Khan Academy

A personalized learning resource for all ages. For free. For everyone. Forever.

Sunday 11 June 2017, by Mitch Bouwer

3 inspired

A. The main facts about the activities of the company.

Khan Academy is a non-profit free online education platform and organization. It was founded in 2006 by former hedge fund analyst Salman Khan. As the founder states in the website of the organization: “Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom.”

The establishment of the biggest online educational platform was rather sporadic. Following increased popularity for video tutorials Salman had made for his cousins, he saw an opportunity to enhance social benefit and opted to offer more videos on different topics. Ultimately, what started off as a family favour, transformed into a complex non-profit organization offering educational videos on math, science, history, economics, art history, computer programming and all the other major courses offered at elementary, middle and high school level as well as some more advanced tertiary education concepts.

Following years of positive social impact and growth, numerous tech and business giants sought to aid in this conquest for new education, including Google and Microsoft. The step towards a more interactive, non-one-size-fits-all approach that Khan Academy has opted to foster has benefitted an infinite amount of students and helped in perfecting others. Salman Khan has been a powerful advocate towards realizing the limitations that our (western) current education system has and seeks to find a new solution to these problems with the development and further expansion of Khan Academy. Nevertheless, he keenly underlines that although the videos are indeed valuable, he would never say they somehow constitute a complete education." What Khan Academy is, is a technological supplement to in-class learning, which attempts to personalize the classroom.

B. The Ethical challenges this company is addressing.

Other than assessing the current problems in the educational system, Khan Academy has been providing all its users with more than 6500 free educational videos. This has thus allowed students who were left behind in the classroom, homeschoolers and any other individual who was genuinely interested in enhancing their knowledge, to watch, repeat and learn from the extensive and professional lectures available on Khan Academy’s website.

Furthermore, they provide tools for parents, teachers and life coaches to empower them in order to get a better overall understanding of what a child needs and desires from its educational upbringing. Hence, alongside the cooperation with private and public schools in the US, this has allowed Khan Academy to partake physically in societal development and improve educational and scholar nurture.

Moreover, with the help of philanthropic organizations and donors, the educational platform was able to expand not only content wise, but also from a language perspective. This ensured that even more students and educationally keen people could be reached and the beneficial societal impact could be enhanced.

Ultimately, Khan Academy as a non-profit organization who solely relies on donations to operate, has been able to assess critical ethical and societal issues in our world today and has been a big player in the new development of teaching in our system. The growing popularity shows how current methods do not meet what is needed by students and children and thus, this could be an initial signal for complete educational transformation in the future, pioneered by Salman Khan.

C. What makes you believe this company is really ethical and why you trust it?

The reason for what we think that this company behaves ethically rests on certain measures they take. The first credible commitment to ethical practices that Khan Academy does is assess its success rate. Lately they checked that if a student uses 60% of the content of Khan academy in the math subject along with his or her study material, their expected improvement in the NWEA MAP Test, a popular assessment test in the US for math, improves with 1.8 times the normal expected growth rate. This improvement was measured over 10500 students and also other standardized tests in the US show similar results if Khan academy is used.

Also a clear measure of usage and commitment to improve their system increases our faith in the belief that this company behaves ethically. They want to receive a lot of feedback from the users and additionally measure if people see the value of the system. They evaluate how many students of certain universities use Khan Academy. On Stanford for example a sample of 504 students managed to indicate that 65% used Khan Academy and this number is only slightly lower for universities like Harvard and Princeton. As a measure to improve the system they effectively screen the people who contribute the content to the platform and these persons are overall experts or interns that studied on US universities and have a certain knowledge base that contributes to the quality of the courses provided. If they would not behave ethically we think they would not control that strictly and they would also not effectively control if their mission is carried out this extensively.

The last measure they take that is credibly in favour of an ethical business is the manner in which they treat their employees. Although they do not aim at achieving profit, they do in fact care a lot about their employees. It is not the case that they need to have big pay checks but they want to pay their employees favourable salaries, flexible working hours, enough time to relax, and good medical insurances just so that they feel valued to contribute to Khan Academy’s mission which is to provide good quality education worldwide for free. This mission is also persuading a lot of executives out of tech companies to join Khan Academy to give something back to society and companies, like Google and Bank of America, to donate a large amount of money, talking about millions, to improve the organization. If an organization solely survives on donations it is also an indication for us that these people try to genuinely help people if they disclose this much information and have this much impact on societies worldwide. All these measures indicate to us that they behave ethically and along with the economic value they provide to their employees we think that this organization is a good example of an organization that both improves economical values along with ethical values.

D.The possible challenges facing the company in the future and how you think this company may improve.

One of the challenges faced by the Khan Academy, is the limited access to its videos and tutorials. In some areas in the world there are a lot of people that do not have access to internet. Since the Khan Academy aims at providing free education everywhere, especially these people should get education to be able to change their life for the better. A collaboration with other not-for-profit organizations introduced the spreading of snapshots of the tutorials in areas where there is no internet connection and new ways of spreading should follow.

A related problem is the language barrier that arises when people who want to learn do not speak English. Since all the videos are in English the Khan Academy can reach a lot of people, more than in any other language, but it still reaches people from non-English speaking countries that are already educated. To solve this issue, the Khan Academy already translates the text in other languages but could work on the choice of languages to complete the offering. In the end, the Khan Academy is in the favourable position to have users that are really motivated to learn since they watch the tutorials out of their own incitement. With this in mind, the Khan Academy should use new technological innovations like virtual reality for example to even create a real classroom one day, and furthermore to improve the offering of subjects while keep on trying to reach more and more people around the world.

Bibliography

https://www.khanacademy.org/about/impact
https://www.wired.com/2012/06/khan-academy/

Location: Mountain View (United States of America)

Sector: Education

Official website: https://www.khanacademy.org/

Key figures:

Number of employees: 80
Countries of operations: worldwide
Profit: None
Use donations made by large organizations like Bank of America and Google.
Non-profit organization.

Nbr. visits: 37

Nbr. inspires: 3