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Department of Education to research Khan Academy

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Khan Academy has undoubtedly made a splash in its relatively short life, and with an increasing array of high profile supporters seems only likely to continue doing so.  Earlier this summer, the organization released the findings of a two year study into how effective using the site proved to be for 20 K-12 schools in the US.

Whilst the usage of tools such as Khan Academy is still very much in its infancy, the report revealed a number of interesting findings.  Perhaps most important of all is that 71% of students said they enjoyed using Khan Academy, with 32% revealing that using the videos made them enjoy maths more than previously.

This was reflected in very high engagement figures for students using Khan.  87% of students reported being either moderately or highly engaged, with nearly 1/2 students saying that the videos helped them learn things independently of specific teaching assistance.  This independence was largely achievable due to the instant feedback students would receive on their work.

Whilst the findings were undoubtedly interesting, the fact that Khan Academy produced them casts a wee bit of doubt over the authenticity of them.  This has prompted the US Department of Education to team up with the research agency WestEd to provide an un-partisan exploration of the sites STEM potential.

The study, due to begin in the 2015-2016 academic year, will consist of a randomized control trial, with algebra teachers from a range of community colleges recruited to teach using either Khan Academy or their more usual methods.

The aim of the research is to identify both whether Khan Academy improves student outcomes, and also to identify how that improvement comes about, exploring factors such as teacher preparation, student characteristics and course structure.

Obviously, it will be a little while before the results of the study are made public, during which time it seems likely that there will be further evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, around the effectiveness of the service from other sources.

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