Salman Khan – Education Innovator and Disruptor

Beth Dumbauld

Salman Khan – Education Innovator and Disruptor

By Steven Pope

If you don’t know who Salman Khan is, you should. He is revolutionizing the education industry, and is a major reason videos may just replace textbooks in the classroom. He’ll make your online college algebra class fun, make you smile when doing derivatives, and change your perception of distance learning classes. He is a Bangladeshi American educator who founded Khan Academy as a 100% free way to tutor the world on subjects from the simple to the complex. As of June 2012 the Khan Academy is growing fast, with over 158 million video hits and over 345 thousand subscribers on YouTube. That’s 158 million free lessons he’s given to students around the world!

Here’s a great introduction to Khan:

Khan has so many videos that you could use him as a personal tutor, starting at pre-algebra and continuing through intermediate algebra to calculus and business statistics. (He also covers the humanities, sciences like biochemistry, English, and more.) There are over 3,200 lessons on Khan’s website:

In 2004, Khan started by tutoring his cousin. In 2006 he was getting enough traction that he began posting videos on YouTube. By 2009 he quit his day job as a hedge fund manager. And now, in 2012, he has a staff of 30 people working at his non-profit organization. Khan’s mission is to “accelerate learning for students of all ages.”

The idea that videos are better than in-person-teaching shocked Khan initially. But as he says in the video, “My cousins could pause me.” It wasn’t that Khan was boring in person. It’s just that they could replay Khan’s videos or pause for thought. This fundamentally challenges the need for a teacher in a classroom because every student can learn at their own pace. There’s no longer a need for 25 students to follow one professor at one pace. Instead, 25 students can learn at 25 paces.

A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Khan spoke at the MIT commencement ceremony on June 8th, 2012. He said, “The positive revolutions will not be started by generals and politicians. They'll be started by innovators like you.” Taking that thought a bit further, he added this twist, “MIT is the closest thing on the planet Earth to Hogwarts.” A reference which will surely add some Harry Potter fans to Salman Khan’s base of students.


Steven Pope has an MBA from Western Governors University and Bachelors of Science in communication from Weber State University. He has a background as a television reporter in Idaho and Wisconsin, and most recently as an enrollment counselor at WGU.

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