Fusion 2012 Reflections: Khan Academy Keynote

Last week a small delegation of staff form the Innovation and Excellence in Learning Centre attended the Desire2Learn (D2L) User Group Conference, called Fusion 2012, in San Diego, California. The conference is a great opportunity to network with other D2L administrators, users and instructors to discuss best practices for supporting, training and using the learning management system. Overall I had a great experience meeting a variety of users some in the early stages of use and others with many years of experience. Networking opportunities were abundant and hearing and interacting directly with users as they shared their experience was immensely valuable as we begin our own pilot with D2L at Vancouver Island University.

Notable keynote speakers included Sal Khan from the Khan Academy. It was great to hear Khan speak as I have followed his work over the last few years. Khan shared the origins of the Khan Academy, how the academy has grown and evolved over the years, and plans for the future. Of key interest was hearing Khan explain how the academy was attempting to game’ify education. If you have ever used the Khan Academy you might have noticed how the system allows you to track all of your correct and incorrect answers, earn badges or awards as you work and shows your progress while learning gradually more difficult problems using the knowledge map.

Earning badges on Khan Academy

Khan stressed the value in allowing students to progress at their own pace using instructional videos. As the tasks and topics are all linked together with knowledge map (shown below), both a student and an instructor can track progress as they work through their studies.

Knowledge map for K-12 Math

The analytics behind the Khan Academy are what really interest me most. Which topics are the most difficult? How do the topics relate to each other? If a student has difficulty with one topic, what other topics are they likely to struggle with? With thousands of users around the world frequenting the Khan Academy site each day, the collective intelligence of their data set must be incredibly interesting!

Khan Academy analytics dashboard

Analytics may be  used by individuals to track their own progress or by instructors to track the progress of their entire class.  Having access to this sort of data on aggregate presents opportunities for just in time intervention or to pair weaker students with stronger ones.

Tracking progress with user analytics

A more thorough overview of  analytics in this YouTube video: Exercises and Reports Overview

Khan Academy is definitely a project to watch. The knowledge map in use on Khan Academy website is currently set up for K-12 math only as far as I can see. Perhaps they will build this out to include other disciplines (A basic knowledge map for each discipline?) It reminds me of the Competencies tool in D2L which allows you to set up in online activities which make up learning objectives, and then learning objectives which make up competencies. We look forward to developing competencies structures as we continue to develop D2L and work with faculty at VIU.

I will be blogging about some of the Fusion 2012 presentations which I really enjoyed in the next few days.


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  1. Pingback: Desire2Learn User Group Conference 2012 | Blue Light District

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