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Khan Academy Adds Automated Tutoring Service

Khan Academy, the site that features free educational videos and resources for use by anybody, has just added a personal tutor capability that helps students figure out where to start their lessons and to know when they truly understand the concepts.

The "learning flow," as it's referred to by Founder Sal Khan in a video about the new functionality, is currently available for math; additional subjects will be added "soon."

 

The development of learning flow, according to Khan, grew out of feedback from Academy students who "didn't know where to start. They didn't know what level was appropriate for them."

Once a student has set up a free account in the service and logged into a personal homepage, he or she will see a "mission," a condensed knowledge map that shows a box with tiny tiles in it, each tile representing a new skill to be learned. For example, the "world of math" mission includes 482 boxes. They start out gray. As the student shows understanding, the tiles begin to be filled in blue; the deeper the blue, the more the student has proved understanding of that skill.

Eventually, missions will be offered that align to grade level, preparing for a test, or performing some type of project. They'll also be offered for other subjects besides math.

To use the learning flow, the student starts with a pre-test that's adaptive. As he or she answers questions or chooses "I haven't learned this yet," software in the background performs an on-going analysis and presents easier or harder questions as the test progresses.

Immediately after the pre-test the mission diagram begins to get filled in. As the student hovers over each tile, it'll say what the skill is and what level the learner is at. Then the service will recommend what the next topic of instruction should be. The same process happens over again. A small quiz is presented with a handful of questions. When a concept confuses the user, he or she can view a video available right on the same page that explains the topic. When the student answers a certain number of questions in a row correct, the system brings up the next topic of learning.

The program also includes "mastery challenges," which allow students to show how well they can recall and apply what they've learned in a mixed group of questions that cross multiple skills.

"Learning flow really makes sure you know where to start, and not only that are you learning new things, but you have the opportunity to review those things and that you know when to use those things when faced with a whole mix of problems," said Khan.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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