Last week I had the pleasure of watching Salman Khan describe the purpose and history of Khan Academy. You can enjoy the story by viewing his TED talk.
Khan Academy’s design began with the commitment to the metric that matters most to its customers: success in learning. That focus has resulted in creating a highly personalized service that is unique to every student.
The current U.S. education system is designed first to achieve time goals rather than learning goals. A topic is scheduled to be covered in a week’s time, and students learn what they can. The next topic starts next week, whether or not a student has learned enough to be prepared for it. Time is the driver. What varies is mastery.
Khan Academy is designed to achieve student learning goals. A student can spend an hour, a day, a week, or a month to master a topic. Mastery is the driver. What varies is time spent.
So Khan Academy customers choose the pace of their learning. They also choose their own goals and paths. Khan provides a topic map, and students can see what topics must be mastered in order to achieve their knowledge goals.
Khan Academy is a great example of a company that allows customers to personalize how the product is consumed. Itunes and buffet dinners are two familiar examples of this type of personalization. Khan Academy customers work their way through the buffet (the knowledge map) at their own pace, consuming a single dish over and over again until satisfied.
Is this type of personalization successful? It looks as though Khan Academy’s growth has hit the curve in the hockey stick. Khan Academy has reached 244 million students since its inception in 2006. Currently it is visited by two million students a month, who view as many as 2,000 videos per day. Organic search is the primary force in its marketing, recently augmented by increasing attention in the press.
Personalization strategies employ a broad range of tactics. Companies personalize their products, how their products are marketed, how their products are sold, how their products are delivered, and how they are consumed. I believe the winning approach is the one that best supports who your customers are, and what they are trying to do.