Khan Academy’s chatbot tutor arrives in Vietnam

(VOVWORLD) - Vietnam has been the third largest user globally, outside the US, of Khan Academy’s free online learning platform, Khanmigo, for school-directed learners in 2023, according to the Silicon Valley-based and non-profit educational organization. In this week’s Digital Life, we talk to Sandeep Bapna, Vice President of International at Khan Academy, to learn more about the chatbot tutor and why the Academy chose Vietnam for its mission to provide "free education anytime, anywhere".
Khan Academy’s chatbot tutor arrives in Vietnam - ảnh 1Sandeep Bapna speaks at the International Conference on 'Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Education'. (Photo credit Khan Academy)

Reporter: Khan Academy’s AI tutor, Khanmigo, is being used free in 192 nations, including Vietnam. Can you briefly introduce the chatbot?

Sandeep Bapna: From the very beginning the idea was that we can create a mastery-based learning system and there is very famous research done by Benjamin Bloom which says that if you have mastery-based learning and you have tutors, personalized tutors, you could make a below average student above average and someone who is, let's say, average be a top-performing student. So that was the genesis and our dream and the question has always been “can we get mastery-based learning and personalized tutoring to make that dream come true?” One of the first things we did on mastery-based learning is to create a website which has mastery mechanics. With artificial intelligence we can now give everyone a personalized tutor. We launched a product last year called Khanmigo, an AI-powered tutor app where anyone can go and, whatever their learning level, get access to an AI-based tutor.

Reporter: AI is affecting all aspects of life, including education. How is Khan Academy using AI in online learning?

Sandeep Bapna: As you know, about 18 months ago OpenAI introduced ChatGPT, and Google and others are also using large language models for AI applications. Even before ChatGPT was announced to the world, OpenAI, the parent company, reached out to Khan Academy and said, you know, when we launch this, people will have a lot of concerns about AI. Will AI take our jobs? Will AI ultimately destroy humanity? OpenAI wanted to work with Khan Academy to create something which is a net positive for the society. So that's how we started working with them.

Khan Academy’s chatbot tutor arrives in Vietnam - ảnh 2Representatives of Khan Academy visit Quang Minh B Primary School in Hanoi’s outlying district of Me Linh. (Photo: Khan Academy Facebook)

Reporter: How useful chatbot Khanmigo is as a tool for students to answer questions in their studies?

Sandeep Bapna: Khanmigo is powered by the large language model of OpenAI, but what we've done is we've built a lot on top of that using prompt engineering and other methods. We’ve turned it into a robust tutor. Now if a Khan Academy student is working on a math problem, let's say, and is not able to understand it, the Khanmigo bot is there, which the student can pop up and start asking questions.

I'll give you a very interesting example from my experience in India about two months ago. I was at a girls’ school in a village. I took my phone with Khanmigo to where they were doing some math problems. 7th or 8th grade students were doing problems and they weren’t understanding, so I said, hey, use my phone, use Khanmigo and ask it the questions you don't understand. Right? And so, they didn't know the difference between median and average, for example, but they could talk to Khanmigo about it.

You don't even have to type. You can just speak, you know, in your own language and Khanmigo understands because it knows this is a Khan Academy problem you're doing, so it has the context and it can start responding to you and giving you hints to solve it.

Reporter: What are the strengths of Khanmigo compared to other available chatbots?

Sandeep Bapna: Khanmigo is much stronger in mathematics than ChatGPT or any other chatbot, because we have our own team prompting and creating flows through which the bot is solving math problems. That's one thing. Another thing is that we’re very aware that this technology must be used in a safe manner. We have built in safeguards in case students go off in a different direction and start asking things that aren’t relevant to the lesson. We summarize each student’s chat history and teachers get notifications or alerts that something is not going right and maybe they should talk to a particular student.

For example, students can’t use bad language and can’t ask questions that aren’t relevant to the lesson. So that's the second thing. Another thing is the design of KhanMigo. It doesn’t give you the answer. The students can get very frustrated because a lot of them have the experience that if they have a homework question, they can just go someplace and get the answer. But our thinking is that, instead of giving them the answer, we should help them figure out the answer. So Khanmigo is designed to not simply give the answer. I would say those are the three big things which different Khanmigo from other chatbots.

Khan Academy’s chatbot tutor arrives in Vietnam - ảnh 3At the working session between Khan Academy’s representatives and leaders of Me Linh district’s education section about digital transformation (Photo credit Khan Academy)

Reporter: Why did Khan Academy choose Vietnam as one of the few countries to get a Khanmigo trial account?

Sandeep Bapna:  I think Vietnam is way ahead of other countries. We heard that there is a strong culture for math education, that systems are in the right place to promote math education. And then we have an amazing organization like the Vietnam Foundation, that’s been working to get Khan Academy math into many schools. Vietnam is the third largest country outside the US using Khan Academy in its schools. So this is very exciting for us. I think the conditions are right, between Vietnam's love for math and support from both the Ministry of Education and the nonprofit sector. So this is a perfect combination.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. Sandeep Bapna, Vice President of International Operations at Khan Academy, for this talk.

Sandeep Bapna: Thank you.

Khan Academy Vietnam (KAV), a non-profit educational program implemented by The Vietnam Foundation (VNF) as the official and sole representative of Khan Academy in Vietnam, has successfully established over 1 million accounts and nearly 1300 "KAV Open Schools." By the end of 2023, these “Open Schools” were being used by more than 10,000 teachers.

Through the KAV Open School and KAV Open Class models, VNF has extended Khan Academy to every corner of the country, from urban areas like Hanoi, Vinh Phuc, and Dong Nai to rural regions like Tuyen Quang, Yen Bai, and Hoa Binh.

All 22 million Vietnamese students now have the opportunity to register and participate in free lessons in Vietnamese or English on the Khan Academy platform.