Guest Post: Khan Academy wants to help get kids ready for college

Note: Through March 27th I’ll be sharing this Digital/Edu space with some excellent professionals in the area of learning and innovation for one weekly guest post. In addition to bringing new voices and ideas to our readers, this will help me as I finish the first draft of my forthcoming book, The Test, on the past, present and future of testing in public schools, to be published by Public Affairs in 2015. This guest post is from the team at Khan Academy, the nonprofit that combines hundreds of free instructional videos with an adaptive learning platform and has millions of users per month.


Khan Academy’s landing page for new college resources.

Khan Academy’s landing page for new college resources.

At Khan Academy we’re making an increasingly concerted effort to create resources specifically designed to help students who want to go to college.  College hopefuls of all ages have always used us to refresh their math for school.  We recognize, however, that students also need help understanding what math they’re expected to know when they get to campus and the drawbacks of not having those foundations.

There is a big issue facing today’s college hopefuls. The gaps they have accumulated in their math knowledge over the course of K-12 often get in the way of a successful transition.  Two out of every three students are not prepared for college-level math courses. These students end up having to take extra math courses, which means extra student loans and a longer path to graduation.  For many this extra cost and delay becomes an insurmountable barrier.  Low graduation rates in the US reflect this, with as few as 46% of students who start college actually obtain a college degree.  The tough part in all of this is that students who aren’t able to graduate are locked out of a lot of today’s most exciting careers.


Two out of every three students are not prepared for college-level math courses. 

Given our mission to provide a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere, we’ve been hard at work creating new resources to make it easier for students to find and fix gaps in the math they need for college. So, when the White House called to invite Khan Academy to help students in Higher Ed reach their potential, we were really excited. We had already been creating new college prep materials, and saw the opportunity to make an even bigger impact by joining forces.

At the White House’s Expanding College Opportunity summit on January 16th, we had the opportunity to connect with many leaders in Higher Ed to share ideas and coordinate our efforts to help student success. Sal announced the launch of our college prep initiative, which you can check out here. We’re building up resources for this new section of our site to provide college study aids that will help students prepare for math placement tests and courses this Summer.

Educational technology is at the point today where personalized learning and individual instruction are actually feasible practically and financially. Gaps in knowledge are personal, and so is fixing them. One student might have moved school districts and missed geometry, while another was out sick the week they covered exponents.   In the past we’ve needed to move students through curriculum as a group because it’s difficult to know each student’s individual learning needs.  On Khan Academy, we’re capturing student progress in real time.  Faculty and students alike get immediate and granular feedback on where they are struggling and where they’re moving ahead.  Online resources like this are allowing educators to create courses where students move through materials at their own pace, they can skip the modules they know and work only on what they need to review.  It’s literally changing what’s possible.

Already, Khan Academy’s free resources are helping college hopefuls. Our team hears stories every day about students at every age using us to get ready to go to college.  We were particularly inspired by this young man, whose story was captured on the Humans of New York blog.


Moawia Eldeeb, student at Columbia University, as pictured on Humans of New York blog.

Moawia Eldeeb, student at Columbia University, as pictured on Humans of New York blog.

“I was born in Egypt…The first time I went to an actual school was middle school, but the whole school was in one classroom, and I was working as a delivery boy to help the family. It was illegal for me to be working that young, but I did. When I finally got into high school, my house burned down. We moved into a Red Cross Shelter, and the only way we could live there is if we all worked as volunteers. I got through high school by watching every single video on Khan Academy, and teaching myself everything that I had missed during the last nine years. Eventually I got into Queens College. I went there for two years and I just now transferred to Columbia on a scholarship.”

We would find our efforts well worth it just to impact one student’s life. But what’s incredibly motivating for our team is that we hear of stories like his every single day.

The new student resource center on Khan will be launching soon and building up over the spring.  But students can get started with our college prep resources today.

To check out more information on the White House’s Expanding College Opportunity initiative, click here.


POSTED BY Anya Kamenetz ON February 6, 2014

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