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Exploring the Khan Academy’s use of Learning Data and Learning Analytics

by Kelly Walsh on April 22, 2012


More than just a popular producer of excellent tutorials, Khan Academy is also leveraging data to enable teachers to assess progress and focus on individual student needs.

I’ve been intending to learn more about how the Khan Academy is incorporating learning data and analytics into their tool set for a while now, and this weekend I did. Come on along and see what they have to offer!

On the off chance that you haven’t heard about the Khan Academy yet, it’s a free web site where students can access thousands of tutorial videos covering hundreds of subjects. The site is becoming a premier teaching and learning resource for educators and students, and their work was recently featured in this “60 Minutes” piece. The site has delivered over 140,000,000 video lessons (these numbers climb at an amazing rate – the total is displayed on the home page and leaps forward with each refresh), and the capabilities that they offer teachers, schools, and students evolve steadily.

The Teacher Toolkit
A great place to learn about how the Khan Academy makes student learning data available to teachers is on the “Using Data” page, which I found in their informative “Teacher Toolkit”. The Teacher Toolkit provides a robust set of tools for quickly learning more about how the Khan Academy works, and offers suggested uses for different types of learners and different instructional situations, along with insights into the resources available to teachers through the site.

Khan Academy Progress Summary report image

Snapshot of Khan Academy Progress Summary

Student Learning and Progress Reports Available to Teachers
As students view the tutorial videos and do practice exercises, data is collected and made available to them and to teachers through graphic reports and other interactive visual tools. Not only do these tools enable students and teachers to review learning progress, they are also great aids for determining how to personalize learning for students who need more help in specific areas.

Here is a brief description of available reports (click through to the Using Data page for a more in depth look at each of these, including small snapshots of each).

  • Progress Summary: Great for reviewing progress from a variety of angles, reviewing upcoming assignments, and more.
  • Daily Activity Report: View daily use of the tools and measure how engaged and on-task students are.
  • Class Goals Report: Determine which students are struggling and which aren’t, and take appropriate remedial actions and then set revised goals.
  • Progress Report: Use this report to quickly see how the majority of students are doing with a particular exercise.
  • Student Activity Report: Use when you want to take a closer look at how much time a student spent on KA over a day, week, or month.
  • Student Exercise Problems: This report is helpful when trying to diagnose a specific challenge that a student is having with an exercise.
  • Student Focus Report: Provides an overview of how students spend the majority of their time, letting teachers see if students are on task or are struggling.

This video provides an overview of various Khan Academy exercise and report tools and some of the ways in which the site leverages student progress and learning data. This is a great way to get a good sense of the wonderful capabilities they are delivering (and constantly working to improve):

Incorporating Machine Learning into Student Assessment
One of the intriguing ways in which Khan Academy is using learning and progress data is reflected in the way that students are shown progress in a given subject area. This is discussed in this blog post from KA intern David Hu, who discusses how they improved on a progress/success indicator for students by evolving it from a simple counter to a more sophisticated logistic regression model. These student progress measures are also used to award energy points and badges.

The Future is Bright
Khan Academy is incorporating elements of so many of today’s emerging instructional technologies and technology-enabled concepts, including: reverse instruction, mobile technologies, gaming, learning analytics, machine learning, personalized learning, open educational resources, 1:1 programs, and probably several others that aren’t occurring to me. I can’t help being excited by the possibilities for their work to continue to influence education here in the U.S., and across the world.



Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

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