Sal Khan, the Founder of Khan Academy, will launch an innovative online program this month to help students gain the academic skills–and growth mindset–necessary for success.
NEILSON BARNARD—GETTY IMAGES FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Every month, more than 40 million students from around the world flock to Khan Academy to learn about everything from the Civil War to the Pythagorean Theorem. The education organization, which offers free online courses in hundreds of subjects, will launch its latest learning challenge on September 12.

The six-week online program—called LearnStorm—aims to help students in grades 3-12 gain the attitude and skills necessary to succeed in school.

“It’s a learning challenge that emphasizes grit, perseverance, [and the] growth mindset,” Sal Khan told TFK. He is the organization’s founder and CEO.

According to Khan, participating in LearnStorm will help students become more confident and motivated learners. The reason, he explains, is that students who develop a growth mindset believe their abilities can be improved through dedication and hardwork. Instead of giving up after a few tries, students with a growth mindset persevere. They see mistakes as opportunities for growth, rather than as failures.

Thinking Big

The idea for LearnStorm came from one of Khan Academy’s earliest donors, technology entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan. He was eager to bring Khan Academy to his native Ireland. So in 2014, he launched MATHletes, a tournament-style program in which students competed for prizes as they learned math on the Khan Academy website. MATHletes proved to be a huge hit, with 289 schools in Ireland participating and more than 3 million minutes devoted to learning math.

LearnStorm will be slightly different from MATHletes, in that there is no competition. Instead, LearnStorm encourages teamwork. Any school in the U.S. can participate. Students can earn prizes like certificates and limited-edition badges, and classes can win LearnStorm prize boxes filled with stickers and school supplies.

While Khan Academy currently reaches millions of students from 190 countries, the organization had humble beginnings. In 2007, Sal Khan started to upload homemade educational videos to YouTube to help his cousin with math. His videos attracted many viewers, and Khan soon quit his job as a financial analyst to focus on Khan Academy full time.

Students who participate in LearnStorm, an online learning challenge, can earn certificates and badges. Top performing classes can win school supplies.

JONATHAN KIM—GETTY IMAGES

Future Growth

Khan hopes to reach a billion users in the next 10 years. While that seems like a faraway goal, he says he is unfazed by the challenge.

“I’ve learned that it’s okay to be delusional sometimes,” Khan says. “Even if I told someone back when I was starting that this could reach a million students, people would have said, ‘This guy has kind of lost it.’”

Yet here stands Khan Academy. It just goes to show that with the right mindset (or rather, the growth mindset), anything is possible.