Sal Khan on Certification at Schoolhouse
A Dream Became A Reality
In 2012, Sal Khan, Founder of Khan Academy, published The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined. As Khan Academy was gaining traction as an effective way to educate the world, Sal wrote his ambitious vision for educating learners across the world to an unprecedented level. An excerpt from the book reads: Yes— a complex world, and an interconnected one. The various outposts of our schoolhouse would therefore be interconnected as well, through things like Skype or Google Hangouts. Students and teachers in San Francisco could interact with those in Toronto, London, or Mumbai. Imagine students in Tehran tutoring students in Tel Aviv or students in Islamabad learning from a professor in New Delhi. Is there really any better way to learn a language or have a global perspective than by regularly interacting with teachers and students around the planet? Eight years later, in March 2020, COVID-19 was declared as a global pandemic. During this time, schools were shut down and hundreds of millions of students didn’t have access to live help as they worked through their academic coursework. This led to the creation of major learning gaps as many learners were not receiving the help they needed while navigating their virtual classrooms. In light of this unprecedented problem, Sal Khan saw the opportunity to revisit the goals he laid out in The One World Schoolhouse. It certainly was going to be a challenge, but there was no time better than a pandemic to test out a solution to this growing difficulty. To make his vision a reality, Sal spearheaded the creation of schoolhouse.world, with help from Coda and Khan Lab School.
Working on a project for volunteers to run group tutoring sessions over zoom. Go to https://t.co/bbbieWMByz if you are interested in being one of the first tutors or students.— Salman Khan (@salkhanacademy) June 16, 2020
Schoolhouse.world offers free, live peer-to-peer tutoring for anyone aged 13 or older. The platform is home to sessions covering topics from pre-algebra through calculus, SAT prep, and more. During sessions, learners can ask a certified volunteer tutor questions about the topic at hand just like they would in a classroom. Over time, learners are free to build their skills and become volunteer tutors themselves by getting certified in topics they have mastered. Through this model, schoolhouse.world provides a community that is not only rooted in academic enrichment but also service. As of this month, 6,000 learners have been taught by a team of 850 tutors conducting more than 10,000 sessions in over 100 countries.
The Schoolhouse Certification Process
With a rapidly growing platform, preserving credibility is vital. In order to make sure tutors are of high quality and credible, schoolhouse.world established a blueprint for the certification system. This provides a way for tutors to show that they understand a concept and are qualified to tutor it by having them record a video of them explaining and solving a variety of problems. It takes a high level of mastery to be able to know how to solve a problem but an even higher level of mastery to understand the reasoning behind the answer and being able to explain it to someone else. This recording is then peer-reviewed to ensure the integrity of the recording and accuracy of the answers. Once approved, a tutor is given a certification transcript that showcases everything they’ve achieved mastery in, along with the videos that earned them mastery.
We recently spoke to Sal about the certification process at schoolhouse.world. When asked to talk more about its conception and setup, he said:
“Khan Academy not only has the taxonomy to anchor off of...but it also has a way for people to get practice and assess what they do and do not know. So, the thinking was that schoolhouse.world could leverage that to validate what people know. That [led us] to create the certification system that has folks record themselves while explaining their reasoning and that video, in turn, gets peer-reviewed...”
The potential of this system has not gone unnoticed and is currently being used by the University of Chicago, MIT, and Case Western Reserve University through their admissions process. On top of that, eleven states, including Colorado and Ohio, have partnered with schoolhouse.world to complement their curricula especially during online learning.
The certification system at schoolhouse.world continues to be recognized, acknowledged, and used by colleges and states across the United States. Thanks to this, tutors are able to showcase their mastery in ways a typical school transcript can’t. Besides mastery, tutoring on schoolhouse.world also demonstrates a personality rooted in kindness and cooperation, qualities that are vital for thriving in this community. Typical transcripts filled with numbers and letters cannot encapsulate this information. However, with the schoolhouse.world certification transcript, one can gain deeper understanding about the tutor beyond just what they know such as their motivation. Sal told us that:
“Today...a college admissions officer...can scan [a student’s certifications], they can see what students have mastery in, they can also see the number of sessions they’ve done, the number of super helpful [ratings] they’ve gotten, they can see some curated comments that people have said about that tutor...that already I think is a pretty powerful signal.”
Beyond the college admissions process, Sal sees the potential of the certification process in other branches of life, including the workplace, where employers can see how dedicated a potential candidate is. In his own words:
“I have sat down with some recruiters and college admissions officers...and we looked through some of the top tutors and they’re like ‘These young people are amazing! These are exactly the type [of people we want]! This is a gold mine for us!’ and so I think it’s just a matter of how we make it easier for them to see and recognize what these students are doing.”
Nevertheless, the certification process definitely has a lot more potential waiting to be unlocked. Right now, tutors only have the opportunity to get certified in math topics ranging from pre-algebra through calculus. Yet, a lot of demand is present for the sciences and arts, among other subjects. Although tutors are still able to host sessions in these topics, there is no certification process in place to validate tutors’ knowledge prior to sharing it with learners. When he spoke about this, Sal was optimistic. Whether it be modifications to the existing certification system or adopting “live” certification opportunities, Sal sees potential in exploring several possibilities.
Schoolhouse.world's mission is simple - connecting the world through learning. A vital component of making this happen is the certification system in place to validate tutors’ knowledge and understanding. It allows our community to grow rapidly without compromising on quality. The certification process is one that will continue to evolve, but its core purpose will remain the same. We can’t wait to see what more this unique system has to offer in the future!
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