SRI Blog

Incorporating Digital Learning Resources in the Classroom: A First Look at Using Khan Academy

Today's teachers are using online learning resources and blending digital learning with traditional teacher-led instruction. But it's challenging to identify high-quality resources and determine how they will work best in classrooms, given particular instructional priorities and the characteristics of the students being served. As a leading digital learning organization in K-12 education, Khan Academy has moved beyond its original focus on individual learners to working closely with schools to transform how education can be organized, delivered, and experienced by students and teachers.

To provide school administrators and teachers with quality information on how Khan Academy—and by inference, other similar digital learning resources—can be used to support math learning in classrooms, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded SRI International to study the implementation of Khan Academy in a diverse set of schools and classrooms during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. The study involved the participation of 20 public, charter, and independent schools; more than 70 teachers; and approximately 2000 students in each study year. By studying the implementation process at these schools, we gained insights into how teachers are using Khan Academy's resources into their learning environments to enhance student learning. SRI also provided Khan Academy with information to help make its product better and more effective. (Copies of our Implementation Report and accompanying Research Brief are available.)

Overall, we found that teachers are very interested in using digital resources such as Khan Academy, and they see value in the tangible benefits that technology can provide, such as individualized pacing and immediate feedback for students on solutions to problems. In particular, Khan Academy problem sets provided opportunities for students to practice skills taught in recent lessons.

Yet, teachers encountered some challenges, particularly in the early stages of the study. For example, they found that while Khan Academy has a tremendous amount of material on math concepts, initially the content was not organized by grade level or important topic area. It was difficult to identify the problem sets aligned with the teachers' curriculum.

The research study provided an opportunity for SRI Education to collaborate with Khan Academy and participating teachers to provide valuable feedback for product improvement. Key areas where teachers asked Khan Academy to help them better incorporate digital resources into the classroom included:

  • Content aligned with grade level standards and that is easily searchable;
  • Student progress reports that are easily interpretable
  • A way for teachers to assign content to students within the Khan Academy website
  • Models and examples of how other teachers are using digital resources for different purposes and different types of students

Khan Academy was very responsive and made its product more useful and beneficial for students and teachers alike, resulting in a product designed for a very different context than its original intent.  Khan Academy filled in content gaps identified by teachers early on and reorganized content so it could be easily searched by topic area, grade level, and course (e.g., Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, or Geometry). Reporting features have been improved to allow teachers to easily monitor students' progress towards assigned problem sets, both as a whole class and individually. Additionally, teachers can now recommend content for students to work on within Khan Academy by placing teacher recommendations at the top of the students' to-do lists.

This is an exciting time for experimentation using digital resources in the classroom, and it is important to note that models and best practices are still emerging and evolving. Teachers are figuring out how best to use this explosion of digital resources, and they will require support in integrating online resources into their curriculum. At the same time, students will require support through this transition to more self-directed learning. This collaborative partnership with Khan Academy has demonstrated the ability for digital learning organizations to iteratively improve digital resources to meet the needs of teachers and students. It has resulted in new understandings about how Khan Academy—as well as other digital learning resources—can be integrated effectively in classroom settings.

This post is also available on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation blog, Impatient Optimists.


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Hi Robert Murphy!
You did a fantastic job, and I think many teachers have problems they can not correct and these problems are converted in to students also. Well those teachers have to change their style. In the fast technology, there are many way to learn and make a correction.


Im a college psychology teacher. I use to bring with me books everyday to school which i find heavy to carry ..I thought of using a wifi projector and a tablet .I first bought the projector-EPSON but i still have to buy the wifi tongle. Then i would like to experiment if it will be compatible with a smartphone tablet .With that idea in mind i feel if god willing it will realized i will be bringing with me light things to school. Im interested with your program. How i wish you will share me so i improve my way of classroom instructions using technologies. Thank you.


dunno - I heard Khan Academy was good for maths - not so good for literature/writing skills - or creative courses ...

but the problem remains - 3% completion rates for MOOCs - due to young folk lacking the motivation or experience to be able to push through and work out their own answers whenever they hit a problem - and not just get distracted by the next click bait and not get around to coming back to this thing ...

I registered for a free online Harvard course in financial management or something - sat through 2 talking head lectures - boring - just a guy staring at the camera jaw-boning - boring - yawn - I didn't go back - and I'm a teacher with an interest in this stuff - young folk - guess they would've tuned out after the first 5 minutes

I read recently that each hour of online course may require 100 hours of preparation - great if you're selling it to millions - how's that working for ya ? - yesterday I found an online presentation that looked good - until I realised it was about 5 years out of date - um - needed reworking - as any technology subject needs reworking every semester to keep up

this afternoon I went to a local library to hear a couple of architects talk - they said it was their 'first public speech' - couldn't you tell - heads down reading, mumbling, no eye contact, couldn't hear - boring, boring, boring - a good teacher keeps the audience engaged by picking up and responding to the mood and knowledge level of the audience, cracking jokes to lift their flagging spirits, asking questions and interacting with and engaging nodding-off ones to keep everyone awake and interested - put them in front of a talking head video - and zzzz - snore - sorry - I can't see it ...