Microsoft teams with Khan Academy to make its AI tutor free for K-12 educators and will develop a Phi-3 math model


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Microsoft is partnering with Khan Academy in a multifaceted deal to demonstrate how AI can transform the way we learn. The cornerstone of today’s announcement centers on Khan Academy’s Khanmigo AI agent. Microsoft says it will migrate the bot to its Azure OpenAI Service, enabling the nonprofit educational organization to provide all U.S. K-12 educators free access to Khanmigo.

In addition, Microsoft plans to use its Phi-3 model to help Khan Academy improve math tutoring and collaborate to generate more high-quality learning content while making more courses available within Microsoft Copilot and Microsoft Teams for Education.

Using Azure to make Khanmigo free for teachers

Launched in 2023, Khanmigo is an experimental AI tutor that offers students personalized guidance in subjects such as math, science, coding and writing. More than 65,000 students are said to be using the chatbot for their studies.

Parents and educators can also use Khanmigo. The former can prompt it for help when assisting their children with their homework, and the latter can use it to simplify their workflows and generate educational plans.

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Khan Academy charged educators $4 per month to use Khanmigo, with the fee covering development costs, testing new technology, and accessing the large language models that power the bot. The move to Azure OpenAI Service not only gives Khan Academy access to more models from OpenAI’s GPT-4o, GPT-4, Whisper, DALL-E 3, and more but can save money in other areas, enough so that it eliminates the need to charge K-12 teachers. What’s more, being supported by Azure OpenAI Service could open the doors to new capabilities the bot could provide to educators in order to help them plan their curriculum.

With more educators having access to Khanmigo, they can use AI to better plan their lessons and have fewer things to be concerned about.

“Teachers are super overworked,” Khan Academy founder Sal Khan explains, noting an exodus out of the profession due to low pay and unmanageable workloads. He believes using AI in education not only has the potential to accelerate student learning but can also “make teaching more sustainable.”

Phi-3-based math tutoring

Another aspect of this partnership involves Microsoft’s Phi-3. Khan Academy will use the now-generally available lightweight AI models to improve its math tutoring. Microsoft will receive access to Khan Academy’s explanatory educational content, math problems, step-by-step answers, ongoing feedback and benchmarking data. All of this will be ingested by Phi-3 to develop a small language model.

Microsoft states no Khan Academy user will be used in the training process.

Leveraging Phi-3 makes sense because the AI provides the power of more premium models but at a significantly lower cost. Developing a small language model is prudent because it has one job: to help teach math. Cluttering up the training data with non-subject matters will leave it prone to hallucinations and misinformation that impede the learning process.

Microsoft boasts about one use case in which it fine-tuned a version of Phi-3 for calling Python code for complex calculations and trained it on data from Accelerate Learning and Upchieve. The result was an AI that generated problems for specific grade levels and math topics while assisting student users in learning using guided tutorials and providing customized summaries.

“We’re thrilled to tackle these important challenges with Khan Academy,” Deidre Quarnstrom, Microsoft’s education product vice president, says in a statement. “This model has the potential to improve the accessibility, reliability and experience for AI-powered math tutoring in products like Khanmigo.”

Microsoft and Khan Academy might also consider using this math model beyond the cloud, meaning it could be used in the age of the AI PC, on mobile devices, or in other edge computing platforms such as wearables.

As an aside, it should be noted that Microsoft has its own math tutoring programs for students and educators called Math Coach and Math Progress. Both are available through Microsoft Teams for Education in preview.

Khan Academy content on Microsoft Copilot and Teams

The final component of the Microsoft-Khan Academy collaboration involves distributing courses to more learners. To start, Khan Academy will bring more educational lessons to Microsoft Copilot and Teams for Education, offering users more academic study opportunities. Previously, Copilot included Khan Academy references in specific responses, but now, the aim is to make the educational content more accessible and interactive.

Because Microsoft’s Teams for Education is a free communication app for schools that facilitates collaboration and learning, Khan Academy is adding a “Share to Teams” feature to its platform. This will make sharing and applying its content in student assignments within Teams easier.