Frustration in trying to use Khan Academy exercises

The teacher reporting tools just don’t work.  So it’s taking me FOREVER to check students’ progress.  Literally, there are exercises on their site, which I have assigned to students, that are not in their list of exercises in the teacher reporting tools.  To check student progress, I have to go to each student, click on their name, and CONTROL + F to search the page for the name of the exercise, then look at their score, and finally type it into my gradebook.  And, because student proficiency changes constantly based on the mini retention quizzes KA gives (called mastery challenges), I will have to re-check student scores on each exercise every couple weeks.  KA, you say Shipping Beats Perfection doesn’t mean you ship things that are broken, but this is clearly broken!

UPDATE: Khan Academy Lead Developer Ben Kamens comments on this bug and on their current focus in building out more teacher reporting tools.  See comments section.

UPDATE: I found a new workaround, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there yesterday.  Perhaps KA fixed something already.  You can use CTRL + F to search the table when you view by table.  Exercises that weren’t in the table yesterday seem to be there today.  You can’t type their names into the search box above the table, but you can use your browser’s search function.  That’s a start.

UPDATE 9/22/13: Now that searching in the grid is working, what’s not working is searching in a student’s skill progress while viewing their profile.  So, for example, when a student has completed “Multiplying Expressions 0.5”, I can see their work in the grid or in the coach report by student, but if we view the student’s “skill progress” from his/her own profile, Multiplying Expressions 0.5 is not listed as an exercise.  In essence, KA’s back-end system for tracking performance seems to be having a hard time keeping up with its front end improvements this summer. so teachers should be prepared to potentially spend extra time figuring things out.

UPDATE 9/29/13: The issues with the teacher reporting have been completely fixed, and–even better–they have added a feature which lets you recommend exercises to students as a whole group rather than one student at a time.  Nice job, KA.  Exactly what I was hoping for.

19 thoughts on “Frustration in trying to use Khan Academy exercises”

  1. Which exercises are you assigning that aren’t in the coach reports?

    There are a few exploratory exercises (in “applied math” and such) that don’t show up there just yet for various reasons, but I’m interested in which ones you’re using so we can think about ways to make things less frustrating.

    1. Ben, here’s a link to a video showing what I’m talking about. Am I missing something? Currently, what I do is view the report by student, click on each student’s name, hit CTRL + F and type a key word of the exercise name to find the exercise. That’s fine for now, while they’ve only completed 12 exercises, but soon there will be too many for this approach to be manageable. I’d be happy to continue the conversation via email if you’d prefer. On the positive side, almost all of the students did almost all of the work. Some took 20 attempts to get 5 in a row correct for particular exercises, showing significant improvement. Others got their streaks finished mostly on their first tries. So far, from the student end, it’s been a successful review assignment, and the students seemed to respond well to it.

      1. This is most certainly a bug! Even if you were “missing something,” I’d consider it a bug on our part for not explaining things more clearly. Never the user’s fault.

        Thanks for pointing this out. I’ve filed the case for our team and we’ll be working to fix ASAP.

      2. Hey Kevin, just wanted to follow up and let you know that we’ve tracked down the source of this bug, but the fix is a bit more complicated than I’d hoped. Wanted you to know that even though the problem will persist for a bit longer, we’re aware and are hunting it.

      3. Thanks, Ben. In the meantime, you seem to have made some improvements that allow me to CTRL + F search the “grid” view for an exercise name, which is working for me. At least it’s not 1 student at a time.

      4. Hey Kevin — this bug was fixed (by the team, I take no credit) a few weeks ago, just wanted to send you this confirmation and say thanks for the feedback.

      5. Thanks, and I do appreciate the fix. I’ve noticed some progress toward recommending exercises to an entire class at a time, from the “Skills Progress” reporting tab. But that report no longer works for me–if I have more than 10 students in a category (such as “Practiced”), only the first 10 names show up. Derek and Ben, are you seeing the same thing?

  2. I’ve found it pretty tough to assign grades based on KA. I would use class assignments, assessments, projects, tasks, etc to assign grades. I really don’t think it’s meant for that anyways.

    1. Derek, I’d be interested in reading more about how you use it. Just for optional extra practice when a student needs remediation on a topic? If you have a blog post on that, feel free to link to it For now, I use it essentially a homework assignment: take these 12 review exercises from last year’s content, and get your 5-in-a-row streak on each of them. That seemed pretty straightforward, and it didn’t provoke backlash from the students. What I’m not sure about, however, is how it will work to ask students to progress through the various levels of KA skill–“practiced”, “level 1”, “level 2”, “mastered”. The retention quizzes could be one of the real strengths of the system–at least, the cognitive science literature says that spaced practice enhances retention almost better than anything else. However, the logistics of asking students to progress through those levels seems like it might be tricky. I played around with the system as a student for a while, and what I found is that if I’m trying to prove mastery of a particular skill that my teacher has assigned, I might have to wade through a bunch of mastery challenges on other skills before I get a chance to demonstrate my mastery of that skill. Would students be willing to do that, or would they just give up? I’m not sure.

      1. Great comments all around, this is a common concern that we’re working to alleviate. Right now, one of your best tools is the coach recommendations system (see video at bottom of http://schools.khanacademy.org/post/58337899459/the-new-khan-academy-learning-experience). When you’ve given a student of yours a recommended skill to learn, the mastery system will prioritize those skills as much as possible when students are going through the whole spaced repetition process.

        That doesn’t mean your comment is without merit — students may still have to work on other skills while trying to master those that you’ve assigned. This is something we’re thinking about a lot, as we want to give coaches control while also maintaining that students are context switching between different skills while proving mastery.

    2. Hey Derek — you’re absolutely right that we haven’t specifically designed for “assigning grades based on KA.” Maybe that’ll be something that gets more of our attention in the future, but for now (on the coach reports side) we’re really focused on building tools to help teachers spot where students are struggling (so they can take over and do what they do best).

      I can see how trying to assign grades based on KA would be frustrating, and I know many teachers do manage to use KA reports as a helpful input into their grades. But *for now* we’re focused on helping them personalize their instruction more than the grading aspect.

      1. Hi Ben, but even if I weren’t doing it for a grade, I would still appreciate being able to view student performance by exercise or by table. For exercises that aren’t viewable in those reports, it’s really time-consuming to identify who is struggling.

      2. Hey Ben… First I think the updates you guys have made are awesome. They’ve really exploded the possibilities and empowered me even more as a teacher. The main reason grades are tough for me is that I still have a number of students without internet access at home. I’m not even 1:1 or BYOD at my school. So it’s tough to level the playing field. Not to mention a lot of the ones without internet are the ones who need help the most.
        Kevin, check out http://www.khanacademyjournal.blogspot.com that’s a journal from the entire year last year. Last year was my first whole year using KA with about 120 8th grade students. I would love to chat more about how I use it in my classroom. On my phone lol, gotta switch the computer.

      3. Derek — that makes sense. Without access to devices I’m sure you have to get very creative when using KA. Wish we could help more. Lots of problems to solve in the long run.

        And thanks so much for your journal. So much good feedback there.

  3. When you say “by exercise” or “by table,” what information are you looking for that’s not in the “by exercise” report that you used to create the (helpful) bug report video linked above?

    1. Nothing, sorry. I thought you hadn’t seen the bug video, because I hadn’t noticed your reply to that comment. I just saw your replies to Derek, but then i went back and saw your reply to me.

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