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Khan’s Flip: Listen To Lectures At Home, Do Homework In Class

Fans of online learning point out that if students can gain an understanding of key concepts at their own pace, then time spent interacting with the instructor and classmates on the discussion board can be where the real learning occurs.  Further evidence of this comes from an interesting source – Salman Khan of YouTube fame.

Do you know about the Salman Khan Academy?  If not, check it out.  This non-profit offers a free online assortment of short video tutorials on topics ranging from math and science to history and economics.  It has developed a raving fan base among elementary school teachers and homeschoolers, and, increasingly, people who care about the future of education.

As a former hedge fund manager, Khan never expected to gain fame as a visionary leader.  His first foray into teaching was a modest effort to help his cousins with their math homework.   With degrees from MIT in math, engineering and computer science and an MBA from Harvard, he was well equipped to instruct his young relatives but, because they lived thousands of miles apart, he began creating tutorials and posting them on You Tube.  Before long, others discovered the appeal of his easy-to-follow drawings, with voice-over lectures, and a phenomenon was born.

Today, the Khan Academy boasts 2400 online offerings and a sophisticated system for tracking student proficiency within each of these subject areas.  But Khan’s not through.  He has lots more ideas for improving education at all levels and, in March, he shared some of these at a TED Conference. For example, he said that teachers who are using his materials produced an “aha” moment for him; they told him that what used to be homework they are now doing in the classroom.

“It’s not intuitive,” he said, “but by allowing students to follow the lecture at their own pace at home, the teacher can spend classroom time walking about and interacting with students one-on-one.”

Sound familiar? For those of us in continuing education, the lesson is even more pointed.  What our customers are seeking is applied education, the kind that comes from creating engaging, experiential learning opportunities where the instructor and co-learners test their knowledge and ingenuity, and come away with a sense of self confidence in their new abilities.

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