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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Salman Khan: Bill Gates' Favorite Teacher

No, it's not the Khan you are thinking of. As the story goes, Bill Gates was told of Khan Academy [1], a digital video trove of educational lessons on topics such as Banking, Finance, Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, by his friend. Each video is 10 to 15 minutes, recorded single handedly by Khan from the comfort of his home. As Khan Academy's FAQ explains, he tweaks each video over and over again to make the concepts easy to grasp in the first viewing.

BillG is said the be a fan of online education, and upon getting a recommendation, he and his 11 year old son went through the video tutorials; Bill was impressed enough to say, "This guy is amazing. It is awesome how much he has done with very little in the way of resources." As the story runs on CNN with the same heading [2], the fondness became further known when BillG praised Salman in Aspen Ideas Festival.

But wait who is this Khan? The complete name is Salman Khan (the West seems to prefer "Sal Khan" over "Salman Khan"). He is an American born to Bangladeshi/ Indian parents. Salman holds a BS in Mathematics, another BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and an MS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, all from MIT. He further holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. He worked as a hedge fund manager before going full time with these video tutorials.

Where did he get this idea from? In year 2004, while teaching his cousin Nadia over the Internet, he came to realize that he could record videos and distribute via the Internet. As his videos on Youtube became popular, he quit his day job (as a hedge fund manager) and started home tutoring full time. His videos get more than 20,000 hits each day but he doesn't make any money from these. He is quoted as saying:

"With so little effort on my own part, I can empower an unlimited amount of people for all time. I can't imagine a better use of my time."

This is a second Westerner with Bangladeshi origin who has created a big name in "online work." The first one I know is Jawed Karim, one of the cofounders of Youtube [3]. Amazing is the fact that Bill Gates chose to visit Bangladesh in 2005 [4].

[1] Khan's Academy
[2] Sal Khan: Bill Gates' Favorite Teacher" Story on CNN Money
[3] Wikipedia on Jawed Karim
[4] Bill Gates Visits Bangladesh