In April, we featured Khan Academy, the not-for-profit organization with the ambitious goal of providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.
While Khan Academy is a great resource – providing a wealth of lessons, each broken down into accessible, easy-to-digest parts – recent discussion suggests that it should be approached with a degree of caution.
For example, Dr. Drang points to a Khan video on the behaviour of springs and Hooke’s law which, he asserts, presents material in a way which is at best inattentive and at worst completely wrong. He concludes that not only does this result in the student receiving incorrect information, there is the added pedagogical consequence of that student having to now unlearn that information. Unlearning may be a minor point, amounting to a small change in approach or understanding, or it could amount to a fundamental shift, somewhere down the road, in how one approaches a concept or idea.
For this reason, perhaps Khan Academy should be treated not (in a perfect world, anyway) as a substitute for the university experience – for attending class, for having immediate and ongoing access to the expertise and wisdom of your instructor, and the open and engaging environment provided by the classroom – but rather as a supplement to this experience, acting both as an alternate means of learning and a counterbalance to what is being taught in the classroom, thereby provoking the student to question how the lecture content is being presented and why.
With this in mind, there is certainly no shortage of open courseware available, from MIT to Tufts University to Capilano University and Oxford, and many more.
Had some success with Khan Academy or other open courseware resources? Let us know in the comments.