Behind Khan Academy and the launch of Arizona State University’s Khan World School

The partnership between Khan Academy and Arizona State University Prep Digital to launch Khan World School, a virtual school for high school students, brings together two of the powerhouses of digital learning with the promise of creating a revolutionary teaching model.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rush to virtual teaching – or what some have called emergency distance learning – results have been unsurprisingly poor. Many studies show that students in schools that stayed away longer experienced greater learning loss.

From this challenge, Sal Khan told me that there was a feeling that Khan Academy had a responsibility to create something more robust.

“We have to create some kind of infrastructure for the world,” Khan said. “There is a strategic oil reserve. There should be a strategic education pipeline of systems and processes that large numbers of people can rely on in an emergency.

As Amy McGrath, COO at ASU Prep Digital said, “Everyone was doing well online, but not very well.… But our infrastructure that had been in design for a while really thrived. And our learners, in fact, have surpassed state averages.

As Khan Academy and ASU Prep Digital launch Khan World School in the fall, here are three areas where the design is expected to drive significant advances for education more broadly.


The stereotype of e-learning is that “Oh, you’re just doing your own thing, you feel detached from other people,” Khan said. “Honestly, that’s also the stereotype of some in-person learning. You’re just sitting in a classroom and your eyes are glazed over.

The Khan World School aims to challenge this stereotype with a daily, synchronous seminar where students debate topics that are often not covered in schools, such as “Can the Fed Control Inflation?” Will CRISPR change the human genome? And [should] is social media blamed for polarization in the world? said Khan.

“We want to be able to have a place where we can have conversations and teach students, and maybe the world, that there is a way to have conversations and be able to disagree about these things, but be able to do it with respect, and learn from each other,” Khan said.

I argue in my forthcoming book, “From Reopening to Reinventing,” that this should be one of the six central goals of K-12 schools: to help students understand that people may see things differently and that those differences deserve respect rather than persecution. .

These seminar groups would include blended learning, a key tenet of Khan Lab School, a Silicon Valley-based school that Khan and his team have run since 2014. The goal? To unlock the human connection.


The next part of Khan World School will address basic student learning with a focus on student fluency.

Perhaps the most novel is how the school will assess mastery. Khan Academy operates a tutoring site called, which is also a platform to validate mastery.

Essentially, students record their face and screen as they take a Khan Academy assessment and explain their reasoning out loud. This video artifact is then reviewed by others on the platform who have already demonstrated mastery of the concept to assess whether a student has mastered at least 90% of the concept.

The platform is designed to authenticate that someone’s work is their own to eliminate cheating and verify mastery.

“If anyone doubts it, they can click on this video and watch you play it,” Khan said. “That’s a much better signal than saying someone got 95% on a test they took 10 years ago.”

This mechanism also allows students to show what they have mastered outside of the traditional school curriculum, for example in their outdoor reading and writing.

According to Khan, it also showcases a student’s communication skills. And for students who help check others’ learning, it also shows a sign of compassion and caring.

“Schools like MIT, University of Chicago, Case Western have already put it on their application because they think it’s such a powerful signal of student mastery and student personality. or the students’ desire to give back,” he said.

Additionally, McGrath argues that the Khan World School will help blur the lines between high school and college. ASU Prep Digital already allows high school students to take real ASU college courses. And according to Khan, Khan Academy has started pilot projects with Howard University, in which students can earn college algebra credits in high school if they demonstrate proficiency in the appropriate material.


At present, Khan World School attracts the interest of students from all over the world. The school will be free for Arizona students taking advantage of ASU’s charter school. But for localities where it’s not a public option, Khan said they would be able to offer the school for less than $10,000.

What’s exciting is that affordability comes with quality and the ability to allow students to master concepts at their own pace and at their own pace, not at arbitrary junctures.

“We have over 50 efficacy studies at Khan Academy,” Khan said. “We just had a recent one that just came out. If students are able to devote even 20 minutes a day for three days a week to mastering math learning, they go 50% to 100% faster than their comparable peers…. It’s just an hour a week doing that. Now imagine Khan World School where this is how we will learn everything. You’re just going to have a really solid base.