Lessons for Academic Medicine from the Khan Academy
Nov 5, 2012 1:00 PM
One of the great keynote Innovation speakers at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) annual meeting this year was Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, an on-line free education video library. Khan tells a compelling story. About a decade ago, Khan tutored his cousin remotely (in Texas) in elementary school math, while working a day job as a hedge fund manager. The repetitive nature of the teaching and the rapidly growing demand as word spread led him to record his lessons in videos which he then posted on You Tube. Over time, Khan also developed software that made for interactive learning. For example, students can physically interact with graphs to gain an intuitive feeling about derivatives, in the quest to master calculus.
By 2009, with the widespread popularity of his videos, education became Khan’s all-consuming calling. He quit his job. He raised capital, including capturing the attention and support of Bill Gates. And now he and his 24 some employees have managed to deliver 205 million lessons to at least 43 million distinct individuals. His academy has tutorials in topics ranging from mathematics, science, art history, and more. The testimonials are moving—he’s certainly transformed many, many lives. His impact is felt the world over. His lessons have been translated in languages all over the world including Mongolian, Bengali, and Hebrew.
Khan’s presentation at the AAMC meeting was electrifying. Some questions he challenged the audience with thinking about:
- How do we match great ideas with great capital?
- How can we transform medical education in the way that Khan Academy has transformed general education?
- Presently class time is 95% didactic and 5% interactive. How can we change this for better learning?
- If students can review the material (and repeat viewings as needed) then how best can we use faculty time to advance education?
- What about patient education?