Khan Academy Statistics Project Provides Innovative Online Education

Students and faculty gathered in Pearson Hall on Thursday for a lunch and discussion with the Tang Institute and a team of students pioneering the Khan Academy Statistics Project.

Leading the project is Matt Lisa, Tang Fellow and Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, and several students, including Tyler Lian ’16, Samantha Lin ’16, Samir Safwan ’16 and Claire Tao ’16.

The project will teach statistics through skill checks and online articles in an attempt to improve upon the traditional approach to homework.

“[If] a student misses a class, [they’ll] read this online article on this topic that I covered today and it’s going to be more like being in class as opposed reading a textbook. [They are] going to be asked questions, [they’re] going to be answering, [they] may watch a video… a lot of sort of back and forth and none of that static ‘read the text.’ So that’s how I see it benefiting Andover,” said Lisa in an interview with The Phillipian.

During the lunch and discussion, Lian said, “[A skill check] is basically a chapter review that you’d get at the end of your textbook that would review all parts of the section. It tests your knowledge to see if you really have an understanding. And so these would be small skill checks that are about six to eight pages long, and after taking it the student would see what they got right and wrong and then be directed to videos about the content, which could be really helpful.”

The statistics project aims to provide a more in-depth education than a regular textbook would. In addition, the online course would also be more accessible to students on campus.

Safwan said in an interview with The Phillipian, “I think that it has already started to be integrated into the Calculus courses here. I know that in Math 590, I haven’t opened my textbook this entire year. It’s a shift in learning, I mean why use a textbook? Why carry around a really heavy book when you could just go online and have all the resources right in front of you?”

This project is part of the Hybrid Andover Initiative, a partnership between Phillips Academy and Khan Academy to provide “online learning experiences for students at [Andover] and for their fellow learners around the world,” according to the Tang Institute website. The project uses a method combining digital technology and the classroom experience.

Lisa said, “So there’s the idea of a flipped classroom, right? Where you’re doing all of your learning, maybe, a lot of your learning outside of class, through either video or some other online content that the student’s engaging with on their own. And there’s sort of the traditional classroom, where the teacher’s at the board and they do all the lecturing up front and they deliver the content in that way, and then you go home and on your own, by yourself, you are doing problems and trying to get to the answers there. So I kind of see the hybrid approach as a mixture of the flipped classroom and the traditional.”

Safwan said during the lunch and discussion, “Right now we’re also focusing on making it friendly for all different types of technology. For instance, you will be able to access Khan Academy soon on your cellphones, your computers, iPads.”