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Building the New Model for Teaching and Learning

OpenAI, assisted by Khan Academy, is building a new model for teaching and learning, to be called OpenAI Academy. At the center of the model is generative AI.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman says he is committed to leveraging generative AI to support education. He often speaks about his concern for higher education and student debt. On March 20, 2022, @sama tweeted, “I think US college education is nearer to collapsing than it appears.” His concerns motivated him to reach out to Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, a very successful nonprofit with the mission of providing a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.

As Peter Coy writes in his New York Times newsletter,

Khan told me that he got an email last June from Sam Altman and Greg Brockman of OpenAI, the research and development company behind ChatGPT. They wanted to work with him to show that their A.I. engine could be a force for good. They invited him to take an early look at GPT-4, the powerful language model that wasn’t released to the public until this March. He went for a demo in July and was blown away … Khan and his team used GPT-4 as the engine behind software called Khanmigo (“Khan” plus “amigo”—a little goofy). Khanmigo isn’t supposed to give away answers. Like a good flesh-and-blood tutor, it engages students in a Socratic dialogue to guide them … Khan Academy has been a game changer for education. Khanmigo, Khan told me, “is a game changer for Khan Academy.”

Early data show that students who have had both human tutors and ChatGPT as a tutor overwhelmingly say ChatGPT is superior. As reported in Government Technology in May, “A study by the education website found most students could not compare tutoring with AI to tutoring with people, but of those who had experience with both, 85 percent said ChatGPT was more effective.”

With the upgrade to the planned GPT-5, chat bots are expected to provide enhanced student responses. reported a few more details on the plans for OpenAI Academy:

By harnessing the capabilities of GPT-5, OpenAI Academy will provide an extensive selection of courses and subjects, encompassing disciplines such as mathematics, science, music and art. Users will have the opportunity to engage with GPT-5 as their instructor, tutor, mentor, or companion, receiving tailored feedback and assistance throughout their learning journey. Additionally, the platform will empower users to create and distribute their own courses, facilitating a vibrant community of both learners and educators. This collaborative environment will encourage knowledge sharing and foster a sense of shared growth among its participants. The OpenAI Academy is set to launch in late 2023 and, in line with OpenAI’s mission to ensure the benefits of AI are accessible to all, it will be free for anyone who wants to use it, according to Sam Altman.

Meanwhile, Kristen DiCerbo, chief learning officer of Khan Academy, says, “We think GPT-4 is opening up new frontiers in education. A lot of people have dreamed about this kind of technology for a long time. It’s transformative and we plan to proceed responsibly with testing to explore if it can be used effectively for learning and teaching.”

Danny D’Cruze writes in Business Today, “The new GPT-4 based AI Khanmigo was under testing since 2022, according to the US-based online education platform. The pilot program will be initially available to a limited number of participants and early testing by Khan Academy shows that GPT-4 can help students contextualize the relevance of what they are studying and learn specific points of computer programming.”

Sal Khan says GPT-4, OpenAI’s latest version of its artificial intelligence model, is ready to be a tutor. Khan said, during an interview at the recently concluded Abundance 360 summit, that such technology provides students with a highly personalized learning option, something that is available at the right moment when the student is studying in class. Additionally, it offers learning opportunities to students, regardless of their background, whether they are in rich or developing countries.

  • Khan Academy testing and collecting data on the performance of the GPT-4 version of Khanmigo, offering one-on-one tutoring experiences by providing tailored support, prompting critical thinking and suggesting relevant resources. And, for the teachers, Khanmigo is serving as an assistant that helps with administrative tasks to save time.
  • The Khan Academy experiences will feed into the OpenAI Academy that is to open toward the end of 2023. It is planned to offer a wide selection of courses and subjects, encompassing disciplines such as mathematics, science, music and art.
  • Further, students in the OpenAI Academy are to engage with GPT-5 as their instructor, tutor, mentor or companion, receiving tailored feedback and assistance.

On the same day Sam Altman tweeted, “I think US college education is nearer to collapsing than it appears,” he also tweeted, “What a time to start an alternative to college! The world really needs it.” So, it seems that he is launching his academy to become a more affordable, accessible, online model to provide higher education in the future.

Is your university considering the competition that will emerge later this year from OpenAI Academy’s free and open classes utilizing the latest in generative AI supporting students? Is your university prepared to test and possibly adopt the OpenAI Academy model? Who is considering the administrative and tuition revenue implications of providing courses without faculty members? Are you considering models in which a human “master teacher” oversees multiple sections of classes offered by chat bots serving as instructors? There seems to be much that needs to be addressed by the end of this year.


This article was originally published in Inside Higher Ed’s Transforming Teaching & Learning blog.

A man (Ray Schroeder) is dressed in a suit with a blue tie and wearing glasses.

Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.

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