(But Do We Really Need an App for That?)

I noticed a question on Quora the other day (and no, this isn't a Quora-is-the-future-of-journalism story): Is there a Khan Academy app similar to the TED app that allows someone to easily watch Khan Academy videos from a mobile device?

One response: Khan Academy videos are available on YouTube and can be watched through its HTML5 mobile site. Another response (mine, I admit): Khan Academy videos are available to download via iTunes U.

So no, no Khan Academy app - until today, with the release of KhanApp.

KhanApp lets you browse the entire Khan Academy video library, sorted by subject. Within each subject, you can work your way through the course's video serie. You can bookmark the videos so you can easily mark your place in the curriculum.

It's an "unofficial" Khan Academy app (the Khan Academy materials are licensed with the Creative Commons non-commercial share-alike license and the app is free). The app is built in HTML5 and is available for download for iPhone and Android via the OpenAppMarket.

I like that: open educational resources, OpenAppMarket. I digress...

As I test-drove the KhanApp, I couldn't help but think of the Quora thread and make a comparison between the Khan and the TED app. The latter is designed for the iPad viewing experience, and the KhanApp really isn't. When it comes to the iPad, the Khan Academy website itself is actually preferable to the KhanApp as the text and more importantly the YouTube videos better fit the layout and the screen. The Khan Academy website however offers no mobile version and is virtually unusable on a phone.

And that, perhaps, begs the question: does Khan Academy need an mobile app? Or should it simply improve its website for mobile use? (And/or should the app just serve to launch a mobile version of the website?)

As it stands, all of Khan's educational videos are already accessible on mobile devices, just without the ability - 'til now - to launch the videos from within an app. You can view the videos via YouTube, although admittedly navigating through the content to follow courses isn't easy from within the YouTube mobile interface. Or, you can watch via iTunes U, where it's a lot easier to subscribe to a particular subject - unless you're on an Android. None of these options offer access to the supplemental exercises that Khan Academy offers on its site, but I'm not sure that's not what people are looking for (not at this stage in Khan Academy's development, at least).

They're looking for a button to push on their mobile device to launch Khan Academy and deliver the educational videos. So I ask with genuine interest: do you need to have an app for that? (And what do our choices in building apps - or not - mean for educational resources?)

Audrey Watters


Hack Education

The History of the Future of Education Technology

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