On Wednesday evening at Sibley Auditorium, Salman Khan, the founder of the online education website Khan Academy, discussed traditional teaching styles in an address on the changing nature of education in an increasingly tech-focused world.
The event was hosted by the Berkeley Forum — a nonpartisan student-run organization that hosts speakers on a wide variety of subjects — and was filled beyond capacity, with approximately 300 people in attendance.
“This is probably the most familiar audience I’ve ever had,” said Khan after asking the attendees whether they had used Khan Academy before, to which the crowd responded with raised hands and cheers.
Founded in 2006, Khan Academy is a nonprofit organization that aims to “provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere,” according to their website, with micro lectures on subjects ranging from physics and medicine to art history.
Khan began his address with a background on how he founded Khan Academy helping his 12-year-old cousin Nadia with math, which quickly escalated to hosting conference calls with 10 or 15 cousins. Khan was then convinced to post YouTube videos after realizing that YouTube was not just for cats playing piano, but also for serious math.
According to Berkeley Forum president and UC Berkeley senior Pierre Bourbonnais, student tickets sold out in less than 20 seconds.
“This was probably up there with one of the most popular events we’ve had,” said the Berkeley Forum’s vice president of programming and sophomore Matthew Freeman. “The only event that sold out as quickly was Rand Paul.”
Previously the Berkeley Forum has hosted speakers such as entrepreneur Peter Thiel and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.
“I was very impressed,” said UC Berkeley sophomore Brandon Chen after the address. “I realized how much of a force he is in shaping the future of education.”
In his address, Khan said that if he was “super master educator of the world” that he would redesign how schools teach students, emphasizing learning and understanding concepts over pressuring students to learn within arbitrary time constraints.
When asked if online should replace traditional classroom, he responded that Khan Academy can be used as a tool to cover core concepts, allowing traditional methods of education to advance.
“He definitely saved my grades,” said UC Berkeley sophomore and attendee Lisa Kimura, who watched Khan Academy videos on economics and calculus.
Khan expressed in his speech that he hopes that education can one day be a fundamental human right for people all over the world.
“If you have nothing, if you literally live in a slum in Calcutta, we do hope that there is a world in the not-too-distant future that you will have access to a low-cost education,” said Khan.