Powerful Partnership: How Technology Is Expanding Access to Quality Biology Education

April 23, 2017
President, Amgen Foundation

Over the past 25 years, the Amgen Foundation has worked to strengthen science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, particularly biology education, around the world. We have a long-standing history of reaching students through hands-on science programs such as the Amgen Biotech Experience and the Amgen Scholars Program, which have reached more than 500,000 students worldwide.

We also realize there is an opportunity to make science accessible to all students—and to increase scientific literacy around the globe—so in 2016 we entered into a partnership with Khan Academy to build a comprehensive online repository on core biology topics at the high school and introductory college level. Khan Academy is a leading, innovative, and effective educational technology platform—with over 50 million registered users—with demonstrated power to shape and transform how we learn, including in science.

STEM: Embracing the T to Power the S

Technology has the power to exponentially increase the reach of the Amgen Foundation’s efforts—and ensure access to those who need it most. The online platform is free to all to use, and it provides those with little access to science education—whether due to income status or location—the ability to increase their knowledge on myriad subjects.

Amgen Foundation’s work with Khan Academy started with an initial one-year partnership, which funded the creation of over 450 new biology content items including videos, articles, and exercise questions fully aligned to education standards. In addition, a large group of expert volunteers from Amgen, the Amgen Scholars Program, and the Amgen Biotech Experience volunteered their expertise to Khan Academy.

Expanding Access and Improving Outcomes

The biology content garnered immediate attention, with learners expressing their appreciation for the new materials via social media. One learner shared via Facebook, “The biology lessons help me focus on my studies in Advanced Placement (AP) and gain a real-world approach to the content. It isn't just my textbook.” Another learner tweeted about the experience of using the resources: “Khan Academy is going to be the reason I pass Biology.” We’ve heard this same sentiment echoed from many other learners across the globe who have shared their appreciation of the work of Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, and his team to offer these high-quality lessons.

In fact, Derek Wan, a freshman at University of California, Berkeley who is studying neuro-molecular biology, said, “Other people in my class struggled, and I would just regurgitate Sal’s response to them. That made me feel like I could understand biology—as long as I got it the right way; as long as I could spend time with it. That’s the feeling that Khan Academy gave me.”

The Next Generation of Science Education

The initial partnership was so successful that we recently announced a new three-year, $3 million grant to continue to build the Khan Academy’s biology library. The new content will build on its existing biology resources to develop a truly comprehensive offering of videos, articles, and intensive practice exercises, from ninth grade biology through AP biology. By creating high-quality and free primary learning resources in AP biology, Khan Academy hopes to increase access to AP courses and practice resources for low-income students.

With this new commitment, Amgen Foundation has become Khan Academy’s Science Partner, and we will continue to engage Amgen staff and others in this work.

“With the long-term support of the Amgen Foundation as our Science Partner, Khan Academy is poised to become a leading provider of free, high-quality science content that can scale to reach millions of learners across the country and world,” said Sal Khan.

Today’s youth will become the next generation of innovators who will create the cures that will eradicate diseases or discover new methods that will revolutionize the field of medical biotechnology. It is important that we help nurture, engage, and inspire future scientists in the United States and across the globe. This continuing partnership will help us do just that.

Visit amgeninspires.com and follow @AmgenFoundation on Twitter for updates on progress and more details of the partnership, and visit khanacademy.org to see all the educational resources Khan Academy provides.