Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, a global nonprofit with the mission of providing free, high-quality education to “anyone, anywhere” in the world, shared his vision for learning at the Opening General Session NECA 2015 San Francisco on Sunday.
The impetus of Khan Academy started about 10 years ago, when Khan heard from an aunt that his cousin was having trouble understanding certain math concepts.
“She had become convinced she didn’t have the math gene,” Khan said.
Soon, after he got off work, Khan started doing lessons with his cousin through instant messaging and she started to improve. He started tutoring other cousins as well. Scheduling conflicts led Khan to posting lessons on YouTube and it grew from there.
A hedge fund analyst with degrees from MIT and Harvard, Khan ultimately decided to quit his job and pursue his work in education. But it wasn’t without doubts. He received $100,000 from a key backer early on, which helped him get things off the ground.
Then, he got noticed by Bill Gates. And Google reached out. That momentum enabled Khan to get office space and start building a team.
Khan said Khan Academy is set up similar to the way you play a video game. You have to master one level before you can move to the next, and you can’t ignore the gaps in knowledge.
Khan Academy’s website now provides self-pacing software and unlimited access to over 5,100 instructional videos on its YouTube channel covering everything from basic arithmetic to college-level science and economics. It’s the most-used library of educational videos on the web, with 10 million unique users per month, more than 300 million lessons delivered, and over 1.4 billion exercises completed.
Khan Academy is based in Mountain View, California, with about 100 full-time engineers and educators. Some students have become interns and, in some cases, full-time employees.
“In a bizarre way, we’re solving our own labor problem,” Khan said.
Khan said he feels like the world is at a special time in history. Education, he hopes, is becoming more like food and shelter, a “fundamental human right.”
Before Khan took the stage, conventioneers heard from NECA President David A. Hardt. Hardt said leaders have made a lot of progress moving the industry forward and told those in the audience to ask their chapter governors for updates.
Hardt also mentioned the Value of Membership Task Force and the important work it is doing.
“NECA provides tremendous value, but many of our members don’t knoe what’s available to them,” he said.
He added the greater participation will ensure that members’ needs are met.
“We’re a great association,” he said. “Thank you for your support.”
Former NECA President Dennis F. Quebe later provided an update on the Academy of Electrical Contracting and its recent progress. Thirteen new inductees were introduced and installed.
Alex Owen, chairman of NECA’s Political Leadership Council, also shared remarks and encouraged members to be engaged to make sure their voice is heard.