Featuring more than 5,000 instructional videos and guided coursework covering a full array of subject matter—everything from math and science to art history and finance—the Khan Academy app is a beautiful illustration of the power of the mobile web. Brian R. Bondy developed the Firefox OS version of Khan Academy and tells us why this is such an important and personal project for him…
Is there a certain student age range for which Khan Academy is best suited?
Brian R. Bondy: Khan Academy is a non-profit with a mission to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. The content not only covers K-12 but also goes beyond that. I’ve heard stories of 97-year-old ladies using the site. The content is applicable to any age, race, or gender.
Current languages supported include English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Turkish, and Bengali—do you have any plans to expand your language support?
BRB: We’ll definitely be supporting more languages as time goes on. Adding additional languages to the app itself is not too hard, but we need to make sure that the content on the site provided by the APIs is also localized.
One contributor, Sashoto Seeam, not only localized the app to Bengali, but also created links for hundreds of videos on the site itself. This ensures that content is delivered in the proper language.
How did you personally become involved with the Khan Academy project?
BRB: I’ve been a contributor on and off for a few years. In April 2014, I decided it was something I wanted to do full time.
Do you plan to add features to the app over time?
BRB: Yes, I’ll be actively developing the app during my spare time. I’m also starting to get help from the open source community. For example in v1.1 of the app, there is a feature to set the playback rate of videos, and it was developed by a contributor named Farez Vadsaria.
Do you have any other future plans for the app?
BRB: Yes, a couple of the major features include a new video player (using video.js) and exercise support for the app.
Which frameworks did you use to build the app?
BRB: The app was built with Facebook’s React + Backbone for models. React is awesome, free, and open source. You declaratively specify your app’s views in various modularized components. It greatly simplifies your code and more Firefox OS apps should use it.
Khan Academy gives users “energy points” for the educational content they engage with. Can you explain more about this credit system and why it matters?
BRB: Energy points is just a quick measure of the effort someone puts in at Khan Academy. Points are awarded for a variety of things, but most commonly for performing activities like watching videos and doing exercises. They help motivate learners and sometimes users will set personal goals for obtaining a certain number of points. Other reward systems used by the site include badges, levels, and attaining mastery at various different skills. Only energy points are currently in the Khan Academy Firefox OS app, but there are plans to support the other reward systems too.
If you’re interested in learning more about Khan Academy and why Brian developed it for Firefox OS, here’s a link to a recent post on his blog.