Khan Academy Receives $5 Million to Accelerate the Reinvention of Education

-- Funding will quintuple faculty, enable crowd-sourced contributions, and develop curricula for physical environments --

Nov 04, 2011, 08:53 ET from O'Sullivan Foundation and Khan Academy

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. and KINSALE, Ireland, Nov. 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The O'Sullivan Foundation today announced a grant of $5 million to the Khan Academy to accelerate the development and deployment of the non-profit's revolutionary approach to education, which has already been adopted by forward-thinking public and private schools throughout California and the United States.

Khan Academy, which began as one man's effort to tutor his young cousin in math over the Internet via YouTube, has rapidly grown into a mass movement which is used by millions of students monthly, in a range of subjects from math and science to the humanities.

The O'Sullivan Foundation's support will be used to lay the foundation for three major initiatives:
- growing the faculty of the Khan Academy;
- extending the content to include crowd-sourced contributions; and
- developing curricula for a blended physical and virtual academic experience.

"Some of these initiatives will take years to develop and perfect," said Shantanu Sinha, President of the Khan Academy, "but with this support from the O'Sullivan Foundation, we start today to turn these dreams into reality."

Growing the Faculty

Until now, Salman Khan has been the singular voice and trusted teacher whose free lessons have been viewed more than 82 million times on YouTube. The remarkable success of the Khan Academy is due in large part to the friendly, somewhat irreverent and humorous voice of this multi-talented teacher, whose lessons on math and science, in particular, have enlightened millions.

"Some have wondered if it was the intent of the Khan Academy to have all these lessons to be written and performed by me," said Salman Khan, founder and head of faculty of the Khan Academy. "The answer is a resounding no. We're simply looking for unique voices that get traction and engage with students. As we expand our faculty, we'll enable more teachers to share their enthusiasm with kids everywhere."

One use of the grant from the O'Sullivan Foundation will be to expand Khan Academy's faculty from one lesson producer to at least five full-time-equivalent teachers, extending the range of subjects taught from primary STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) to the arts and humanities.

Already, the grant has been used to appoint Dr. Steven Zucker and Dr. Beth Harris to produce content on art, history, and the humanities. Dr. Zucker was formerly Chair of Art and Design History at Pratt Institute. Dr. Harris was Director of Digital Learning at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Their videos are now available at

Extending Khan Academy to support Crowd-Sourced, Open Educational Content

A second use of the O'Sullivan Foundation grant will be to develop, over the next few years, a crowd-sourced content management and curation system for the Khan Academy.

"There are millions of teachers working in not-for-profit institutions all over the world," said Sean O'Sullivan of the O'Sullivan Foundation. "Many of these dedicated professionals would love to share their enthusiasm for knowledge with students outside the institutions in which they currently teach."

Much as Wikipedia draws its content from a large number of volunteer professionals, the curated content system for Khan Academy will look to provide a similar outlet for dedicated professionals to develop quality instructional content. This will enable Khan Academy's tools and analytics to be leveraged by a much broader pool of educators than the relatively small number who will be directly employed by the Khan Academy.

Creating a Testbed for the School of the Future

The third use of the O'Sullivan Foundation grant will be in the development of a testbed for physical programs and K-12 curricula. Both the Khan Academy and the O'Sullivan Foundation feel strongly that online learning is only part of a complete education. The real-world testbed will make projects, simulations and explorations that create a fully compelling blended learning experience between the virtual and physical worlds.

"When I spoke to teachers, administrators, and students who use the Khan Academy system for STEM learning, I was blown away," said O'Sullivan. "The facts on the ground show that engaged students can absorb and master material much more rapidly than we had previously thought possible. Below average students become above average, and average students can become exceptional. We cannot delay in implementing these systems for our children, for our economy, and for our society."

The first iteration of the Khan Academy physical school will be run as a series of summer school camps starting in June 2012 in Northern California. Silicon Valley residents interested in getting more information can sign up at The camp will be a testing ground for curricula that will, over time, develop into a complete academic experience and serve as a model for real-world schools worldwide.

"The school of the future will not resemble the school of today," said Salman Khan. "In the past, the assembly-line, lecture-homework-exam model existed because that's what was possible in the no-tech and low-tech classrooms of their day."

The Khan Academy model allows teachers to discover which students are struggling with which concepts, and allows students to repeat sections of videos or online tests until they master the material. One of the goals is to re-engage students, some with significant gaps in their knowledge, who have previously felt lost and disengaged.

"We can now build a new reality, using today's technologies, where learning is custom-tailored and collaborative, bite-sized and iterative," said Salman Khan. "When students learn at their own pace, and become more self-directed, they remain engaged. This helps teachers build strong foundations, so that even students that are labeled as 'slow or remedial' become advanced in a matter of months."

The Khan Academy

The Khan Academy is a 501(c)(3) non-profit with the mission of providing a world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Over 3.5 million unique users monthly have watched over 80 million videos and completed over 200 million exercises covering subjects from basic math to college level biology and chemistry.

The O'Sullivan Foundation

The O'Sullivan Foundation looks to enable progress on open source and entrepreneurial platforms that create new, disruptively progressive models for the planet. Founded by Sean O'Sullivan, co-founder and managing director of Avego, co-creator of the term "cloud computing", and co-inventor of street mapping on personal computers, the O'Sullivan Foundation gives millions of dollars annually to support targeted causes around the world.

SOURCE O'Sullivan Foundation and Khan Academy