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Khan Academy MCAT competition

Post from Rishi Desai, MD, MPH, Khan Academy Medical Partnerships Lead

The MCAT stands for the Medical College Admissions Test, and it is one of the key milestones on the road to medical school in the US.  For decades, it has been largely unchanged, but in less than a year, the MCAT is getting a make-over.  The 2015 MCAT will include new content in areas like psychology and sociology, and that means that thousands of students looking to become future physicians will be looking for ways to get ready.

One year ago, in order to help students prepare for this important test, Khan Academy partnered up with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Association of American Medical Colleges, to put together videos and questions for the MCAT.  So far, we have generated 400 videos and 500 passage based questions with about 2 million videos watched and 1 million problems solved over the past few months, and new content being made available each week.

Our goal is to generate even more useful MCAT content, and we’re doing that by launching two new competitions – one for talented video-based educators and a second for fantastic question and article writers.  We are going to invite competition winners to participate in free training sessions, in order to bring together a focused group of individuals that can learn and share with one another. Thereafter, winners may be invited to become Khan Academy Fellows to work with Khan Academy on developing the next generation of pre-health and medical education content!

Taking a step back, our goal for creating MCAT content goes well beyond getting students ready for one test on one day.  These resources are aimed at helping students understand the foundational concepts of science as they relate to health and medicine.  Once they are made available, anyone curious to learn more about how muscles contract or how our mind performs complex tasks, can reach for one of these tutorials.

Our goal is to generate world-class content for anyone, anywhere, and we want to get your help to make this possible!  So if you’re interested in making videos, creating questions, or writing articles, be sure to submit your content to us by June 13, 2014.  Have fun!

MCAT competition video:


SRI International’s research report shows positive findings

While Khan Academy’s original focus was on helping individuals learn on their own, in recent years we’ve also worked closely with teachers to understand how we can support their instruction. Over the past two school years, we collaborated with a number of schools and with SRI International to study various types of classroom use and the effects of different implementation approaches on teaching and learning.

We’re excited to see the results of SRI International’s study for the school years 2011-2013, which was published today. While we recognize that we are still in the very early days of this journey, we’re really encouraged by some of the key findings:

  • - Positive association between Khan Academy use and some important outcomes:
              -  Improvements in student test scores
              -  Improvements in several non-cognitive measures such as students’ math anxiety and belief in their ability to succeed academically
              -  Teachers reported that integrating Khan Academy into their instruction increased their ability to support their students in a number of areas
  • - Students’ perceptions of Khan Academy were very positive, and their engagement during Khan Academy sessions was high
  • - Students felt that using Khan Academy encouraged greater independence in learning

This also reinforces a lot of what we hear from our users.

Another big goal of our work with SRI and the schools in the study was to understand how we could improve the learning experience for our users. Our close collaboration with schools has been a major driver for many substantial and important changes to Khan Academy, including the personalized dashboard, grade-level missions and tutorials, more comprehensive Math content, and coach reporting.  

We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with SRI and our partner schools on this project as we innovate and improve to help our millions of learners all over the world!

SRI’s reports can be found on their website at the link below:



The NCLEX-RN Camp Begins!

Post from Kyle Slinn, RN - Khan Academy Nursing Fellow

The winners from the NCLEX-RN competition are in the San Francisco Bay area this week participating in a training camp hosted by Khan Academy! They’re here to work with each other, and with Dr. Rishi Desai and me on improving their video making and question writing skills.

This training camp is no walk in the park though. We’re keeping them busy this week with a packed schedule. We began the training camp Monday at 7:00am and started out with some communication games and activities. After breakfast and a short online meeting with Karen Kesten from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the winners spent a few hours discussing video editing and NCLEX-RN style question writing best practices. For videos, we broke down the qualities of a good video into 6 fundamental pillars: Content objectivity and accuracy, voice presentation, visual presentation, audience engagement, video pacing, and technical clarity/issues.

Next we analyzed video clips! We chose some from Bill Nye The Science Guy episodes and selected some from existing Khan Academy videos to tease out what works well. Seeing a great teacher break down a complex concept into easy to understand explanations, is a thing of beauty. This was a lot of fun and prompted great discussion.

After a quick break we made ourselves lunch and broke up into two groups where the winners gave one another feedback on the videos they had created themselves. It was so great to see everyone working together and providing such great constructive criticism and ideas. For example one person thought that it would be useful to draw the heart on its side to get a better view of the blood vessels coming off of it. Another person wanted to get ideas for a helpful analogy to explain the coagulation cascade. In terms of feedback, the most common concerns were related to presentation style - an area that we will be focusing on over the week.

After lunch everyone worked on their videos and questions, trying to incorporate the feedback they had received. Rishi and I met with the winners individually to give feedback on the videos, and questions, and then we finally finished off the night with Thai takeout and casual conversation.

It was a busy first day, and a prelude to the week ahead. The neat thing is that you can already see the creative juices flowing, and the friendships beginning to build. Last summer we held a similar training camp for our MCAT winners and you can see all the content they’ve made here!


Let’s level the playing field for SAT prep


From founder Sal Khan:

I’m excited to share some very important news: The College Board just announced that they’re redesigning the SAT for 2016, and we’re partnering with them to make free, world-class prep materials. Our goal is nothing short of leveling the playing field, and we intend, with the deep expertise of the College Board behind us, to make the very best preparation for the SAT. This will be far more than just videos; it will be sophisticated, interactive software to give students deep practice and diagnose their gaps.

This means that for the first time ever, all students who want to go to college can prepare for the SAT at their own pace, at absolutely no cost. Unlike other test prep, the resources on Khan Academy will be developed through a close collaboration with the authors of the SAT themselves. With this partnership, our goal is to ensure that students have a deep grasp of underlying fundamentals so they can succeed on the SAT, in college, and beyond.   

I recently chatted with David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, about why they redesigned the SAT and decided to work with Khan Academy to make prep materials open and free. Check out our conversation and other information about the partnership: www.khanacademy.org/sat.

What does this mean? By spring 2015, you’ll have access to state-of-the-art learning tools—exercises, software diagnostics and videos—designed by Khan Academy and College Board specifically for the redesigned SAT. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you are taking the SAT in 2014/15, you can start practicing today with hundreds of unreleased Math, Reading, and Writing questions from real SATs and more than 200 videos that show step-by-step solutions to each question.



Understanding the U.S. health care system on Khan Academy

One hundred years ago, a patient paid a doctor when they wanted medical help. Since then, things have gotten more complicated in the US, and understanding the nuances of the health care system can be difficult (to put it mildly!). At one time or another, patients/families with medical bills, policy makers trying to figure out how to reduce costs, and small business owners looking to purchase a health care plan for a new employee - have all had to grapple with these complexities. In fact, even those within the system – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and dentists – struggle at times.

This is precisely why we are excited about The Brookings Institution - Khan Academy partnership, which launched last week. The Brookings Institution has world-class experts that have a solid understanding of how the US health care system works. Dr. Darshak Sanghavi is one such expert - a fellow at The Brookings Institution with a clinical background in pediatric cardiology. Dr. Sanghavi has worked hard to build an engaging tutorial that covers key topics like Medicare/Medicaid, the uninsured population, and medical billing. In fact, a terrific introduction to the U.S. health care system can be found here.

Going forward, The Brookings Institution will continue to generate excellent tutorials, which will be made available on Khan Academy, so check back frequently. The goal is to offer a free, high-quality learning experience about health care that everyone can benefit from!

Introduction to the U.S. health care system: