Making Khan Academy Even More Rewarding
Tying effort in Khan Academy to rewards in external games could provide a huge boost in motivation for students.
For anyone who has tried Khan Academy Moon, Earth and Sun badges will be familiar. As will the ubiquitous Energy Points. These are the main rewards for the Khan Academy game system. Watch a lecture? Get points. Watch an hour of lectures get a lot of points and a badge. Do math problems ... you get the picture.
I love Khan academy for Sal's lectures, its series of problems that build smoothly on the videos and each other, and for the revolution in educational accessibility that it represents. I also need it, I've never been good at basic maths and really need the practice. But, I don't find myself doing problems in my spare time. Instead, I'm playing Minecraft. I'm playing a lot of Minecraft.
Why is it that I'll mine for an hour to get 2-6 diamonds in Minecraft, but I won't watch videos and study for an hour to improve a truly useful life skill? While I understand which is more valuable, my behavior says something different. The question is, if there is a more powerful reward system, why isn't that tied to the more valuable activity? In short, why can't I earn diamonds in Minecraft from doing problems in Khan Academy?
In fact, there are several games I'd much prefer to get a reward in than another Moon Badge. Imagine getting an item in World of Warcraft that was only accessible by mastering Trig. Or, imagine a promotion run on Steam that offers points to students who are working hard on improving their math skills. Or, for the more restrictive parents out there, let students directly earn gaming time by solving problems.
The challenge that Khan Academy faces with its own game system is that the rewards are based purely on pride. Being acknowledged and then showing off both feel good. Badges serve these purposes admirably. Real games, however, have currencies and useful items. You earn something that you can spend on something you choose (a currency) or you get something that has intrinsic value in the game world (armor / swords / mounts etc).
Unless Khan Academy wants to spend a great deal of time building out these systems, they may be better off tapping into existing powerful reward systems that exist in other games. The nacent KA API would be an excellent way to allow any and all game developers to tap into user accounts and provide rewards that really motivate.