Since December 2015, when Salman Khan, or Sal Khan, the founder of US-based e-learning website Khan Academy, came to India and launched the Hindi version of the website, Khan Academy India (KAI) has come a long way. Founded by Khan Academy and Tata Trusts, KAI has been making Khan Academy’s free learning resources available to millions of learners in India. Today, it provides interactive educational content primarily in English, Hindi and soon bilingual Hindi/English. “We provide teachers with tools and data so they can help their students succeed and enable them to learn at their own pace on their own time. Our resources cover mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, history, economics, finance, grammar, pre-school learning, SAT preparation and more,” says Sandeep Bapna, country manager, KAI. He is ably supported by his 10-odd member team chosen from various walks of life (see table).
Interestingly, KAI doesn’t have a conventional office in India – the team sits at the Awfis co-working space in Connaught Place in New Delhi. “It keeps costs low, and we are able to focus on the job, rather than office-related logistics,” he says. A few days ago, the government of Karnataka partnered with Khan Academy to make available educational content, including videos, exercises, articles and teacher tools, in Kannada language. Under this
partnership, Karnataka’s Department of State Education Research & Training (DSERT) will create Kannada content that includes 5,500-plus videos and 20,000-plus exercises in mathematics and science, as well as dashboards. “These resources would be mapped to the state curriculum. The
effort could expand to include more subjects in the future,” DSERT noted.
KAI will provide the state with training, know-how and support. “As a first step, we will assist the state government to run a talent search programme to identify experts for content localisation. Also, a series of trainings and workshops will be conducted for the content team for translation, curriculum mapping, quality control and other technological requirements,” Bapna said. The content, once created, will be hosted on the state’s data centre/portal, on Khan Academy’s Kannada platform and on mobile apps. That’s where the advantages of open educational resources (OER) start to show. Because Khan Academy is an OER, all the content that would be created through this exercise will be available to anyone for free.
Bapna says that on this year’s Teachers’ Day, KAI had released a slew of features that make it more personalised, more useful in class and “cooler than ever.” For example, as far as personalisation is concerned, KAI has mapped the mathematics and physics content on the platform to Indian curriculum. “You can now see the content in chapters according to the textbooks you use at school,” Bapna says. Also, signing up on Khan Academy
has been made easier. “It registers information on your focus subjects so that your experience on the platform is more personalised. The coach dashboard has been redesigned for easier use and centres around the classes that teachers set up on Khan Academy,” he adds.
Another new feature is that teachers can now assign videos, articles and exercises across a range of subjects and grades. They can make these assignments to an entire class or to specific students. Students, in turn, can complete these assignments both on their Khan Academy homepage and on Khan Academy app. Bapna says this feature makes teachers closer to students and more involved in the teaching process. “As students complete assignments, teachers get completion reports that let them see the status for their whole class and for each of their students in detail.”Further, the reports are not only real-time and simple-to-use, but also help a teacher assess their students’ performance. “These reports make it possible for a teacher to identify the most challenging problems for their class and the learning gaps/needs of individual students.”
There are testimonials, too. For example, Abhishek Kumar, a mathematics teacher at City Montessori Schools, Lucknow, says, “The new coach features on Khan Academy help me understand the learning needs of my students. I am using these for mathematics classes and to help my students
prepare exams such as SAT. It is particularly useful for me to see which levels are my students at right now and where they need to improve.”
Bapna says that Khan Academy is making use of gamified mechanics for practice that strengthen learning. “Students are required to get 70% or better on a set of problems to reach a ‘practised’ level on the relevant skill. They are encouraged to try again to increase their performance to 100%, and their best performance is reflected in their assignment report.”
Lastly, quizzes have been introduced – the unit pages now include quizzes and unit tests to provide students with personalised study plans. “When students take a brief diagnostic quiz, they are provided with recommendations for the specific exercises they should focus on. For example, mid-unit quizzes provide a check for understanding on additional skills, and a final unit test combines problems from all skills within the unit to help students assess their progress,” Bapna adds. For KAI and team, this is just the beginning. The goal is to become learning companion to millions of more Indian students. “We are almost fully there in mathematics. Now we’re looking at science, and over three years the goal is to cover all the core subjects.”