Today at a Silicon Valley Summit hosted by AtlanticLIVE at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, Comcast Corporation’s EVP David L. Cohen and Khan Academy’s, Founder and Executive Director Salman Khan announced a multi-year, multi-million dollar comprehensive partnership designed to help address the digital divide and bring a world-class education into the homes of more low-income families. Karima Zedan, Director for Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, interviewed David and Sal about this new partnership.
Karima: This is exciting news for both Comcast and Khan Academy please tell me about the partnership.
David: For Comcast, this is an unprecedented agreement. We’re announcing a multi-year, multi-million dollar comprehensive partnership designed to raise awareness of the powerful, life-changing content of Khan Academy and the transformative potential of Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program for low income Americans. This is one of the largest commitments we have made to a non-profit partner and includes a financial contribution, hundreds of thousands of PSAs a year, and significant digital promotion in both English and Spanish, as well as multiple joint promotion opportunities around the country over the next few years.
Sal: Our mission at the non-profit Khan Academy is to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. All of our resources are completely free, regardless of whether you're a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, or adult returning to the classroom after 20 years. We now have more than 10 million people worldwide who are using our website each month. At the same time, we recognize that there are families without access to the Internet at home. When I learned more about Internet Essentials and the work Comcast is doing to address the digital divide, I realized this could be an opportunity for us to do something to reach the nearly 30 percent of Americans who don’t have broadband Internet service at home. Lack of Internet broadband is a barrier to our mission at Khan Academy and so I’m really excited about the opportunity to work together to try and close that gap.
Karima: Why exactly do you think this partnership make sense? What are your plans?
Sal: Well this is day one of a long-term relationship. We’re both passionate about education, and we both want all kids to have the same opportunities to succeed in school. Through this program, Comcast is making it easier for more people to access the Internet. And Khan Academy’s online platform is dependent on the Internet to deliver our personalized learning experience to everyone, everywhere. We’re both interested in leveling the playing field and equalizing access to educational content. It’s a natural fit. Looking ahead, we’re going to do some events together. I’d like to do one here in the Bay Area where there are thousands of families that qualify for Internet Essentials, but haven’t signed up yet. Khan Academy is going to develop a public service announcement about the free personalized learning resources we offer and how they can be accessed from Internet Essentials. We’ll also work together to reach out to low-income families, students and teachers to let them know that home Internet paired with home learning is a powerful combination. I expect other things will grow out of this that we haven’t even thought of yet.
David: While Comcast has made great progress connecting more than 1 million low-income Americans, or more than 250,000 families, to the Internet with our Internet Essentials program, there are many more families who are still eligible to participate, but have not yet signed up.Research shows that the number one barrier to broadband adoption is a bucket of digital literacy issues – including a lack of understanding of the relevancy of the Internet – or of the value it provides.Khan Academy is ideally positioned to help lower that barrier by providing free, world-class educational materials. With its personalized learning experience including over 5,000 educational videos and 100,000 practice problems, it is the ultimate "solution" to the relevance/value conundrum. Internet access can enable kids do better in school and become better prepared for 21st century jobs.So the marriage is perfect – Khan Academy content will help drive broadband adoption; the increased adoption will help get Khan Academy content where it can do incredible good.This partnership will raise awareness to ensure low-income families can take advantage of the symbiotic relationship between the two programs.
Karima: Why specifically do you think Khan Academy is such a good fit for Internet Essentials?
David: The driving vision of Khan Academy is to make quality educational content available to all – especially those who need it most – kids in low-income communities. But those are the kids who disproportionately do not have access to the Internet at home. In a sense, it’s those families that are most in need of Khan Academy content – and it’s those families who are disproportionately being left behind. In a few hours on the Khan Academy website however, I think any parent has got to look at that and say, "Wow, a world-class education for my kids and it’s free?" What a game changer this is for families in low-income neighborhoods, where parents are looking for resources that can help their kids succeed at school. Don’t get me wrong, I think kids in high-income neighborhoods should use Khan Academy as well, but the kids who need it most, who will benefit from it the most are the kids who comeonline because of our Internet Essentials program. There’s no question in my mind about that.
Karima: Let’s talk about impact for a minute. How do you measure the impact of what you’re both trying to do and what kind of results are you seeing or hope to see?
Sal: Khan Academy is now used by over 10 million students per month and these students are completing 4 million practice problems on our website each day. This is tremendous scale and we still have a long way to go. We have a talented analytics team that is evaluating the learning gains of these students and running studies to further maximize their learning gains and experience on Khan Academy. We have also partnered with a group of schools to continually learn how students are benefiting from our resources and how we can make improvements. We have received great feedback from students, teachers, and administrators in these schools. In addition we receive testimonials from our users each day: stories of failing students now excelling at math, folks using Khan Academy to get their GED, and much more. You can see some stories on our stories page.
David: Let me give you some statistics, which is also a shared passion of Sal’s and mine by the way. And if it is not one of yours, it’s never too late to learn about statistics on Khan Academy. We survey our Internet Essentials customers periodically and here’s what they told us about what they’re doing with the service. 98 percent say their kids use the Internet for homework. Sal’s got to be happy to hear that. 94 percent feel that Internet access has had a positive impact on their child’s grades. So on the one hand, I couldn’t be happier with those statistics, because they’re exactly what we hoped for when we designed Internet Essentials. On the other hand, I couldn’t be more depressed, because what in the world were the 98 percent of families whose kids use the Internet to do homework doing before they had the Internet at home?