Khan Academy vs Mr Maslow


First up let’s be clear – I love the Khan Academy.  I think what it has achieved is ground breaking and considering it was created in 2006 and has reached so many people is amazing.

I was doing some planning this week and I had a thought; as good as the Khan Academy is to what level is learning achieved?

Me being me I turned to good old Mr Maslow and his hierarchy of needs to examine a little further.

(Forgive me at this point but I’m going to assume that you all know the model of needs that I’m talking about and how it relates to learning if you don’t read up on it here.)

If we analyse the levels of needs we see that ‘self-actualisation’ is at the very top.


In order to get to the top you need to have passed through the 4 other layers of needs and it’s here that I have 2 main quandaries.

1: Can a website alone offer you things like close relationships or a sense of security let alone a sense of recognition from others?

2: Does independent learning hinder the path towards self-actualisation?

I suppose what I am trying to say is this – there are key fundamentals that only the classroom can offer such as peer analysis, group work and interaction!  As a lecturer in Creative Media Production that specialises in moving image I can tell you that the 3 areas where I see the learners develop most are team work, confidence and social interaction – and I’m talking of the face-to-face kind here, not social media.

These 3 areas are only possible through class/studio time where they are able to develop personally and technically. Don’t get me wrong, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of YouTube videos that are great for tutorials in specific software techniques but nothing beats having a tutor sit with a student who has specific learner needs and explain how a piece of software works (I’ll post about this soon).

Maslow (1970) stated that the highest level is self-actualisation, or the self-fulfilment.  Behaviour in this case is not driven or motivated by deficiencies but rather one’s desire for personal growth and the need to become all the things that a person is capable of becoming.  If this is the case does ones desire for personal growth really possible through a website or does it need human interaction? Honestly I don’t know as I can’t speak for the millions of people who use Khan Academy.

Just a quick conclusion then – Khan Academy is great on a certain level.  It’s empowering learners and teachers in how we develop as individuals and is also a great resource for the classroom (interestingly though nothing much appears when you search for media in the context of creative media).  The work it’s done across the globe is unparalleled and should be congratulated, however – nothing beats having a person in the classroom that can meet the requirements of individual learners that will assist them in their quest up the hierarchy of needs.

For further reading on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs check out his book here.  A sort of opus for educators, learners and those who like this sort of thing…


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