Miranda Haack, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Abstract: This paper outlines the use of Khan Academy in the classroom and how it can be used as a tool to help teachers educate more effectively. Throughout this paper, future educators and educators of today are given information about the positives and negatives of using the Khan Academy website. Educators will also be informed about how students who learn through this method may be learning more efficiently than others.

Keywords: khan academy, learning, teaching tool, positive, feedback, classroom website

Introduction: What is Khan Academy?
If someone were to walk into an elementary, middle, or high school classroom today, there is a chance that they would encounter students working on computers instead of using classic book and pencil methods. One of the many things that students may be using these computers for is an easy-to-use, non-profit website called Khan Academy. This website was created by a man named Salman Khan. It consists of around 3,400 instructional videos to help students learn new content, and provides interactive quizzes and software that teachers can use to track student progress (Noer, 2012). The website was started in order to teach people who wanted to learn new things on their own, but has evolved into a terrific teaching tool (Murphy et al., 2014). Khan Academy offers help in many subjects like math, science, economics, art, and computer science, as well as resources for test prep and teacher learning. This website can be accessed by anyone, so it is a program that can help everyone learn.

Times are changing, and schools should be too. It would be wise for schools to do away with the standard hours of monotonous lecture and the idea that homework is only for at home. It is time for a new way of doing things: one on one time, especially in the classroom. Khan Academy allows for teaching both at home and at school without reducing the need for in-class teachers.

Khan offers assignments by grade level, making it an even better classroom tool. Teachers can assign skills that go along with the topics they are teaching at the time, either as a way to help get the point across or as a way of initially teaching a subject.

How is Khan Academy a good teaching tool?
According to Salman Khan, the old ways of teaching are not as effective as the used to be. Schools can no longer push students together by age group and shove information at them, hoping they all learn at the same pace (Khan, 2012). While grouping students by age is not an aspect of school that must be changed, the way children are taught may need a tune-up.

Some schools use Khan’s teaching videos in such a way that children learn at home by watching the videos, and then class time is spent doing “homework” and assignments (Thompson, 2011, p. 2). By having children learn this way, they are given the opportunity to learn at their own pace. This can give students the opportunity to spend more time on topics they may be struggling with and to breeze through the subjects that they find easy. Khan does not replace in class teaching, but it does allow for struggling students to catch up with difficult topics before they are tested on the subjects. By watching the videos supplied on the Khan Academy website, students can see what they are preparing to learn and gain prior comprehension of the subject before their instructor lectures the class. This shortens lectures and leads to more time for teachers to teach one-on-one with their students. Students who are struggling often need one-on-one help with how to solve the problem instead of repeatedly listening to lectures. Many students need guided learning and Khan helps to make it easier for this type of learning to be used in schools. According to Clive Thompson (2011) “For years, teachers…have complained about the frustration of teaching to the “middle” of the class.” This means that that students who are more advanced get bored during lecture times, and students who do not understand are left in the dust. The use of Khan Academy is the perfect way to change this.

Khan Academy has many positive aspects when considered for use in school. Schools often lack resources for updated software, but Khan can help to solve this problem. As was stated earlier, Khan Academy is a free-to-use program that can be used by anybody. While the website was originally created for people to learn at home and on their own, it also has many tools that make it applicable for use in classrooms. Salman Khan is allowing schools to utilize his program as a method of teaching without charging a dime. This is a very good resource for schools since it is so useful and does not cut into the school budget.

How teachers can use Khan Academy

When using Khan Academy, teachers are able to sign onto the website as “coaches” and from this position they can get very involved in their students’ learning. Teachers can monitor the amount of time their students spend on specific topics, how much time is spent on the website altogether, and what kind of topics with which the students are struggling. By using this option, teachers are able to set goals for their students, and to make sure that students get help with the content that they may be struggling to understand. If an instructor notices that a student spent almost half of his/her time with Khan working on one problem, it may mean that the student needs a little bit of extra help with that specific topic. This allows teachers to help struggling students before they allow themselves to give up on the subject.

On Khan Academy, teachers can filter their students by class in order to make monitoring class work simpler. The separation of classes can also help teachers to motivate their students. Instructors can create competition between the classes, such as comparing the percentages that students in each class have mastered or comparing how many students in each class have completed their assignments. Khan is set up in a way that students practice skills as a way to master them. Teachers can get involved and keep students motivated to learn by offering prizes for student success and for the students who go above and beyond to take control of their learning. Khan makes it easy to award success, which is one of the best ways to keep students engaged and motivated.

What are some negatives of using Khan Academy, and how can they be avoided?

According to Graham R. Parslow (2012), the aspect of Khan Academy that allows people to learn when they want where they want can be negative as well as positive. There have been decades of research about programs like Khan Academy, showing that learning when and where it is convenient does not work. Giving people too much freedom about how they learn is a negative aspect because some students do not have any desire to learn. Khan without guidelines may only work for motivated students. This drawback can easily be reversed by graded learning. On the website, teachers have access to several tools that can help with tracking work and lead to more motivation for students. Khan’s website has many tools for teachers to use to motivate students. Through the website, teachers and families can track the work that students are doing and Khan Academy has a whole section of recommendations of how to use these resources to motivate students. One solution may not work with all students in the classroom but there are many options for instructors to try, meaning most teachers will be able to avoid this “negative.”

Since Khan Academy is an online learning community, it can be used in ways it was not intended for. One risk of using Khan in the classroom is the risk of dishonesty. Students can easily pass their classmates’ work off as their own because handwriting cannot be traced. If teachers grade students on the time spent working online with Khan Academy subjects, there is a risk of the kids claiming to watch a few of the supplied teaching videos, while they are actually letting the video play while they do something else, just so it looks like they are filling their time. Many students are truthful and have a real desire to learn, but others are willing to do the bare minimum or cheat to get by. Teachers are often able to detect cheating, especially during class, meaning this risk is avoidable if teachers pay close attention.

Students of today typically enjoy the integration of technology in their classes and teachers often look for new ways to implement the use of technology in the classroom. Khan Academy has a lot to offer to teachers and students, which can make learning more fun and easy to understand. Like all other teaching tools, it is not for every teacher or student in every school, but this resource is one that could spread out and educate the world.


Khan, S. (2012). The one world schoolhouse: Education reimagined. Twelve.
Murphy, R., Gallagher, L., Krumm, A. E., Mislevy, J., & Hafter, A. (2014). Research on the use of Khan Academy in schools: Research brief.

Noer, M. (2012). One man, one computer, 10 million students: How Khan Academy is reinventing education. Retrieved from: http://www. forbes. com/sites/michaelnoer/2012/11/02/one-man-one-computer-10-million-students-how-khan-academy-is-reinventing-education.

Parslow, G. R. (2012). Commentary: The Khan academy and the day‐night flipped classroom. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, 40(5), 337-338.

Thompson, C. (2011). How Khan Academy is changing the rules of education. Wired Magazine, 126, 1-5.