Khan Academy is a free, non-profit, online learning platform which has been an invaluable resource to students all around the world, since 2008. Unfortunately, over the past few months Khan Academy has begun scaling down, removing a lot of their older courses. But the situation isn’t as grim as you might think!
Back in July of this year, they removed a lot partner courses developed in collaboration with other organizations or educational institutions. These included Math & Science courses in collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences and the Stanford School of Medicine, and Arts & Humanities courses in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History .
Except it’s not just partner courses, Khan Academy has also removed a lot of test prep courses, with MCAT to soon join these retired courses in 2021, only extended due to popular demand.Card
But why now? Why when online education is more crucial than ever, due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic? It’s safe to assume that this might be due to partnership deals expiring, but Khan Academy gives us a more fundamental reason: being out of focus.
Khan Academy is retiring some content that isn’t aligned to our focus on Kindergarten through early college (K-14) core academic courses and select tests.
Over the last few years we’ve been deepening our focus on core academic content and seen usage of that content grow considerably. By retiring content that is outside this focus area, our team will be able to devote more care and energy to maintaining and improving this highly utilized content.
The page goes onto mention how Khan Academy is a relatively small non-profit organization and as such they need to make the most of what little resources they have. Yet the decision to remove these courses isn’t due to hosting costs, so much as maintenance. Khan Academy hosts a good deal of the course videos on their YouTube channels, for no cost. The cost arises from the fact that they feel obligated to respond to comments, to try and answer any questions, to listen to feedback so long as these videos are still up. As such, they have taken this decision to reduce their opportunity cost here by focussing on core topics, which they believe students need more.
Discontinuing online courses is nothing new, big MOOCs such as Udemy and Udacity have also retired a sizable chunk of their earlier courses for similar reasons. At the very least, Khan Academy’s support page offers alternatives for students who might be affected by the removal of a particular course, which is definitely a step in the right direction we should hope more educational platforms to follow.
What is disheartening however, is seeing how these massive online platforms are financially struggling when more students depend on them than ever before. During these past few months serious investments have been made to improve remote education, yet counterintuitively funds are being funneled into accelerating digital transformation for more traditional institutions or to expand the educational services of various companies, instead of supporting these already mature platforms.
Recently the World Bank approved a $160 million loan to Turkey, for the country to be able to improve the infrastructure of their national online education services and accessibility to said services. Education companies who are not primarily focussed on online teaching such as Chegg, a company instead more focussed on textbooks which also just so happens to offer limited online tutoring, have seen their stock value go up significantly. While these investments are bringing genuine improvements in educational infrastructure and extending outreach to more students, it really is a shame that investors and donors aren’t as keen on funding platforms which have already been doing this for the past decade.
If there is a silver lining to this story, it’s that there are people who see the merit in Khan Academy and other such online platforms: students and volunteers. Where schools, teachers, governments and investors still fear to tread, the generation who grew up with MOOCs are starting their own educational platforms.Card
One such second generation project is Kolibri, an NPO which aims to make online resources (such as those from Khan Academy) available offline in regions which don’t have stable access to internet. As a bonus, it doubles as an archive in the event that those courses are no longer accessible online.
So as the saying goes: When one door closes, another opens. And that doesn’t just apply for Khan Academy who have closed one door to open another, but to all of us through available alternatives just waiting to be found out!