan has a vision of turning his Web site into a kind of charter school for middle- and high-school students, by adding self-paced quizzes and ways for the site to certify that students have watched certain videos and passed related tests. “This could be the DNA for a physical school where students spend 20 percent of their day watching videos and doing self-paced exercises and the rest of the day building robots or painting pictures or composing music or whatever,” he said.

The Khan Academy is a concrete answer to Mr. Shirky’s challenge to create a school from scratch, and it’s an example of something new in the education landscape that wasn’t possible before. And it serves as a reminder to be less reverent about those long-held assumptions.


1. paievoli – June 07, 2010 at 07:35 am

I could not agree more with Dr. Khan. This is the future of education, exactly what he is doing. I do this every semester with guest lecturers. I iChat with them, edit them and post them to my blog. We need to embrace this and move forward with it as a beginning.

2. tookt – June 07, 2010 at 09:22 am

I agree that the use of the mini-lecture and more “personal” or “impromptu” styles of teaching via video are part of the future of education. I don’t agree that this approach will “revolutionize” college education. Too much is right with the system, especially at the graduate level.

Yes, education is expensive. When hasn’t that been the case?

3. albertov05 – June 07, 2010 at 10:26 am

I wonder at the breathless tone of the article and others like this- is The Chronicle becoming a shill for Tech-marketeers? Technology is already costing Academe many, many millions- every two years hardware and software must be upgraded to stay current or function, yet arguably literacy of all kinds is in decline. The old academic model has been in place for so long because it works. I’d advocate a return to paper and pencil. Perhaps then we’d be able to afford our costly educations.

4. chandrak – June 07, 2010 at 03:03 pm

I just posted my comments but it did not show on the web. After a long time in academe, I don’t see that technology is the panacea and solves all problems.

5. mveducator – June 07, 2010 at 05:03 pm

Can anyone here give a good argument as to why an on-demand, short videos made by the best instructors (that can be paused and repeated and watched at the student’s pace) aren’t better in every way than the 300-person lectures being delivered in thousands of colleges around the country?

Also, for those of you thinking that current higher education doesn’t need fixing, go to your next alumni event and see if your graduates can pass the final exam for an intro course in their major. Even better, ask them what concepts from their education they are using in their lives. The only remnant from their education will probably the student loans they are still servicing.

6. lisa_g – June 07, 2010 at 08:23 pm

This gentleman was not satisfied with the industrial model of education, in which he participated. This is a great example of why we need to incorporate 21st century learning skills into the k-12 school day, instead of norm or objective-based standardized tests and traditional assessments.

I try to encourage a group of preliscensure undergraduate teacher preparation students to plan learning opportunities like this person has created, for their future students. I think this is a powerful example of why parents, teachers, and students themselves, should be able to hold students accoutable for the responsibility to plan, organize, and conduct, their own learning. The teacher should be the guide on the side, providing support, feedback on content, and appropriate corrections as needed, not in charge of the almighty lecture.

7. princeton67 – June 07, 2010 at 09:08 pm

When several successful high school -(SAT, ACT AP…) or college (Marshall, Woodrow Wilson, Rhodes, Fulbright…) scholars say that tthe Khan Academy, or its approach, helped them, then pedagogical evolution will occur.

8. midtownlabgeek – June 07, 2010 at 10:42 pm

I checked out a couple of his videos in my own field – he did a good job on those topics, and I can understand how students find the videos useful. I’ve added his site to my list of recommended study helps.

mveducator writes, “Can anyone here give a good argument as to why an on-demand, short videos made by the best instructors (that can be paused and repeated and watched at the student’s pace) aren’t better in every way than the 300-person lectures being delivered in thousands of colleges around the country?”

That one’s easy.

Video lectures (pro): They can be watched on the student’s own time, including rewinds and repeats; They can offer more total hours of content than can be covered in a single semester; They are largely independent of disruption by other students.

Video lectures (con): They’re static – the content will always be the same; there’s no chance for the student to ask a question;
there’s no chance for the student to test his understanding.

In-person lectures (con): They happen at preset times and places; They are strictly limited in duration and total content; They aret oo easily disrupted by talking, texting, typing.

In-person lectures (pro): They’re dynamic – instructor can change the pace or include fresh examples when students hit a wall;
They’re interactive – the student can ask questions; They’re interactive – the student can work fresh problems during class that solidify his understanding and skills.

The videos are clearly NOT “better in every way”. (Am I strictly pro-lecture? No, but videos throw out the advantages of lectures while fixing their drawbacks.)

Mr Khan is very good at explaining the material. These videos do not make him “a guide on the side” (as I think lisa_g was implying). Just the opposite – he is the ultimate “sage on a stage” that spans the world. The fact that he’s a good sage doesn’t somehow transform him into a guide.

(All of this is independent of whether the “guide on the side” idea actually does any good or just exists as a battle-cry against “the lecture”.)

9. midtownlabgeek – June 07, 2010 at 10:43 pm

@lisa_g: What “21st century learning skills” are involved here? Watching a video and copying how it says to do a problem? I agree that college students today grew up getting a lot of their education from videos, but I don’t see how watching someone lecture them on video is a new “learning skill”, let alone better than earlier alternatives.

You want future teachers to plan “learning opportunities like this person has created”. So… lesson plans that include specific examples? Or learning how to put together a website and record video lessons? But if everyone can just record their lectures – er,
sorry, “create learning opportunities” like this, then students will find that some videos are worth watching and some aren’t. If you really want to help students be good teachers, why not help them focus first on being able to explain things really well?

Just in case there’s actually more to good teaching than having the right software.

10. mveducator – June 08, 2010 at 01:08 am

@midtownlabgeek – I agree that smaller, seminar style lectures have value because there is real interaction. I don’t think the “pro” of interactivity applies to the 100+ person lectures that most universities have for their core classes. Even if one or two people have the guts to raise their hand, it is not clear that their understanding represents the majority of the students and it is more likely to hi-jack the pace than help it. Also, most of these lecturers are reading from scripts and teaching something for the 20th time so there is very little “freshness”.

11. klblk – June 08, 2010 at 05:24 am

Low tech? Short, “one-to-one” teaching? Delivered with the student in a comfy armchair rather than 800-person lecture theatre? The teacher mastering unfamiliar — or at least uncomfortably outside one’s doctoral training and tenure track publishing?

Erm, sounds like someone’s just “discovered” the Oxbridge tutorial method.

12. band4me – June 08, 2010 at 07:44 am

There is something to be said for face-to-face human contact in regards to learning that cannot be replaced by distance learning. Supplementary perhaps, but not primary when you take the social interaction out of the equation.

13. midtownlabgeek – June 08, 2010 at 08:33 am

@klblk: No, not “just ‘discovered'” it, and it’s not actually how I suggest teaching undergrads. My point was that if the teacher is really to be a “guide on the side” (ugh), then switching to video “tutorials” is a huge step in the wrong direction.

@mveducator: I keep hearing about these people who lecture from scripts. As an undergrad, graduate student & TA, and now a professor, I’ve seen perhaps 10% of the faculty who follow a script so closely that they could be replaced with recordings – the rest use their notes as a jumping-off point to stay organized. (Most of the 10% were either adjuncts or people forced by departmental necessity to teach outside their specialty.)

Perhaps I’ve been lucky. Are there recent studies that investigate how common the “internally recorded” lecturer is, now?

In any case, attempts to fix the lack of interactivity with teacher-in-a-box methods (can I trademark “sage in a cage”?) seem to miss the point.

14. phensel – June 08, 2010 at 08:35 am

This concept is hardly novel. 30 years ago I was part of a three person team that converted a twelve week 8 hrs per day relatively high level statistical quality control program for senior data analysts in the USAF to one inch B&W video tapes and self-paced work books. Faculty became mentors/tutors. The “students” nor the “faculty” typically had an undergraduate degree but did have 6 to 20 years of field experience.

The result was a 40% decrease in time to finish the program and a 12% increase in the final examination averages.

The idea that one method fits all is a bit of lunacy. But Mr. Kahn has clearly demonstrated that traditional academic pedagogies need a shake up.

Sgort vdeo

15. novain – June 08, 2010 at 09:17 am

I salute Mr. Salman Khan and his Khan academy. We need innovative modes of education delivery to complement our existant modes (which sometimes are outmoded for the current generation of students).

16. cleverclogs – June 08, 2010 at 09:40 am

I just wanted to say that I think midtownlabgeek is spot on. And I wanted to add this:

Mr. Khan is a good communicator – nice voice, clear explanations, down to earth language – and all that makes him a good teacher. But he could do similar lectures in a classroom as well with, say, a blackboard. Why the surprise that his lectures are popular? Because Mr. Khan doesn’t have a PhD? Surely we’ve all known enough PhD’s to understand that that credential doesn’t come with teaching skills.

I think what we can learn that is useful from the Khan Academy is this:
1) Prepared powerpoint slides might be less informative than doing out the problem or creating the list of information during class.
2) Shorter lectures are easier to follow and digest.
3) Presentation skills matter.

Add that to the advantages that midtownlabgeek notes – students being able to ask questions, lecturers being able to respond to the feel of the lecture room – and in-person instruction looks more and more attractive.

17. fadecomic – June 08, 2010 at 09:57 am

I agree with Mr. Kahn’s use of simple language. I’ve taken too many classes over the years that are drowned in jargon. Certainly, jargon serves its place as a tool of brevity, but it also confuses those who haven’t been steeped in it. One thing I’ve done for my grad students: I’ve installed wiki software to which I regularly post simple language descriptions of concepts encountered in geophysics. Simple language, but with all (where appropriate) of the technical detail intact.

18. walrus – June 08, 2010 at 10:07 am

I find it ironic that so many seem to imply that universities employ the 100+ lecture style out of choice rather than the very economic pressures that they are so eager to intensify. It goes by the term “efficiency.” I think it’s fair to say that most professors would rather teach smaller classes rather than large lectures, but economic necessity requires otherwise. If quality of instruction is the goal, which advocates of electronic learning seem to imply, then fund universities so that they can hire more professors and ensure that there is less pressure to produce more college graduates on less money. As long as efficiency is valued over quality of education…

As far as this particular lecturer goes, I don’t see the difference between his style and that of any other popular professors one can find on college campuses across the country. I have personally had a few that taught exactly the way he teaches, if for longer periods of time. The difference is that they were in a classroom while he has “gone viral.” His popularity guarantees one thing: There will soon be copycats who have many of the same charismatic qualities and little of the intellectual discipline that Mr. Khan has. Qualities he learned while he was a… wait for it… student in brick and mortar classrooms, including MIT!

For some reason I’m reminded of the Great Awakenings that were in many ways a democratization of Christianity. The printing presses make it possible for everyone to have a Bible, much like the internet makes information that was in books that had to be found and then bought or borrowed widely available. Now everyone has increasing access to the information that scholars have, which raises the question of what makes their interpretations “better” than, say, a blogger. Just because someone has spent years reading all of the relevant literature on a topic, discussed it with others who share similar interests, bounced her ideas off of still others who have become professionals in the field, and then wrote a book-length contribution to that topic– does that mean she has any better understanding of the topic than a wildly popular blogger/student/teacher who has spent a couple of weeks chatting about it with friends? Corporations looking for sites to place their ad dollars might not think so. Or they simply won’t care. Then again, maybe the blogger can prepare a lecture that shows that Coke is indeed better than Pepsi…

Where some critics say that universities are the next bubble to burst, I see it as exactly the opposite. It’s an area ripe for even more speculative investment. My sense is that this has already started with the for-profit universities, but those who decry the structures that are designed to at least give the appearance of quality control seem to me eager to hasten this eventuality.

19. tachuris – June 08, 2010 at 10:08 am

One of the primary advantages of the short video approach that Mr. Khan uses is that it’s widely accessible, and the fact that he is good at explaining things makes a large number of people want to watch. The videos are a great supplement to whatever other learning approaches a student may be using.

I don’t see the “preset place and time” as being a disadvantage of traditional lectures though – the advantage is that you have to be there and don’t have to rely on self-discipline (unless even showing up is difficult). Furthermore, the value of a shared experience, while hard to quantify, is considerable – even if there are 300 or more people sharing it. I don’t really think in this society that we need even more reason to hole up on our own with a computer and avoid other human beings. Video tutorials are a fantastic resource (and might be even more valuable if students got together in small groups to watch and discuss them), and also a terrific way for someone who does not have traditional qualifications and is a good teacher to have a platform to offer education (the other side of that coin – ugh, don’t even want to go there right now). We need all these approaches. At my undergraduate alma mater and I’m sure at others, annual reunions include reunions of specific lecture courses, with homework assigned ahead of time. Hugely popular. I hope lecture courses never go away.

20. rfoshay0 – June 08, 2010 at 11:02 am

Lots of important themes in the article:
1) the current business model of college is broken and unsustainable. Colleges are pricing themselves out of the market, with no effective way to change.
2) the willful ignorance of most college faculty about what makes for quality of instruction means that they really can’t differentiate themselves from the kind of information delivery you can get on the Web from sources like this, at little or no cost. This is like Wikipedia, not like a textbook.
3) what’s missing from both the provider and the writer of the article is any understanding of the distinction between information and instruction (the teaching-learning cycle). This is typical most popular press education writers (and common enough among faculty!). Something like this *ought* to make publishers nervous, but a college professor who understands that teaching is about interaction, not information delivery, wouldn’t feel threatened, and might embrace the resource — not as a competitor, but as a resource.
4) lots of people agree that the current model of degrees, residential college, semester-long courses, and hour-long lectures is not a good fit with how people learn, or how they consume information. The online universities have more flexibility, but we need better ways to accredit learning experiences and credential learning. It’s happening, in some sectors but it’s still highly variable. Traditional higher ed is just being left in the dust, with the exception of pockets of innovation in some professional training programs, and in some community colleges.
5) this is disruptive change at its finest! It’s good that the author of the article identified this as the key newsworthy point.
6) there’s no mention of effectiveness or learning outcomes. That’s not his goal. Yet another indication that he’s focused on information, not instruction. There’s also no consideration of who can, and cannot, learn from his presentations. All that’s mentioned is the number of views. That’s an indication that the viewers are getting some value from them — roughly analogous to what you’d say about the subscriber base of Scientific American, or even Popular Science. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I’d be happier if all involved just recognized it for what it is.
7) the article is both right and wrong about errors in his presentations. Errors can be very useful teaching moments, if they reveal misconceptions which are then challenged and “untaught”. But if not, a misconception, once learned, is very, very persistent — and thus can be quite damaging for the rest of the learner’s lifetime.

21. jamescrowder – June 08, 2010 at 11:37 am

Don’t want to be lost in a room full of hundreds of other students? Want your professors to know your name? Want a good education without having to be tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt?

I’ve got two words for you – community college.

22. douglaswebster – June 08, 2010 at 11:38 am

Shortly before the close of my last faculty meeting at a moderately sized University School of Music, the following conversation ensued: “We know you come from the professional world, but we’ve done things this way for many, many years…” My response began with the word, “Therein…”

I am waiting for the precedent to be set in which a dissatisfied student,fully-trained to compete in a market that no longer exists, takes a department or university to court to sue for a refund. Of course, this could never happen…

When did the university system lose the mandate to become the bastion of change and progressive thinking? And as teachers, are we not obliged to be open to our own continuing evolution? If we aren’t a part of the solution, what does that leave us to be?

Rock on, Professor Khan!

23. walrus – June 08, 2010 at 01:17 pm

“I am waiting for the precedent to be set in which a dissatisfied student,fully-trained to compete in a market that no longer exists, takes a department or university to court to sue for a refund. Of course, this could never happen…”

Oh yes it will! It’s only a matter of time. As colleges and universities succumb to the pressure to create programs that are designed to reflect the immediate needs and concerns of the market like so many who have posted on this thread advocate– rather than focusing on more general skills (some of which are immediately “useful” and profitable while many are not)– this will happen. And that will be a bad thing. I have an aunt who sent a vicious letter to a university because her daughter couldn’t get a job in the newly-created childcare field in which she was trained. The administrators panicked and offered special assistance through the career center, but to no avail. The problem was that my cousin didn’t want a job and kept blowing her interviews deliberately. But my aunt was fully prepared to sue because the degree didn’t translate directly into a job. The expectation that universities directly respond to the market– which is somehow regarded as “change and progressive thinking”– encourages people like my aunt to remain completely ignorant of the other missions of the university beyond ensuring graduates get jobs.

Again, there is nothing new in Mr. Khan’s method. He’s like good professors in just about every institution of higher education across the country. He is genuinely interested in the world of ideas and turned his back on a highly lucrative profession (financial analyst) in order to learn more about them and discuss them. Yet somehow he’s turned into a symbol for those who think everything is about the bottom-line.

24. rt_firefly – June 08, 2010 at 02:16 pm

I continue to find it sadly amusing that folks (including the author) want to take this simple concept (delivering content via video) and turn it into the death of “life as we know it”.
What I hope doesn’t get missed is what the core affordance of this method is, and that is access to an infinitely patient tutor. In that regard, this does in fact represent a version of the guide on the side.
Tell you what – go to the Khan Academy channel on YouTube (, and watch the PBS story about him. If you are impatient, skip ahead to 3:10, where a student describes the value of this approach to her, and no doubt speaks for countless others.

25. mommaree – June 08, 2010 at 04:23 pm

I’ve used his site a few times when I’ve had trouble explaining a math concept to my daughter while helping her with her homework. We love the simplicity and ease of being able to find the exact video we need to help explain whatever she is finding difficult.

26. walrus – June 08, 2010 at 04:50 pm

Well, an infinitely patient tutor can actually acknowledge the existence of a specific student and try to understand why he or she is having a problem. An infinitely patient tutor can ask, “What is not making sense to you,” and respond, “Ah, I see! Well, think of it this way…” In that sense, being able to rewind a video on YouTube is not much different than being able to re-read a paragraph in a book. Mr. Khan doesn’t take questions or engage his thousands of students from his closet anymore than Rousseau actually tutored the fictional Emile.

Again, I recognize that Khan does a good job, and I am certain that many people have learned a lot from him. I’ve watched one of his lessons on the French Revolution and found it highly informative. But he is exactly what universities strive to produce: a genuinely curious individual who knows how to find good sources (including his access to experts– including professors from MIT and Harvard, presumably– who will drink wine with him as he asks intelligent questions about the topic at hand), has time to ponder and distill relevant information into knowledge, and then share his findings with an audience in an interesting and informative way. No matter what he says about his previous education, someone taught him something very well. But what’s to ensure that the next internet phenomenon will be the same way?

There are already professors who have gone viral because of their teaching. Neither the technology nor the lessons nor the method are new in this story. What IS new is that he is doing it without an advanced degree. That is the real story here.

If you read some of the previous posts, you will find a real desire to make universities fit a more rigid business model and it is this I am objecting to, not the technology per se. Perhaps I am being paranoid, and I certainly hope I am, but what I hear in this is the idea that not only will this technology allow fewer professors to teach more students, but maybe they don’t even have to have advanced degrees.

I am not so paranoid as to think that brick-and-mortar universities are about to disappear. Many universities will continue to use this technology only as a supplement, especially the elite universities. In fact, that may soon be what distinguishes elite univerities from others, much like a solid liberal education does today. I worry that those that are in a hurry to “democratize” society through a more intensive use of this technology may actually be implicitly working to ensure a more stratified society in the future.

27. arrive2__net – June 08, 2010 at 05:05 pm

The article says that one of “higher-education’s most sacred assumptions…[is] … that professional academics make the best teachers”.

Mr. Khan seems to have become a “professional academic” after 14000 minutes of lectures, plus probably 42000 minutes or so of prep time. Never-the-less since there are teachers in K12 classrooms all across America with bachelor degrees who are good teachers, and the military has a lot of effective teachers who have less formal training, so the idea that someone with a bachelor degree or less could teach effectively is not that radical. One-person produced-video is a relatively forgiving format, since you can always do a retake.

The 10 minute lectures are free, so its not like you can demand your money back if the lecture isn’t that great. Mr. Khan seems to have excellent communication skills, so, apparently, he hits the right cords, avoids key omissions, is comprehensible … and has the publicity going. At 10 minutes his lectures are targeted, so students can use them to focus on just what they need to know, and the lectures could be used to bypass reading skill issues. There seems to be plenty of good things about Mr. Kahn’s lectures.

An hour may not be the perfect time for a lecture, but Mr. Kahn is not really covering an hours worth of material. His lectures seem to assume that the student is already somewhat familiar with the material, for example, he doesn’t seem to waste a lot of time showing how to spell the scientific term, or to make sure the student can recognize the term in reading. It is as if there is an assumption that the viewer had read the book already, or had the book sitting open while viewing the lecture. Mr.Kahn’s lectures seem almost like prerecorded peer teaching, like the smartest kid in the dorm is helping you understand “mitosis”.

I agree with those who observe that higher ed is evolving as we speak, students can reduce some of the costs of college by taking courses for credit in high school, CLEP/DANTES tests, other testing programs, and going to community college. Online education, and for-profit higher education are also significant changes for modern education. The growth of the “adult” student is also a fundamental change.

Bernard Schuster

28. bdbailey – June 08, 2010 at 05:10 pm

Princeton 67,

Are you suggesting that this can only have value if it helps the best and brightest. That sounds extremely elitist to me.

29. veritasconsulting57 – June 08, 2010 at 05:19 pm

I congratulate Mr. Khan on continuously challenging us to rethink the system. It is about time that the educational industry began to catch up to other professional institutions. I am still at a loss to the “raising of eyebrows” at his method; after all, he identified a “flaw” in the system and took steps to address them. In addition, should we dismiss his MIT backgound as irrelevant in this invention? No matter which side of the fence you are on, education is all about protecting the status quo and those of us who went through the traditional model have difficulty accepting the Khan Academy as anything worthy of discussuon.

As far as the comment about higher ed fitting a rigid business model, I don’t see the main issue as long as it broadens the competitive field and provide the public OPTIONS in the deliverance of educational services. The Khan Academy has begun to shake the core of education (as we know it), at best it has forced us to ask ourselves some questions about the end objectives of education; at worst, it creates the foundation for another trailblazer to take this work farther.

Folks, I have news for you, education has been behind on so many issues, and we must stop our xenophobic attitudes and stop developing the “chicken little” syndrome. Rather, we need to encourage like minded people such as Mr. Khan to challenge our current thinking in education.

As an educator for over ten years, I applaud moments like these because it allows me to reflect on whether I am part of the solution in education or perhaps the problem. Many of my colleagues continue to teach/profess teaching styles that do not work at all, and disengage students. And here’s the dirty secret colleagues, lecture is the modus operandi because IT IS EASIER and there’s nothing more that soothes one’s ego is to have a room full of wide eyed students soaking every word being delivered (might I add that these lectures could go on for hours?)

Think back to your own college classes, did you feel engaged? If not then why? Any reasonable person KNOWS that lectures are perhaps the WORST ways to retain information, but it still continues because there are more Professor Monotonous’ of the World as opposed to the Khans.

I applaud him for his efforts, but I would at least recommend that he begins to determine whether his services would reach the English Language Learning population as well as the Special Education students.


30. daisyfish – June 08, 2010 at 05:57 pm

Isn’t the point precisely that he does not possess a PhD and is therefore not a “Dr.” (as fun and smart as his blogs might be?) Where would he be without his MIT training by credentialed experts? I must say, I totally agree with the smart posts of “Walrus.”

31. gseverett1 – June 08, 2010 at 07:00 pm

If you’re looking for models of higher education practice, which seems more innovative and more likely to engage students, Mr Khan’s videos or Prof. Michael Sandel’s large lecture course (

32. darkroomjames – June 08, 2010 at 08:20 pm

Darkroomjames June 08,2010 at 8:05pm

My 1976 BA from SUNY Plattsburgh, doesn’t really allow me to post my opinion here, but then thirty years of letters to the editor and speak-out about issues in science and religion is a First Amendment guarantee. My crime is similar to Khan’s: no accreditation in a public free-speech forum that courts opinions. It’s a great improvement on campfire teachings of our forefathers. They who stoop to conquor YouTube broadcasters are obviously attacking Mr. Khan’s credentials with mixed success. Making a successful attack on a good teaching format for free to the public rates Khan as a dangerous philanthropist. Egad, his system might actually become a revolution, sinking millions of careers of dinosaurs. Isn’t that the horror here? Treasures of knowledge for free? What a threat to greedy bastards everywhere? Or is it a model of dysfunction for higher education where enormous errors of fact go unchanged and unchangeable? We already have that in the world’s holy books. (Beware the wrath of Khan? (Sorry about that one!) )

Good luck bringing him down. I’ve realized our culture is about character assassination, not salvation. The philanthropes are losing to the misanthropes.

33. onlineking – June 08, 2010 at 08:23 pm

Online Education is the future for a myriad of reasons. An excellent example of an educational model for the legal profession (though not an actual accredited University) is Solo Practice University. They are getting alot of attention for a lot of reaons. It’s worth checking out to see someone doing it right.

34. tchas1949 – June 08, 2010 at 08:56 pm

Some comments imply these “free” lectures are the death of higher education as we know it, but Mr Kahn’s lectures have never been free! Mr Kahn himself has made a sacrificial commitment to service to pay for these when he could have made more money in the private sector. (Oh wait, that’s just like public school teachers!)

For less than he could make at a “real” job, he creates these lectures and uploads them to the web. Some members of our community have now backed him with charitable funding. On top of this, youTube takes a mint of money to keep it on the web. And the web itself is supported by both public and private funds, or it would cease to exist.

Whether a country school marm, a university professor, or Mr Kahn, someone always pays for the community’s “free” education. I know right-wing nut-jobs get angry about paying left-wing nut-jobs to teach from public tax funds, but education (public or private, face-to-face or online) has NEVER been zero cost.

As for ten minute lectures, faculty in science (my area) already use a 5 to 10 minute rule: Lecture on a concept for 5 to 10 minutes, do an example, have the students work an example problem, do the next concept…. Most of the faculty I know are doing 3 or 4 lectures timed like Mr Kahn’s during a one hour period. (In fact, before I started college in 1967, a preacher had already advised me “The mind can comprehend no more than the seat can endure.”) Whether they do as well as he does is a separate question.

Ever since the invention of books, mail, photographs, slide shows, punched card quizzes, telephones, radio, television, and various computer capabilities up to and including the web, teachers and teaching have absorbed each new technology that could have replaced them and improved the students’ face-to-face experience.

Teachers and face-to-face teaching are still with us for a very simple and basic reason: It works! For the majority of students, for thousands of years, this was and still is the best way for them to learn.

35. tchas1949 – June 08, 2010 at 09:13 pm

re #34: A thousand apologies for misspelling Mr Khan’s name.

36. walrus – June 08, 2010 at 11:35 pm

@veritas: Mr. Khan’s approach is a lecture, and the only “flaw” that he points to is how woefully undervalued and underfunded teaching is in both higher education and our culture at large. His only complaint is that he had bad teachers. If that is true, why? Most people who go to research intensive universities know that research is valued above teaching, and MIT is a prime example of this. That means many of the professors there are probably not stellar teachers, nor are they required to be because that’s not where the money is. What are these professional academics doing with the bulk of their time? Pursuing funding, which means they are in effect selling their professional intellectual services. That’s right: they are pursuing recognition, prestige, and renumeration just like other professionals. As a consequence, their teaching suffers.

Universities are already run too much like businesses and that is exactly the problem I’m getting at here. Mr. Khan does represent a challenge to the “core” of higher education, but not in the way you claim. Again, his approach is as traditional as it can be, only instead of a chalkboard he uses a digital sketchpad, and instead of “a room full of wide eyed students soaking every word being delivered” (even in this scenario the students are paying close attention), his effectiveness is measured by the number of hits his site attracts. At least in a lecture hall one has the opportunity to ask a question.

The challenge he represents is the idea that anyone can decide to be a “professor” and put up lectures on YouTube. It seems we’re supposed to embrace that, or at least regard it as a warning to get our ships in shape.

Why is it that academics are assailed for insisting on knowledge and experience of a field of intellectual inquiry before teaching it at an advanced level? People seem to accept the idea of licensing and bonding of plumbers and other skilled trades without qualm. Same with other professionals like lawyers and doctors. No one seems to have a problem with corporate executives being interviewed to make sure they’re qualified to do the job. But let us academics try to protect the integrity of our profession and we’re called anti-democratic elitists.

@tchas1949: I agree that face-to-face interaction will persist, but I think you’re mistaken to believe that what always has been always will be. The current pressures on universities to cut costs and to get fewer teachers to teach more students is without precedent, as is the pressure for universities to use this technology to satisfy that goal. Elite universities will continue to have the resources to keep these pressures under control, but schools at the mercy of state and local legislatures that want schools to continually do more with less may not fare so well.

Unless we recognize that Mr. Khan’s popularity and success reflects a business culture that fails to properly value education rather than an education culture that fails to properly value business, then it makes some sense to challenge those who claim otherwise.

37. ais23 – June 09, 2010 at 09:06 am

Maybe students who learn from Dr. Khan’s videos will graduate in 4 years or less–(private) educations balloon well over $150K when they seem to linger on forever, as is often the case these days. Free extra education/preparation shouldn’t hurt!

38. ex_lit_prof – June 09, 2010 at 10:16 am

As an ex lit prof who hightailed it from the ivory tower, after two years of teaching, I commend Khan for taking an innovative approach. Overwork, lack of compensation, non-existent job prospects and social isolation are only a few of the reasons why professors in traditional academic settings get burnt out. So it’s time not to stick with the devil we know.

39. rambo – June 09, 2010 at 10:50 am

too many left-wing liberals teaching at the universities here in the U.S. most are not pro-military or even interested in military history. No wonder there are 70% female undergraduates nationwide. the backbone are the plumbers, electricians and the contractors, who are smarter than most left-wing PHDs.

40. veritasconsulting57 – June 09, 2010 at 11:09 am

@walrus: Based on your comments, I am not sure whether you are referring to teachers at the K-12 level or those at the higher education level. While I agree with some of the points that he raises, I give pause to the comment that education is underfunded. Again if you are stating that’s the case at the K-12 level, then I am not sure where you are getting the statistics from; but you could check many school districts’ budget (start with where you live-they are public records), and see the amount of funds that are spent and WHERE. Educators at the K-12 level are historically poor money managers (as far as determining what works and getting rid of what does not work). Thus it is never a fact of education not being funded, but HOW the funds are obligated, and whether said funds are aimed at direct services for students. Thus, I will just assume that Mr. Khan was referring to higher ed and not necessarily the K-12 funding sources, because TRUST ME, there is enough money in education and the public still have faith in the educational system at the the K-12 level, otherwise most school district budgets would not be continuously approved year to year. In addition, many school districts usually receive either discretionary funds and/or formula based grants (such as Title I, II, III, IV, etc.) as well as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act). There are numeorus other funds available to school districts, but if you have a poor money manager at the district level, it is fair to say that the money will be carelessly spent (keep in mind that these funds are also subjected to GAAP and other fiduciary responsibilities). Thus, why should we be surprised if we get the perception that school districts are poorly managed? Very few people are watching the purse because school officials are convinced that they could plead to the public’s emotions and secure a budget approval..after all who would want to deprive the children from funds..thus the carte blanche spending continues.

Higher ed’s funds are a little bit tricky because you have the whole issue of sports, research, private donations… and whether you would be able to allow certain sports to fund certain parts of the university. It is further complicated by these “affinity” programs where credit card companies are essentially given free access to colleges’/alumni names and addresses. I would hate to be the AD or Bursar at some of these institutions because from my knowledge they have to decide between what’s educationally sound and what’s fiscally responsible. In other words, are you making decisions based on the numbers or they are rooted with emotions (which might be spurious)? Since educators are historically trained to make decisions based more on emotions (in pedagogy, it is called affective education), there’s pushback when certain business principles inch their way to our world. It appears that you are anti “business in education,” and that’s very noble, but based on my over 10 years in education, I welcome the rethinking of how we spend tax dollars in education because any other industry would be assailed by the public. Lastly, the whole bank debacle created a stir among the public and many of us were in arms about using public funds to support these colossal banks. Some of us even went to the ceo’s houses to protest. I ask you, why isn’t that done in education? We pump so much money into a system yet no one is held accountable for results? Education at the K-12 level is perhaps the only industry where you could spend a lot of money on a specfic project, get lukewarm results, ask for additional funds, and you are more likely to receive them for the public.

As aforementioned, Mr. Khan’s challenge is worthy of further anlysis, but to comment that education is underfunded is definitely another flawed comment because my experience in education has revealed something that is the anithesis of responsible spending (I must submit to you though that my experience is more in the urban areas of NYC)..


41. mveducator – June 09, 2010 at 12:58 pm

The college experience is valuable, but the least valuable part were the lectures. I learned 80% of the material from peers and textbooks–the textbook companies should also be scared of on-line video + self-paced exercises. This article rightly challenges the primacy of the one-size-fits-all lecture.

There are, of course, good professors and interactive lectures, but these are a minority. The great majority are mind-numbing for everyone involved (included the teacher). I’d also add, that most students are taking notes to keep themselves busy and so they have something to look at when they actually want to be mentally engaged in the subject matter (i.e, the night before the test).

Let’s be real. 95% of students are learning 95% of the material the night before the exam. For those of you confident in the power of the current lectures, administer the final exam by surprise 1-day before the announced exam date and see what the students have learned from the lectures alone (before they spend the night with the textbook and their notes.

42. joelkline – June 09, 2010 at 10:19 pm

A quick scan of comments has many posters calling him “Dr. Khan”. He is person with bachelors degree (from MIT, to be fair). How can you evaluate properly if you cannot read?

This delivery method is great for problems and difficult concepts. But “one-on-one”, as someone described? Seriously? There is absolutely no interaction, no questions, and no learning from classmates. This style has a place in supplementing a classroom space. But a 10 minute lecture on entropy will never substitute for course which uses lecture, lab, and discussion to build critical thinking and problem solving skills by learning the concept of entropy.

Much like the demise of deep reading (Shirky also researches this) if we try to break the holistic process of learning into 10 minute lectures, we lose the important components. A tutor for difficult problems? Yes. The solution to all that ails the academy? Hardly.

43. cybird9 – June 11, 2010 at 06:18 am

Honestly, folks, how can some of you keep validating this nonsense? Not only is Khan singularly unqualified to do anything but be a tutor by accredtation standards, the writer only has a MA in Communications. Neither of them would be qualified to teach at a research institution in any of the subjects he supposedly teaches. Mr. Young, stick to what you know; one year as an adjunct hardly gives you room to pontificate to those of us who have spent years in our disciplines (yes, it does require some discipline to finish the degrees, as well as to demonstrate the capabilities needed for the job). Why do you give credence to somebody who crams for the lecture, spends so little time on the material, and continues to feed the yahoo “5 second attention span” mentality that keeps so many incoming students locked in the grip of incompetency to understand the subject matter by reading and writing about the subject and coming prepared to actually take time digesting it? Instead, because of the instructor’s media manipulation, you slam the time-honored traditions because the student might actually be forced to learn a little bit restraint? When either of these hacks gets their degrees in the subject, then we’ll talk. Young’s failure to qualify his argument and to only get the opinions of donors who think they will “burst the bubble of higher education” is crazy talk by somebody whose hubris will be deconstructed very quickly; it is the same kind of logic used by other con artists, who eventually wind up in jail for their bait and switch rackets. Traditional classroom instruction may have its problems, but to propose that qualified instructors be replaced by somebody only qualified to be a tutor is breathtakingly stupid. If parents didn’t see through that ruse, then they deserve to have their money taken, and I hope that donors like the one who actually sees a future in this hackery will lose their shirts. This article is an insult to every qualified professor, teacher, and college on the planet. As others have pointed out here, this video instruction doesn’t do anything that thousands of such courses online and on video don’t already do, and those spend more time with accredited instructors doing them, with accredited schools endorsing them; they are not diploma mills, nor are they self-anointed and appointed minute Platos. Don’t outsource education to people who don’t care enough about education to do it right.

2 thoughts on “MLE Courses on YouTube–WHY NOT? It’s FREE!

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