Kahn Academy – an amazing innovation in education

For many of you, this may not be new but I wanted to put up a post on the Kahn Academy. While this isn’t specifically related to medical education, this is enough of a game-changing concept in education that I thought it be great to include on the blog.

Here’s the TED talk video where the founder of the Kahn Academy was met by Bill Gates on the stage afterwards. If you have ANY interest in education – WATCH THIS VIDEO! It’s AWESOME!

The brief story:

Salman Kahn, a Harvard and MIT graduate who worked as a hedge fund analyst, is the founder of this online non-profit education academy. This project started in 2006 after he started posting math tutorials on the youtube for his cousins who lived across the country. Eventually he discovered that his cousins preferred this method and soon hundreds then thousands around the world were also watching these videos. Now he has developed a massive inventory of videos on 100s of subjects with millions of views daily. For a nice summary of his story, then check out the always reliable  wikipedia page!

He advocates a “flipped classroom” approach since students can watch the video at home and then come back to class the next day and do their homework. There are affliated questions with each lecture and students must get 10 in a row before they can progress. But what’s really interesting is this model is a form of “competency-based education”. Something that we’ve started to integrate into medical education. In the video from his TED talk (above) he describes how crazy it is that we allow students to progress through their education knowing only 80% and then expect in next unit (or class) to build on their previous knowledge. Often this includes the 20% they didn’t actually learn. He uses the example of riding a bike: we don’t just learn how to turn right then progress to a unicycle. Instead we should learn how to turn right and left, and how to brake (and probably have a good handle on things) before progressing to a unicycle.

Its strange that in education we’re ok with learning “enough” then moving on. In medicine, we’re beginning to ensure junior doctors gain competent regardless of the time it takes – this differs from the traditional method where doctors complete rotations and progress regardless of how much they learn.

It’s interesting to see how this “competency” model is being adopted not only in the medical education realm but also elementary and high-school education.