Students Need Better Self-Assessment Tools. Khan Academy Profiles are in the Oven.

Wed, 23 Feb 2011 11:25:00


“You make what you measure” is such a popular belief around the tech community that it’s become something of a status symbol to design and blog about your custom, gorgeous, flat-screen status board that sits in the hallway and shows off your company’s key metrics. The belief is that just by measuring and drawing daily attention to your most important numbers, they’ll start going up. These guys are making a business out of it. Fog Creek has a gorgeous one made by Rob Sobers*.

It’s basically impossible to see a big, beautiful number every single day and not start optimizing it. That’s why we want to know: what data do you want to see daily on your personal Khan Academy dashboard?

Panic’s visualization of critical data vs. the boring old report card.

We need to make better use of this technique in education. The Khan Academy has a ton of data about learners’ performance: which videos they’ve watched, when and how much they watched, how their performance on various math exercises has changed over time, and more. By exposing each Khan Academy user to the best metrics we’ve got, we’ll give them a chance to start optimizing for something other than ‘A+’, ‘A’, and ‘A-‘. I can’t think of a more succinct explanation of the current grade inflation problem than, “You make what you measure.”

That’s why we’re hacking away like crazy on user profiles right now. Every single user will have access to their own personal profile with all types of interesting statistics. Here are some experimental teasers:

Recent progress and achievements earned across specific concepts

Quick glimpse at student’s overall focus

Our challenge, and it’s not an easy one, is to find the data most strongly correlated with real educational progress and expose those numbers to students in an appealing way. Then they’ll do all the hard work. Think stuff like “new concepts attempted, studied with videos, and provably mastered in our exercises.”

We’re gonna start off simple with the few key metrics students and teachers are dying for right now. Bigger plans are on the horizon.

So what data do you want to see on your Khan Academy profile?

*I keep trying to get Rob to open source some of that gorgeous dashboard code. We’d definitely make use of it somewhere.