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BitTorrent and Khan Academy To Distribute Education 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the racing-to-zero-cost-education dept.
drDugan writes "BitTorrent, Inc. announced this morning that they have launched a partnership with the Khan Academy to distribute open education videos. They launched with more than 2,000 videos, covering high school and college level curriculum, across science, math, history, finance and test prep. All of the videos are free to download and open licensed with Creative Commons."
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BitTorrent and Khan Academy To Distribute Education

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  • FIRST! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:22PM (#35179638)

    KHAAAAAAN!

    • by fishexe (168879)

      KHAAAAAAN!

      From hell's heart, I stab at thee. For trolling, not for all that other stuff.

    • KHAAAAAAN!

      Or, for people under 30, there's Two Kirks, a Khan, and a Pizza Place [adultswim.com].

      (Note: being way, WAY over 30 myself - my first thought was "KHAAAAAAANNNNNNN!!!!" as well.)

      (Note 2: No, actually I'm lying. My first thought was of Ghengis Khan, since he was my contemporary)

      (Note 3: Sorry, that wasn't quite true. I hung out with his kids, though. They got me in a lot of trouble! Ah, the memories....)

      • (Note 2: No, actually I'm lying. My first thought was of Ghengis Khan, since he was my contemporary)

        Same here.

  • Proof... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mswhippingboy (754599) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:24PM (#35179662)
    that bittorrent can be used for legit purposes. Hopefully as a side benifit, this will make it harder for the MPAA crowd to villify these types of file sharing networks.
    • It's all a ploy by the superhumans to undermine the US economy. The *AAs are our only remaining hope. Let's hope Congress will do the right thing and empower them to put an end to the BT villainy that has persisted for too long.

    • by skids (119237)

      OK, that's great and I highly encourage it. But just for my own edification -- why would I choose to download this stuff from bittorrent when I can just go get it on-demand from a unicast stream?

      I'm sure there will be corner cases where this proves very useful, and should free providers decide to cut services and make it difficult for Kahn to publish, then it will definitely come in handy, but... I'm failing to see the "big deal" here.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Khan Academy is distributing a large number of moderately large files (short videos, so not huge) to a lot of users, which means they probably have rather high bandwidth costs. Downloading from them costs them money. Downloading from BitTorrent doesn't, and should not be much, if at all, slower if there are enough seeds.
      • Places like rural Pakistani schools (where the Khan academy is aiming for etc.) don't really have broadband. If you can torrent it from a cybercafe and then bring it with you to a classroom on a USB stick, that's great.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I think the idea is to enable non-profit organizations to download the source videos, put them on CDs/DVDs or what have you, and then distribute them to parts of the world that don't have internet access. You have to remember that there are about 1.5 billion people with internet access, which means you're excluding more than 3/4 of the world's population when you only offer online streaming. It also gives you the ability to convert them to DVD video, which means you don't even need a computer to view them.

        F

      • by gknoy (899301)

        This is the first time I've thought, "wow, I could set up BitTorrent for a week/month and fill up a drive of stuff that will have lasting value to my family". Why stream it on demand, if you can download it ahead of time, effectively having a local cache that will not lose its educational value in five or likely even ten years?

        • Why stream it on demand, if you can download it ahead of time, effectively having a local cache that will not lose its educational value in five or likely even ten years?

          When the subject is art appreciation, a Free textbook can teach only about works whose authors died before January 1, 1941. Anything newer, and the copyright owners of the works discussed in the textbook will demand phone-home DRM.

      • by mrbcs (737902)
        I have 3 kids using his stuff now. All different ages and levels, so each kid has to download (stream) as they need it. If my internet goes flaky, we have issues. If it's on my server, I'm laughing.

        Khan rocks. He has helped my kids advance their mathematics skills considerably in the 2 months that we have been using his academy.

      • by shikaisi (1816846)
        Well I'm hoping I can download it from bittorrent because, for reasons I cannot fathom, khanacademy.org is blocked in China.
      • by h00manist (800926)
        Torrents will be more successful when our home connections have the same upload and download speeds. I don't quite see why ISP's always limit your upload speeds.
        • by i.r.id10t (595143)

          Because what 95% of home users do is download. The people that want to upload are rare... of course, I'm happy since my 1.5mb down DSL service has a 384k up, much better than the local cable co with 3 down and 128k up

    • Re:Proof... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rainmouse (1784278) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:57PM (#35180078)

      that bittorrent can be used for legit purposes. Hopefully as a side benifit, this will make it harder for the MPAA crowd to villify these types of file sharing networks.

      Though the threat to private Colleges and Universities that free learning poses could actually further fund and empower the MPAA.

    • by thomst (1640045)

      that bittorrent IS used for legit purposes.

      FTFY

    • by turgid (580780)

      Proof that bittorrent can be used for legit purposes. Hopefully as a side benifit, this will make it harder for the MPAA crowd to villify these types of file sharing networks.

      Yes, we know [slackware.com].

      The MPAA/RIAA/BPI etc. have chosen to ignore the established legitimate uses for BitTorrent and other P2P technologies. They would also prefer to pretend the Free Software, Open Source, Creative Commons and all of those other free-as-in-speech, free-as-in-freedom, independent, do-it-for-ourselves-thank-you-very-much stuff does not exist.

      They think that by not mentioning any of this that "normal people" will remain ignorant.

      • They think that by not mentioning any of this that "normal people" will remain ignorant.

        And it seems to work, too. I've come across quite a few people on random websites that believed that bittorrent is used entirely by 'pirates' (technologically illiterate people, of course). Not only were they ignorant, but they were stubborn in holding onto this belief.

    • by Dabido (802599)
      There was already proof of it being used for legit purposes with many Linux distros being available via Bit Torrent.
    • by Piranhaa (672441)

      It's quite nice to see more and more things switching to torrents..

      There's a DVD that a well respected individual made on the subject of bodybuilding - Over 11 hours of material. I can only imagine how much time he actually spent on it.

      It was first only put up on a single website and youtube for download/streaming (he isn't charging anything for it). After finding out about this, I immediately threw it up on piratebay (with his permission) using DHT and an open bittorent tracker. It's a Win Win. Way more r

  • by mrcaseyj (902945) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:25PM (#35179686)

    So why do we have all these highly intelligent expensive professors wasting their time standing in front of hundreds of students in a lecture hall reciting their teaching script like a human video projector? Let the best lecturers in the country make videos and let the students send in questions and assemble a frequently asked questions list and then put those professors to work doing research for the benefit of humanity.

    • by Lazareth (1756336) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:35PM (#35179820)

      Because teaching itself both builds character and strengthen your knowledge in your field. Because that human "video projector" is a human, readily able to take questions at any given time during the lecture.

      I'm not saying anything against video lectures. These things are great and it helps to open up and spread information around for the benefit of all. But they're not the same thing. They can be a substitute, but they're not for everybody. Some of use need those human video projectors to get through our education. Some of use need a mix of both.

      • by Coren22 (1625475)

        And some of US need english teachers.

        Sorry, just had to. Just ignore.

        • English is a proper noun and should be capitalized accordingly.

          • by GofG (1288820)

            Actually, in this instance, it's an adjective modifying "teachers".

            • It's still a noun, although functioning as an adjective, not a formal adjective. Specifically, they don't have its major characteristic: the ability to be compared.

              (...) traditional grammars recognize as adjectives other forms which are not formally adjectives but may modify nouns.

              -- The English Language: From Sound to Sense

          • English is a proper noun and should be capitalized accordingly.

            Usually, yes. But "english" is lowercase when you're teaching someone how to play billiards.

      • by mrcaseyj (902945)

        I think the professor's knowledge would be strengthened more by studying deeper or more broadly or by research, rather than designing or delivering lectures. And professors could be made available to answer questions at any given time that students are watching the videos as well. Many questions should not distract and waste the time of many other students anyway. If the question is a good question, it should be included in the FAQ or incorporated into the video lecture. Why do you need a live lecturer to g

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Have you tried explaining upper-level concepts to lower-level students? It is very hard, and requires you to really think about the relationships between things. I would argue it is actually a benefit to teach in the exact subject area you are researching, as it would help clarify concepts to yourself as you go along. And it does actually happen that a student asks a question that you've never considered before (either a completely new idea, or something you personally glossed over but the student caught),

      • Professors would continue to mentor graduate students and wouldn't be forbidden to give open lectures about topics that really interest them. TAs working in shifts could respond through online chats about recorded material. Then professors might have time to teach English-style tutorials with one or a few intermediate students.
      • I don't disagree that teaching makes professors stronger. But at the same time, we could lower the cost of education while educating far more people if we had more holograms like Alfred Lanning from I, Robot.

        • by bhiestand (157373)

          I don't disagree that teaching makes professors stronger. But at the same time, we could lower the cost of education while educating far more people if we had more holograms like Alfred Lanning from I, Robot.

          You forget the part where quality is also decreased. The vast majority of my professors have been far better than the best khan academy videos. Oddly enough, my most helpful professors were actually the best researchers as well... top names in the field who took the time to interact with students, even in large lecture halls.

      • by jensen404 (717086)

        Khan actually agrees with you. He encourages using the information gathered by the exercises to pair those who are doing well on a concept with those who are struggling. This tutoring lets everyone build character and strengthen knowledge, not just the instructor. If any students are still struggling, the instructor can focus their instruction to just those students and just those topics. They have more time to answer questions because they aren't spending a majority of their time giving passive lecture

      • by rmcd (53236) *

        I'm a professor. I tell my students about Khan Academy and provide links to it. I'm teaching a relatively advanced course for which there's no good online substitute that I'm aware of. But someday there may be. And when there is, I'll hopefully be able to delegate to online learning the part that fits the online learning model, and concentrate on the part that doesn't.

        And if everything is someday subsumed by online learning or its successor, well, things change. It's very hard on the people and institutions

    • by Decessus (835669)
      I think you are suggesting that we should do away with colleges and universities. If that's the case, then I'm going to have to disagree with you. I'm currently a college student and while I think it's overly expensive, I do think it is valuable nonetheless. What I get from college is more than just listening to lectures and doing homework. I get the opportunity to interact with highly intelligent people who specialize in the kind of work that I would someday like to do. I also get to interact with a w
      • by Anonymous Coward

        I think you are suggesting that we should do away with colleges and universities. If that's the case, then I'm going to have to disagree with you. I'm currently a college student and while I think it's overly expensive, I do think it is valuable nonetheless. What I get from college is more than just listening to lectures and doing homework. I get the opportunity to interact with highly intelligent people who specialize in the kind of work that I would someday like to do. I also get to interact with a wide variety of people who share the same interests that I do through student organizations. These opportunities would be lost, for the worse in my opinion, if college were to be completely eliminated.

        Exactly. Where would all those 18 year old coeds go to get drunk and have threesomes with random strangers?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think you are suggesting that we should do away with colleges and universities. If that's the case, then I'm going to have to disagree with you. I'm currently a college student and while I think it's overly expensive, I do think it is valuable nonetheless. What I get from college is more than just listening to lectures and doing homework. I get the opportunity to interact with highly intelligent people who specialize in the kind of work that I would someday like to do. I also get to interact with a wide variety of people who share the same interests that I do through student organizations. These opportunities would be lost, for the worse in my opinion, if college were to be completely eliminated.

        Human interaction? You're interacting with humans right now. The internet is filled with people who are intelligent and open to conversation (and vice versa, as in college).

        Your tuition for college essentially pays for an evaluation/validation of your knowledge (your degree) and a presentation of information (professor lectures + powerpoints) if you wanted to get down to it. Office hours are wholly dependent on institute police. I'm also a college student as well.

        • by Decessus (835669)
          Yes, I'm interacting with humans right now, but you would agree that social interaction over the internet is different than social interaction in person, right?
          • by Anonymous Coward

            Different does not mean better. Your original argument implied that interaction fully justified the existence of colleges. I was simply saying that this interaction isn't as precious as I take it you mean to be. Chance meetings aside, I think the merit of college is the context. Everyone is there for a reason, a purpose, and a drive. And we are all willing to plunge ourselves in debt to get what we want.

            That's what I value as a college student. My interactions are great, but I can find it online. Wha

            • by Decessus (835669)
              I agree that different does not necessarily mean better. It wasn't my intention to imply otherwise. My original argument was meant to be against the idea that college is a waste of time because it's just a bunch of professors standing in front of a lecture hall full of students. I was merely using the social interactions that one experiences as an example of something else that can be gained by attending college. There are certainly other benefits to going to college that I think justify their existence
          • Yes, interactions online aren't the same as social interactions. Online interactions are more valuable because it's easier and more convenient for me to interact with those at my intelligence level and with the same goals than those I might find in my own geographic area. In-person interactions are limited by geography, time constraints, etc. Online interactions have no such issues.

            • maybe, but then you have trolls, people online who fake having knowledge and credibility, etc. Forums are a terrible place to learn and youtube is definitely not the peer-reviewed science that journals and actual college work can put out.

            • by Decessus (835669)
              Those are some of the advantages that online interactions have over face to face interactions, although I disagree with a couple of the ones you listed which I'll get to shortly. However, face to face interactions also have advantages that online interactions do not have. Face to face interactions allow instant feedback. When I post something on Slashdot or a similar forum, at the very least I have to wait a few minutes for a response and often times I have to wait longer or I simply don't get a response
      • by Zerth (26112)

        . I get the opportunity to interact with highly intelligent people who specialize in the kind of work that I would someday like to do. I also get to interact with a wide variety of people who share the same interests that I do through student organizations. These opportunities would be lost, for the worse in my opinion, if college were to be completely eliminated.

        Join a professional organization(IEEE or similar), a hackerspace, or something like FIRST. Go to cons.

        Even if you're in the middle of nowhere, you

    • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:43PM (#35179908)

      Because when they do that, they cease to be expensive.

      Let's face it, most classes could be taught by lecture with a live human audience for the first recording (those people will get most of the obvious questions that the professor answers over and over and over and over) and teaching assistants.

      But, then you wouldn't need the professor again.

      It's like newspaper columnists. When we had local papers you needed them.

      But with national news media available, you really only need a dozen or so columnists in each area. Every one else is mostly redundant.

      You could literally have a dozen college calculus teachers in the entire world.

      Lowering the cost of providing calculus by 90%.

      Same for most other undergraduate courses.

      Only courses where the students actually need to talk interactively with the professor (very few) need human professors.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by SuricouRaven (1897204)
        Below university level (Up to eighteen years old) the majority of the cost of schooling isn't really in education. It's in keeping the little brats under control. Enough staff to watch them, break up the fights, keep them paying attention to learning rather than playing games, chatting or stareing into space. Then the cost of assessment, testing and such - because it's not enough to understand a subject. The pupils also need to be able to prove their understanding in the easily-demonstrated and consistant f
      • by I8TheWorm (645702) *

        My calculus class in college wasn't a lecture class, thank goodness. We were able to interact with the prof, ask questions during the lesson, and learned much more (and quicker) for all that.

        A video lecture class on calculus would be helpful, but not nearly as helpful as having the professor interact right there to the 20 or so students in the room.

      • by corbettw (214229)

        I don't know about you, but I couldn't learn calculus by just picking up a book or watching a video. I needed interaction with a teacher to hammer out the fine points.

        Also, there's nothing more boring in the world than watching a canned lecture. There are students out there who need the interaction with a teacher just to stay engaged in the class in the first place.

        Not to mention, if there isn't a teacher present, who's going to stop all the spit balls from flying?

        • I'm talking college, not high school.

          99% of students never ask the professor a question.

          The 1% who do basically ask the exact same questions.

          For an example of the concept done well, check out the following.

          http://www.justiceharvard.org/ [justiceharvard.org]

          I found it compelling and watched every episode, did some of the side reading, and I'm not even in college any more.

        • Also, there's nothing more boring in the world than watching a canned lecture.

          That sounds to me like you're claiming that noninteractive TV is boring. Yet in fact, it isn't boring to the majority, or it wouldn't draw advertisers. It's all in the presentation: see Beakman, Bill Nye, or anything on Discovery Networks.

    • by Minthos (1470867)
      I'm a cs student and I've watched video lectures as well as attended live lectures. Just like live music and recorded music, there's a place for both to coexist. From a student's perspective: Pro-live: I can ask questions I'm more inclined to pay attention I have to get out of bed I meet other students I meet professors the audio and video quality is (usually) better Pro-recorded: I can schedule lectures according to my life, instead of the opposite I have a wider selection of professors and lect
    • by hedwards (940851)

      That's more a problem with the model than the practice. A good instructor is well worth attending. The problem is that there's a lot of ones which aren't qualified and or are not doing their jobs properly.

      The Khan Academy has its strengths, but ultimately if you're not the type of learner that they're focusing on it's a complete waste. Which is the point, some people really do need to have an instructor in the room to learn.

      • I don't think it's a complete waste if you're not the A/V type of learner - I don't see Kahn Academy as a replacement for teachers and schools, I see it as a supplement / tool for learning ahead (parents can use K-A to teach their kids math and science over the summer between school years, students can use it as refreshers on old topics or ways to clarify topics they're currently studying).
    • You really want such an answer?

      1. Everything is an industry. Education is no different. The people in those fields protect their jobs, maximize their pay.

      2. It's good to know your professor. You talk to them. You interact with them.

      • 3. A professor who knows you and sees that you are bright and a hard worker will recommend you for internships, grad school, and job openings.
    • Self refresher: I could probably learn enough Controls to teach a course on it, but after a year my Control skills probably wouldn't be up to where they were.
      If I taught a course on controlls every semester, varying between 200 level courses and 500 level courses. My controls knowledge would be very sharp and I'd be able to do research.

      I've seen professors get stumped by questions in all ranges of classes, figure out the answer and come back. Now everyone in the class knows and the next time that it comes u

    • No teacher worth a damn is just reading a script, even when they're teaching a class of 1000,,,

      When I give a lecture, the students are feeding me information at the same time I'm feeding them. When I see a class filled with gray hair, I know I can get away with a Jerry Garcia reference. That won't work if I'm looking at kids wearing t-shirts from the latest Disney TV show. Am I getting silence because I have the class in rapt attention, or is it just the lull before the snoring starts? Are the frowns and f

    • by Snaller (147050)

      Because nobody would pay for that (in any useful number)

    • Believe me, as a not-so-expensive teacher in India, who has been unsuccessfully experimenting with Distance Education for quite some time, I can tell you that a watching a video is only one part of the story. The ability to feel the pulse of the audience, to take a difficult question and change the pace and style of the delivery are very important. Canned video is certainly better when nothing else is available but a human teacher cannot be replaced with a recording.
  • I am only a lowly IT technician. But I think I may be able to put a word in with the science faculty. Teachers like to show the occasional video in class to shut the children up while they get some marking done.
  • by StuartHankins (1020819) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:37PM (#35179834)
    At a time when so many things are wrong in this world, Khan Academy is helping countless people improve their lives through education. The help of BitTorrent brings this to even more people. Truly awesome and many thanks!
    • by hedwards (940851)

      I feel the need to point out that while it is great, you're somewhat exaggerating the benefit. It's not useful if you haven't gotten a basic education and if you don't have broadband, which pretty much shuts out the people that are most in need right there.

      I do support what they're doing because free or affordable education is a good thing for everybody. Except perhaps for educators, but since this really doesn't hit everybody I'm not too worried going into education.

      • I would argue that torrent distribution is even more important for those without broadband... because eventually you will receive the data. With more conventional methods, auto-resuming is more complicated. With torrents it's automatic.
      • I disagree. Places like Pakistan are where the Khan academy is targeted. According to Wikipedia's statistics [wikipedia.org], the majority have finished primary school and thus are receptive enough to understand the material being laid out in the basic Khan academy lectures. I'd hope the academy expands its video base to help the millions who haven't passed the equivalent of 5th grade, but I don't know if distance learning works at such a basic level.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This guy is really good at explaining complex subjects. I've watched quite a few of his videos.

  • . Seriously, even though I personally Torrent the shit outta every copyrighted work I can get my hands on, I'm glad it is developing legitimate uses to shut up the **AA's.
  • With all the scrutiny that file sharing providers are under these days, it's a good idea for someone like BT to immerse themselves and become associated with something legitimate like this. Hopefully it will make some judge later down the line think twice before having them shut down for illegal sharing.
  • As of posting, there are 45 comments. 5 of them are "KHAAAN" jokes. 11% of the comments are literally the same lazy joke. FFS Slashdot, get some originality.
  • I was inspired by Khan Academy to launch my first ever open source project. It replicates a little math tool Khan used to demonstrate slope-intercept in his videos, it's called eGraph. It also allows people to design, print, or project graphs in a classroom and it has a nice demo featuring the slope-intercept equation. When I saw the equation "animated" while changing the variables it instantly sunk in. During that time I was already building eGraph to design and print custom graph sheets, so I added the sl
  • I don't have a lot of spare free time to sit down and watch the videos. I would LOVE it if Khan Academy would release the lessons as understandable lecture/ audio podcasts as well. This way one could just listen to the material instead of needing the visual cues as well. I understand a lot of the subject matter can't be easily explained without visual cues, but right now if you where to just take the audio from the videos...you'd be lost as to what's going on. Podcasts please, not just a release of the yout
  • I feel like some comments are missing the point. I think Khan Academy works best in conjunction with some kind of normal curriculum. Repetitio Est Mater Studiorum as the saying goes. Khan Academy provides a way to hear the same thing in a voice different from one's instructor. It also solves the general problem of losing concentration during a lecture, and not being able to adequately replay the concept in a derivative way as opposed to the way many textbooks explain concepts that build on other concept

  • At MIT, there is a similar project called BLOSSOMS [mit.edu]. One would hope that these types of programs would be able to find common ground to get positive network effects.
  • This is truly great news. But why not go with an open-source platform/project?

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