There are a lot of practice tests, study guides, and scams on the internet for high schoolers. Some are helpful and others are just plain hurtful. Finding a resource to help your students succeed without sending them toward a commercial can be hard to do. Enter the Khan Academy.
Khan is a not for profit organization that offers online tutoring with videos, practice assignments, and a community to help socially train students in areas they need extra instruction. Each subject is broken into smaller parts that offer a guided lesson format but also allows for free roaming between lessons. There are practice assignments as well as community voted assignments.
This allows for students to take a course, see examples, and practice what they learn. However while most online tutoring classes like this only give instruction–Khan actually has the community help to supply feedback about how you are doing.
Several online groups have attacked the site for being wrong on some questions, or in certain examples, or just don’t like the format. The attacks go so far as making a Mystery Science Theater 3000 parody that actually watches the videos and makes comments on the teaching methods. While some criticism seems more than valid–the enthusiasm in attacking a free resource to help students learn seems unnecessary. It is likely more a fear of change rather than anything the project is doing wrong in my opinion.
The resource itself is easy to use and covers a variety of subjects including; Math, Science, Economics, Arts and humanities, computing, and test preparation. Each section breaks into smaller subsections that explores the topic more fully. Being that I am taking graduate classes in information science I took a look at the Computing.
Under computing there is Programming and Information Theory. Turns out there is a whole class on basically everything that my entry level courses covered. This has made for a great refresher course after a long summer break.
On the programming side they start small with drawing and move up to animations and loop functions. It is nice to have Structure Theorem taught in an approachable way for a self-learner. Most sites like this expect you to go buy the 5,000 page instruction manual as well (because that is how you learned in the ‘90s). This is a much easier way to start out. It gives instructions for someone with a middle school level education (which is perfect for how “experienced” in programming I am).
The down side to the Programming section is that it teaches a Khan specific programming language that while close to C# or Java is just a little different. They give resources for learning those languages (like Code Academy) but do not directly teach them yet.
The great thing about programming in Khan is that you can literally stop the video at anytime and see the code as the teacher is making it. Then you can write the code in the window and save it as an offshoot program that is stored on your profile. I think this feature is great for promoting creativity.
The videos are very helpful, the instruction is a great addition to any other studies you have, and you can’t beat the self pacing. I would suggest any students who need a refresher to take some of these courses. They won’t replace a tutor or classroom teacher but they can certainly help reinforce concepts and ideas for a student.
I give Khan four out of five stars as a learning resource. The resource is likely the best there is for free–however some issues still exist. I think in time this site will become a five out of five.
See more of my thoughts on the resource here: http://www.examiner.com/review/review-of-khan-academy-online-resource
Try it for yourself here: https://www.khanacademy.org/library