KA Lite: Bringing Education To Those Who Need It Most


KApicIf you don’t already know, Khan Academy is a nonprofit organization that was born of one man’s idea to help a family member succeed in school. It has now become a huge force for free online education. KA Lite is an offline version of the Khan Academy content, aimed at serving individuals who cannot readily access the internet. This includes those in developing countries, prison education programs, or any other knowledge-seekers for whom internet availability is a challenge.

Working on this project has been exciting, as having a part in creating any product that can affect so many people in a positive way should be. To give the reader a bit of insight into my background, I am an undergraduate Linguistics student at UCSD who is interested in numerous aspects of both language and technology. One of my most significant contributions to KA Lite has been integrating Google Maps through the Google Maps API. This is a core feature of the product, allowing administrators to label their facilities on the map, and to help the development team understand how the product is being used. Administrators add and edit facilities using the map interface, and can keep track of students and teachers in different content sharing zones. In these zones, content can be shared between users’ devices without an internet connection, to facilitate sharing in the absence of the internet.

mapsPic

The inception of KA Lite occurred over the summer of 2012, when the lead developer of the product, Jamie Alexandre, was interning at Khan Academy. Jamie provides a full account of how the idea for KA Lite came to him and describes the product in detail in a compelling bout of storytelling over on his blog.

The most common question I come across when describing KA Lite is why it is necessary. The internet seems so ubiquitous these days, that most people can’t quite grasp why an offline version of Khan Academy would be useful. Though in America it may seem that everyone can access the internet, nearly 70% of the world has no internet access. With this figure in mind, the utility of KA Lite comes into focus. This need is especially prevalent in the developing world, as depicted in the graph below.

internet-usage (Source: Wikipedia: “Global Digital Divide”)

Another pertinent question regarding KA Lite is just how people download the content in the first place if the target audience has such great difficulty accessing the internet. KA Lite has been developed with this question squarely in mind. The development team has taken care to ensure that the KA Lite server can be downloaded and run on devices as inexpensive as the $35 Raspberry Pi. This means that administrators download the server only one time, and then users can download the content by connecting to the server, as opposed to having to access the internet itself.

I hope that everyone shares in our excitement in this possibly game-changing idea.  Any interested readers are encouraged to ask questions in the comments below. Also, please note that the KA Lite development team is not located at Khan Academy, but is instead an independent team based at UCSD. This continues to be an open source development project, and any interested developers are encouraged to inquire further.

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16 thoughts on “KA Lite: Bringing Education To Those Who Need It Most

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  5. Thanks for this Matt. It is really exciting and inspiring. This is exactly what we need in South Africa.

    Something I am not clear about: Can I download the server once from the Internet, including all the videos and then clone that installation for other servers to place at different venues?

  6. Hey Marius, I’m glad to hear that you support our work! We are excited to bring this technology to South Africa!

    To address your question, there are a few things to be aware of when downloading the server once and then cloning it for other venues. You can definitely make multiple copies to run on multiple computers, but if you copy from one computer where it’s installed, to another computer, you need to make sure you delete the database file on the new computer (under kalite/database/database.sqlite) and re-run the install script, to make sure it gets a unique Device ID generated (in case it wants to sync with the central server in the future).

    We are currently working to make this process of downloading once and cloning for multiple devices even smoother. If you subscribe for updates on the KA Lite website, you will be notified when this has been done, and when other progress has been made. Thank you again for your feedback.

  7. Hi Matt,

    I have been trying to download KA-Lite for a classroom for underprivileged children in India. I am getting Internet speeds in the range 24-100 KB/s (bytes) at my home network. Even after trying for a week, the KA lite download is far from done. I leave the download running for days, but after downloading a few videos, I get an error saying failure to download. After this either one needs to restart the download manually and in some cases restart the web-server manually. So essentially one needs to baby-sit the downloads (else one gets only a few hours worth of downloads in a day). (a) Is there any way the downloads can be made more robust to faults and have them auto-retry after failures (b) can the download be done using bittorrent? I have also started another download of Khan Academy content using bittorrent and that has been smoother. The problem is that the files names used in the bittorrent downloads are different from those used in KA-lite. Any suggestions on how to move forward?

    Thanks,
    Rahul..

  8. Hi Rahul,

    I am glad to hear that you are interested in using KA Lite! I am sorry to hear that you are having trouble with the download, we are working on having Bittorrent links up within a week. I apologize for any inconvenience, as our development team is currently based at a University and many of us have been away for the Winter holidays. I wish you a happy and healthy new year, and hope that this solution is satisfactory.

    Thank you,
    Matt

  9. Hi Matt, Thanks for all your great work on this. I downloaded the KALite app and KA videos and got the web server running on my local computer: http://127.0.0.1:8008/. On my local computer, I can point my browser to the KA web server successfully, load the KALite pages, watch the videos and use the exercises. But when I point the browser on my iPad to the IP address of my local computer hosting the KAlite, I am able to see the content and use the exercises. But the videos never load. In a nutshell, I can view the videos on the local web server, but not from my tablet device pointing to the local web server. Am I missing something obvious? I know iPads have problems with Flash, but it looks like there is HTML5 or javascript embedded in KALite that is trying to handle the video.
    Appreciate any pointers you can give me.
    Susan

  10. I just wanted to say that we are really excited about the prospect of KA-Lite. Here in the Central African Republic, internet is expensive and slow over satellite links so a program like this can be a real game changer. We have access to a 512kbit internet connection to download the bittorrent file, but is there any index of what each of this alphanumeric file names goes to? For example, I would like to download all the math videos, but I’m not sure which file names go to this. Is there a way to do this without going through every webpage and searching for the video file name? Also I would really like to download the videos in French (not just subtitles) that are available on fr.khanacademy.org. Is there a way of integrating the videos that were originally encoded in French?

  11. Hello Sir,

    I have been trying to merge the downloaded Khan Academy video lectures to KA Lite, but I couldn’t figure it out. I need your help in this.
    I am able to run KA Lite on local network successfully. I have added all the videos to the contents folder inside ka-lite folder, but the videos are not being detected by KA Lite, instead it is trying to download the video from internet, once I click on video tutorial link for the particular exercise. I tried one thing which worked, I renamed the existing file to the name of video file being downloaded and it work.
    I want to use all the download lectures in KA Lite, instead of opening it separately.

    Thankyou.

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