Khan Academy founder Sal Khan predicts that, in the future, AI tutors will be as commonplace to students as computers and tablets are today.
Khanmigo is an example of such a tutor, backed by OpenAI’s latest large language model, GPT-4, which Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization that offers free online lessons, implemented into its online videos in July. As students watch videos on topics ranging from geometry to AP US History, they can now access an AI assistant via a pop-up window that will provide Socratic-method-type questions and hints if they’re stuck.
Tutoring is expensive in the US, and the goal of the AI tutor is to help students receive low-cost personalized support. Khanmigo costs $9 a month, which helps cover the cost for the company of running on GPT-4. Some school districts will even take care of that cost, Khan said.
Khanmigo also provides AI-driven lessons where students can debate, learn how to fine-tune arguments, or have a conversation with a historical or literary figure—though it’s limited to a pre-defined set of questions and characters. Each response from the AI assistant comes with a thumbs up or thumbs down emoji, and Khan Academy will use that feedback to improve the generative AI tool. Teachers can also chat with the AI tutor to help create lesson plans.
To date, some 30,000 students and teachers use or plan to adopt in the coming month Khanmigo, according to the company.
Last July, Khan said that OpenAI’s co-founders Sam Altman and Gregg Brockman reached out to him to talk about GPT-4. At first, he did not think an AI tutor would be possible during his lifetime, but, after seeing the demos, Khan’s opinion changed. “This changes everything about what Khan Academy is and could aspire to be,” he said.
A big concern swirling around generative AI is its ability to hallucinate or make up facts. In response, Khan said a lot of user interactions with Khanmigo are trained on Khan Academy content, which makes it more difficult for the generative AI tool to hallucinate since it is being trained on specific data.
One common criticism of online education is the lack of engagement, which is why not every class is virtual. The biggest benefit of the AI tutor, right now, is that it can benefit the “super curious kid,” as Khan puts it. But, there’s another category of students who are stuck while they are working on a problem set or watching a tutorial, and that’s where Khanmigo can start to help, he said.
In the future, Khan said AI tutors will be able to act as “memory” where they can send students messages and hold them accountable for the goals they set—promising this feature for as soon as next year. “Stuff like this is going to be really powerful,” Khan said.