Khan Academy, a U.S.-based online learning company, has seen a 322 per cent increase in Canadians using its platform, far beyond the growth it has seen globally. And as Ontario tries to shift learning online for different grades levels, Khan Academy has said it is willing to work with the government to help craft learning solutions. Ontario has closed schools until at least May 4.
Sal Khan said in an interview that the non-profit is in initial talks with districts in the U.S. and governments globally, and noted Canada has not approached them yet.
“The simple answer is yes. We have had early conversations with various levels of government. A few international as well,” he said. “School closings happen really at the spur of a moment. We did an informal survey of our teachers on Khan Academy and half of their districts have absolutely zero plans. It might have been okay if this was viewed as an extended spring break, but it’s not.”
A Khan Academy spokesperson said in an email that this week alone Canadians spent about 19 million “learning minutes” on the e-learning platform, a 322 per cent increase from the 4.5 million learning minutes spent during the same period a year ago.
The spokesperson also indicated that globally they’ve seen five to six times growth in registrations but in Canada, those numbers are “jaw-dropping.”
“Over the last week alone we’ve had close to 100,000 registrations, where this time last year we had around 5,000,” the spokesperson said, adding that last week they had 15,000 parent registrations.
Khan said globally students spent 30 million learning minutes per day on the non-profit’s website before the pandemic. He said that number is now close to 90 million learning minutes per day.
Khan Academy offers educational materials free of cost to students, parents, and teachers globally.
In Ontario, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the plan for students will have standards for different grade levels and, where it is applicable, will incorporate online learning. If that is not possible, the government said telephone calls and mail-out packages will be used.
“These are extraordinary times,” Lecce said. “We’re moving quickly with two aims in mind. The first, to keep your child safe, the second is to keep them engaged in learning.”
The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association also indicated it was creating a local plan and assessing the needs of students that require access to the internet, computers, and tools required to continue learning.
Khan noted that the platform can and should be part of that discussion as well, adding that parents should be aware of solutions out there especially for those who have never had to think about homeschooling or distance learning.
“I’m going through the same feelings at home. We’ve been telling parents ‘don’t beat yourself up. This has been thrust onto you,’” he said. “There’s already ambient stress for so many reasons right now and the last thing you need to do is beat yourself up for a week or two if your kids aren’t optimally learning everything that they possibly could.”
Since the surge in new subscribers, Khan said the platform has started offering daily calendars for different age groups and doing webinars on how to get started.
E-learning could benefit kids with gaps in the future
In the future when the pandemic subsides, Khan believes that e-learning could be used as an added tool to help students fill gaps they find they are not able to fill in classrooms.
For example if a student was able to learn and earn 80 per cent in a course, the student could use e-learning to learn the 20 per cent that they lost out on.
Khan added that schools have to be able to incorporate e-learning solutions so that if this were to happen again, they would be able to transition students seamlessly so they can continue to have the same learning experience they had before.
“Now with the crisis, you need to have a plan so that you can transition between the physical state and the virtual state pretty fluidly. And home learning state can’t be a completely different experience,” he said. “It has to leverage the same types of tools, reports, accountability system that you were using before.”
With files from Canadian Press
Ontario Virtual School also offers Grade 9-12 High School courses and free courses for grade 8 students.