The Impact of Open Source

Background on Khan Academy

For the next assignment for my Distance Learning course, I need to review an open source educational website. We have to look at the site from the critical eye of whether it appears to meet the guidelines of a good distance learning site according to our course text.

I have chosen to review Khan Academy, a site started and run by Salman Khan. Khan Academy has over 2,000 videos with exercises for about 100 of those videos. More content is being added all the time. On each video page, learners can post comments or ask questions. The questions get answered by other learning members of the community or volunteers.

An excellent feature of the site appears in a learner’s profile. The learner can view statistics such as number of video minutes or exercise minutes watched, number of videos completed, and total energy points, which appear to be a measure of how much a student is doing and how well they are doing on the exercises. There are also badges a student can earn for completing certain achievements such as achieving proficiency in a certain number of exercises or earning a certain number of energy points.

Review of Khan Academy

The courses appear to be well planned. Large subjects are separated into several courses such as Aritmetic 1, 2, 3, and 4. Each video is kept short to accommodate the attention span of a distance learner. The videos I watched were focused and stayed on topic.

The Comments and Q&A sections of each course’s page offer some means of interaction and feedback. One of Bates’ golden rules for the use of technology in education is that interaction is essential (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek, 2009). Khan Academy does not provide enough essential interaction. The learner is not linked to a teacher or facilitator. Students are not placed in classes so they have no specific colleagues to interact with. Also, a learner is not forced to participate in these sections to complete the lesson. To stimulate interaction, possibly the site could award badges for the number of comments or correctly answered questions in the Q&A section.

As for activities, only 100 of 2,000 courses have exercises. The number of exercises is increasing, but right now there are not enough activities for student to practice with. Learning activities need to exist so learners can practice and evaluate their understanding of the course materials (Simonson, et al, 2009).

The site has a clear interface and it is very easy for a distance learner to find the materials they want. All of the courses are listed on a single page so a learner could use the Find functionality of their web browser to search for a keyword. There is also a search function in the upper right of the home page to help learners located a course. To log in to the site, learners can use their Google or Facebook information so they do not need to register or create a new user name and password combination. The course pages are also simple as the courses are displayed in the familiar YouTube interface.

Conclusion

The Khan Academy website is an amazing collection of learning modules that helps students around the globe understand mathematical and scientific topics. The site is easy to navigate and the videos are well structured into reasonable size clips. The site is lacking an effective method for interaction and more exercises are needed. The Khan Academy is a promising example of an open source education website.

References

Khan Academy. http://www.khanacademy.org.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

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