Khan Academy founder: This is a suboptimal situation — I would always pick in-person learning

Reggie Wade
·Writer

Online learning platform Khan Academy has seen a dramatic increase in users during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently 107 million registered users compared to about 79 million at this time last year. Founder and CEO Sal Khan joined Yahoo Finance's "On the Move" to weigh in on the state of school reopenings in the U.S.

"Most of the control and frankly, most of the funding happens at the state and local level. So, it's to some degree, almost a bit of a sideshow. We have about, depending where you live, six to eight weeks until school starts. So the notion that you're going to make some massive change, that people are going to switch schools, all of a sudden with a four or five weeks' notice is unrealistic."

Khan tells Yahoo Finance that he hopes that the school reopening process in the U.S. will be well thought out — however, he does have his concerns.

"Most schools that I've talked to are still meeting with epidemiologists. They haven't even had a chance to really talk about if the kids are six feet apart and they only show up one day a week, and 10% of the kids aren't going to show up anyway, what do we actually do with them to learn?"

The educator says as a nonprofit, Khan academy is focusing on creating materials that students can do at their own pace and has created tools to help supplement traditional education.

In kitchen schoolgirl do homework, focused little African girl wear headphones watch video lesson using laptop app, interested in on-line web virtual class studying from at home, homeschooling concept
In kitchen schoolgirl do homework, focused little African girl wear headphones watch video lesson using laptop app, interested in on-line web virtual class studying from at home, homeschooling concept

"We've been trying to create learning plans and the kind of curricular version so that teachers can in this new world where you're doing asynchronous learning 45 minutes a day, say on Khan Academy, but then you get on Zoom, you get on Google hangout. What do you do at that time? We're trying to give them a perspective." 

Khan says in an ideal world with no pandemic, great technology would be in support of what the teachers could do.

"I'm often the poster child of online learning, but I'll be the first one to say, this is a suboptimal situation. If I had to pick between an amazing in-person teacher and amazing technology for my own children or anyone's child, I would pick the amazing in-person teacher." 

Khan tells Yahoo Finance that the platform is trying to work with educators to figure out how students, teachers, and parents can get the best of both worlds.

"New York City just announced that kids are gonna come one to three days a week, which still means that maybe four days a week, they're going to be at home,” he said.

Asian girl student video conference e-learning with teacher and classmates on computer in living room at home. Homeschooling and distance learning ,online ,education and internet.
Asian girl student video conference e-learning with teacher and classmates on computer in living room at home. Homeschooling and distance learning ,online ,education and internet.

Khan is currently working on a site called Schoolhouse.world. The program matches students who need help online with volunteer tutors.

"We're trying to do what we can to fill up any gap — all the cracks that are in the dam that is clearly forming." 

"There's 10%, 15%, 20% of the population — the most vulnerable folks in our society, who are just falling off the radar. And so you can imagine they might have already been behind. They could lose a year, year and a half, and that's not only lost learning, but it's also lost social services. They might be in troubled homes; they might lose the pattern of the behaviors of school, so this is a really tough situation."

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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