Annie Murphy Paul in Time:
Khan is the former hedge fund manager who set out to tutor his young cousin in math with a homemade video he posted online. From that modest beginning has grown the Khan Academy, a free online library of more than 2,700 videos offering instruction in everything from algebra to computer science to art history. Running the nonprofit academy is now Khan’s full-time job, and he plans to expand the enterprise further, adding more subject areas, more faculty members (until now, all the videos have been narrated by Khan himself) and translating the tutorials into the world’s most widely used languages.
Much attention has been paid to the use of Khan Academy videos in classrooms. Hundreds of schools across the U.S. have integrated his lessons into their curricula, often using them to “flip” the classroom: students watch the videos at home in the evening, then work on problem sets — what would once have been homework — in class, where there are teachers to help and peers to interact with. The approach is promising, and it may well change the way American students are taught.
The real revolution represented by Khan Academy, however, has gone mostly unremarked upon. The new availability of sophisticated knowledge, produced by a trusted source and presented in an accessible fashion, promises to usher in a new golden age of the autodidact: the self-taught man or woman. Not just the Khan Academy, but also the nation’s top colleges and universities are giving away learning online. Khan’s alma mater, MIT, has made more than 2,000 of its courses available gratis on the Internet. Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon are among the other elite institutions offering such free education.