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Khan's Biggest Impact: Changing the Economics of Education
A lot has been and will be written about Salman Khan. Though he already arrived in the spotlight of mainstream media, he is clearly just at the beginning of his mission. And with fresh money in the war chest, Khan and his team are now planning the next attack on the education system.
Besides growing the faculty of the Khan Academy, Khan is planning to open the system to teachers around the globe who can then use the Knowledge Map to build their own courses and also have access to the in-depth analytic tools Khan Academy is providing at the back-end.
But here is the deal: the content must be put up to Khan Academy’s noncommercial public domain. Noncommercial.
I believe, this is an aspect of Khan Academy most people have not thought about or didn’t pay attention to yet but that has the potential to change the economics of education profoundly.
At the moment, there are basically three business models in online education. Ad-supported, freemium and premium. But there are also two large scale operations that have no business model at all, Khan Academy and Wikipedia. Let’s go to the three most popular for-profit ones before we focus on the noncommercial examples.
Ad-supported education are in most cases smaller projects of individual educators who upload videos to YouTube and display Google ads against them. From my own experience you will earn enough money to pay for a couple of fancy coffees every month but as the revenue per click or impression for education related ads is not comparable with other topics, it is not suitable for bigger operations.
Freemium is a very popular model amongst education startups. Users have access to a big chunk of the product for free, though this part is usually also supported by display ads. If learners then want to have access to extra content, usually grammar charts, worksheets or videos, they will have to pay.
Premium, as the name suggests, is content that is only available to paying customers. Language learning platform Babbel famously switched the popular freemium model to premium only back in November 2009 and soon afterwards announced that the startup was profitable. Another reason was the problem the team saw in displaying ads.
Ads are far from being an ideal revenue stream in an educational context. You cannot really control what is displayed next or even inside of the video lesson. Ads can be a distraction, especially when they are animated or feature sound effects and they have the draw-back that they are seen critically in a public school context and I think this is also part of Khan Academy’s success amongst educators. Khan Academy has always been ad-free although nowadays Khan could make some significant income based on either Google Ads or by selling sponsorships based on his reach. 3.5 million unique visitors a month are worth a ton of money yet Khan Academy stays a noncommercial platform.
The same is of course true for Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales is also fighting the idea of displaying advertisements or sponsored links on the site though it could earn Wikipedia a lot of money based on the page views. Yet he chooses to go in the trenches, raising money to keep Wikipedia up and running. Though Wales has no big success in getting the basic user to donate he usually meets his goal through big donations like the lastest $500k grant by Google founder Sergey Brin and his wife whereas Khan always had a steady flow of small donations to keep the Academy alive.
So both, Khan and Wales, are proving that there is “a better way” to deliver true free education on the Internet. And I think this is the really radical part. If you take a look at what the Khan Academy is going to offer for free to educators one could ask why anyone would pay for similar products? Khan has no commercial interest something that resonates with the ideals of most educators. Khan is independent from big brands and publishers in education that take more and more influence in promising education startups lately by either investing and / or partnering with them.
One could say that at the moment Khan is “untouchable” and he and his team can do whatever they think benefits their mission. No investor can take influence in order to streamline the operation for a potential exit in 5 years like being sold to Pearson or Blackboard.
Currently, Khan Academy is supported by three big donors, Bill and Melinda Gates, Google and the O’Sullivan Foundation. I think, there is little doubt that others will follow suit in order to keep Khan Academy going for the next years. The interesting part begins when we start thinking what is going to happen when the first students will tie their financial success to what they learned for free at Khan Academy.
Universities receive large sums from their alumni every year who want to give something back to the institution that provided them with the tools to succeed in life. What happens when Khan Academy was responsible for the success of a new breed of entrepreneurs in developing countries. A recent article on Forbes suggests that the next Internet billionaires will come from Africa.
Free, quality education has been a dream of many educators and of course students for a long time now and Khan might be on the road to establish that mindset in the generation of users he and his faculty are teaching every day.
Photo: Khan Academy
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From "if-by-whiskey" to the McNamara fallacy, being able to spot logical missteps is an invaluable skill.
- A fallacy is the use of invalid or faulty reasoning in an argument.
- There are two broad types of logical fallacies: formal and informal.
- A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive argument, while an informal fallacy describes an error in reasoning.
Appeal to privacy<p>When someone behaves in a way that negatively affects (or could affect) others, but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior, they're likely engaging in the appeal to privacy — or "mind your own business" — fallacy. Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who speeds excessively on the highway, considering his driving to be his own business.</li><li>Someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe or wear deodorant, but then boards a packed 10-hour flight.</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "You're not the boss of me." "Worry about yourself."</p>
Sunk cost fallacy<p>When someone argues for continuing a course of action despite evidence showing it's a mistake, it's often a sunk cost fallacy. The flawed logic here is something like: "We've already invested so much in this plan, we can't give up now." Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who intentionally overeats at an all-you-can-eat buffet just to get their "money's worth"</li><li>A scientist who won't admit his theory is incorrect because it would be too painful or costly</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "We must stay the course." "I've already invested so much...." "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way."</p>
If-by-whiskey<p>This fallacy is named after a speech given in 1952 by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_S._Sweat" target="_blank">Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr.</a>, a state representative for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi" target="_blank">Mississippi</a>, on the subject of whether the state should legalize alcohol. Sweat's argument on prohibition was (to paraphrase):<br></p><p><em>If, by whiskey, you mean the devil's brew that causes so many problems in society, then I'm against it. But if whiskey means the oil of conversation, the philosopher's wine, "</em><em>the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning;" then I am certainly for it.</em></p>
Slippery slope<p>This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think choosing it would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though there's little evidence to support your claim. Example:<br></p><ul><li>"We can't allow abortion because then society will lose its general respect for life, and it'll become harder to punish people for committing violent acts like murder."</li><li>"We can't legalize gay marriage. If we do, what's next? Allowing people to marry cats and dogs?" (Some people actually made this <a href="https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/cats-marrying-dogs-and-five-other-things-same-sex-marriage-won-mean/dLV9jKqkJOWUFZrSBETWkK/" target="_blank">argument</a> before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)</li></ul><p>Of course, sometimes decisions <em>do </em>start a chain reaction, which could be bad. The slippery slope device only becomes a fallacy when there's no evidence to suggest that chain reaction would actually occur.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "If we do that, then what's next?"</p>
"There is no alternative"<p><span style="background-color: initial;">A modification of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">false dilemma</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, this fallacy (often abbreviated to TINA) argues for a specific position because there are no realistic alternatives. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used this exact line as a slogan to defend capitalism, and it's still used today to that same end: Sure, capitalism has its problems, but we've seen the horrors that occur when we try anything else, so there is no alternative.</span><br></p><p>Language to watch out for: "If I had a magic wand…" "What <em>else</em> are we going to do?!"</p>
Ad hoc arguments<p>An ad hoc argument isn't really a logical fallacy, but it is a fallacious rhetorical strategy that's common and often hard to spot. It occurs when someone's claim is threatened with counterevidence, so they come up with a rationale to dismiss the counterevidence, hoping to protect their original claim. Ad hoc claims aren't designed to be generalizable. Instead, they're typically invented in the moment. <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ad_hoc" target="_blank">RationalWiki</a> provides an example:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It is clearly said in the Bible that the Ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Bob: "A purely wooden vessel of that size could not be constructed; the largest real wooden vessels were Chinese treasure ships which required iron hoops to build their keels. Even the <em>Wyoming</em> which was built in 1909 and had iron braces had problems with her hull flexing and opening up and needed constant mechanical pumping to stop her hold flooding."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It's possible that God intervened and allowed the Ark to float, and since we don't know what gopher wood is, it is possible that it is a much stronger form of wood than any that comes from a modern tree."</p>
Snow job<p><span style="background-color: initial;">This fallacy occurs when someone doesn't really have a strong argument, so they just throw a bunch of irrelevant facts, numbers, anecdotes and other information at the audience to confuse the issue, making it harder to refute the original claim. Example:</span><br></p><ul><li>A tobacco company spokesperson who is confronted about the health risks of smoking, but then proceeds to show graph after graph depicting many of the other ways people develop cancer, and how cancer metastasizes in the body, etc.</li></ul><p>Watch out for long-winded, data-heavy arguments that seem confusing by design.</p>
McNamara fallacy<p>Named after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara" target="_blank">Robert McNamara</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Defense" target="_blank">U.S. secretary of defense</a> from 1961 to 1968, this fallacy occurs when decisions are made based solely on <em>quantitative metrics or observations,</em> ignoring other factors. It stems from the Vietnam War, in which McNamara sought to develop a formula to measure progress in the war. He decided on bodycount. But this "objective" formula didn't account for other important factors, such as the possibility that the Vietnamese people would never surrender.<br></p><p>You could also imagine this fallacy playing out in a medical situation. Imagine a terminal cancer patient has a tumor, and a certain procedure helps to reduce the size of the tumor, but also causes a lot of pain. Ignoring quality of life would be an example of the McNamara fallacy.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "You can't measure that, so it's not important."</p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.