Case Study: Khan Academy

Case Study: Khan Academy

. 8 min read

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Khan Academy has been operating since 2008 as a non-profit organization known for its noble mission of offering a free education to anyone, anywhere. Khan Academy offers lesson plans, practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom.

They have partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, and MIT, to offer specialized content for their learners. The website and its content are provided mainly in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, but are also available in other languages such as Turkish, French, Bangla and Hindi.

Khan Academy  has partnerships with:

  • College Board: establishing Khan Academy as the official preparation tool for the SAT and PSAT.
  • NWEA: They’re the Northwest Evaluation Association, known for their MAP testing. This new collaboration helped lead to the launch of Khan’s first District-oriented Product called Khan Academy Districts (KAD) and Map Accelerator (MA).

As of July 2019, Khan Academy expanded their reporting offerings to US school districts, leading to their first paid product, and our first paid product support team.

Khan Academy’s Global Impact

As schools across the globe have been forced to close their doors due to COVID-19, Khan Academy has answered the call for emergent support in distance learning by offering teachers, students, and parents its wide array of free learning resources and gradebook-style reporting.

Khan Academy’s free content has had mass appeal worldwide and has led to an explosion of traffic in the site since COVID-19 hit. To match this influx of usage and demand, they’ve added even more to their roster of free offerings, including webinars hosted on Facebook and YouTube, new guides and platform walkthroughs for teachers and parents, and handy daily schedules for families with learners ages 2 to 17 to follow.

The PartnerHero - Khan Academy Partnership

  • Khan Academy and PartnerHero started collaborating in June, 2017. Since then, they have become one of PartnerHero’s flagship programs.
  • The Khan-PH team was originally launched with 8 associates and 1 team lead in 2016.
  • In 2020, the Khan-PH team features 9 core associates, 1 dedicated program manager, and 5-7 flex seasonal associates who join the team for 6-to-8 month seasonal sprints.
  • Khan Academy’s Headquarters are based in Mountainview, CA, however, many of their employees work remotely from around the US or work as globe-trotting digital nomads. They’re considered a remote-friendly company, which is a sentiment they also extend to the PartnerHero team.


  • Customer Support and User Advocacy
  • Technical Troubleshooting & Reporting
  • Help Center & Database Maintenance
  • Community Forum & App Review Support
  • The PartnerHero-Khan Academy team started by only providing basic customer support and technical troubleshooting in 2017.

Now, in 2020, PartnerHero takes responsibility for many other aspects of the Khan experience beyond ticket production, including:

  • Identifying and flagging trends in support issues to escalate to the appropriate teams in real time
  • Filing and labeling JIRA issues (which includes attaching the correct product component from a list over more than 60 areas that they track)
  • Providing a individual weekly reports outlining the week’s primary issues
  • Collecting and synthesizing feedback for specific product changes to advocate for user voices as Khan Academy makes important decisions
  • Writing and translating canned responses for common user questions
  • Collaborating with product teammates in Slack and JIRA
  • Providing support to their NWEA counterparts
  • Keeping Khan Academy’s Help Center up-to-date in three languages
  • Creating documentation around common processes to serve as resources and ensure maintenance of institutional knowledge
  • Conducting QA on the filing of JIRA issues three times per week
  • Collaborating with District Managers to solve in-the-moment issues for the District experience
  • Taking on “product liaison” roles to serve as the voice of the users in important project conversations with devs and PMs to provide insight on user experiences and sentiment
  • Working with the Guardian volunteers to moderate and provide responses to posts in Khan Academy’s Community Forums
  • Moderating comments on Khan Academy’s YouTube videos
  • Responding to mobile app reviews for Android and iOS platforms
  • Providing a daily status updates on tickets trends and a plan of attack for each day
  • Writing a daily status report on outstanding MAP Accelerator and Khan Academy Districts issues
  • In short, PartnerHero interacts with and has a unique and profound  understanding of Khan Academy’s (pretty complex) platform. Their knowledge and communication skills provide dramatic value to our team and our users.

Partnership Origins & Boot-up Stage

  • We started the Khan - PartnerHero partnership by organizing an in-house visit in Mountainview, between the partner and the prospective Team Lead and a member of the Learning & Development team. This strategy was meant to help establish rapport between teams, as well as facilitate the training set-up and onboarding process for associates in Honduras.
  • In essence, the lead and L&D agent were there for a week to acquire documentation, create a training plan, and prepare the team in Honduras for the support ops launch.
  • In this case, the Khan Academy points of contact decided to also visit Honduras and were active participants in the training process, which greatly helped identify expectations, establish processes, and bond as a team.

Prior to engaging with outsourcing companies, Khan Academy’s support team was composed exclusively of volunteers.

  • As their support team grew and became actual Khan employees, Laurie LeDuc was the singular support agent and ran the support ops with contributions from other employees able to dedicate some of their time and product know-how.
  • This led to significant gaps in their support structure where there was no established voice, no centralized knowledge center, insufficient and unsustainable processes, and significant wait times for user issue resolutions.
  • It’s been mentioned by the partner that, at the beginning of the partnership, it was PartnerHero’s price point that made it so appealing. It’s been made clear since then that the relationship between Khan and ParterHero has evolved and become an essential and reliable part of the business.

As PartnerHero we provide:

  • Coverage for all partner-requested schedules, including:
  • Monday to Friday / 4AM PST to 6PM PST and Saturday/Sunday 7AM PST - 4PM PST
  • Including coverage for all American holidays except Christmas Day and New Year’s
  • Fully independent training schedule (including product training, nesting, and probation period) to ensure new incoming associates are ready to handle all areas of the product and provide extraordinary support from the get-go. This requires zero involvement from the partner.
  • Tailor-made recruitment strategies that align with both Khan Academy and PartnerHero’s values and standards, including:
  • Job descriptions for different roles
  • Custom assessments for potential candidates
  • Specific interview questions, personality types, and filters to identify the best candidates and ensure minimal turnover
  • Members of Khan’s Core Team of 9 have all been with Khan Academy for at least 1.5 years. We hire with the intent of ensuring that all associates become highly specialized, and we take great pride in rewarding high-performance team members through development plans, career incentives, and bringing them into our well-known, tight-knit team culture.
  • In June 2018, the PH-KA team underwent significant changes where the majority of the TGU-based team was terminated due to poor performance and lack of agent commitment. This led to a program crisis of high agent turnover, inconsistent performance, and partner trust issues.
  • To remedy this, PartnerHero implemented a swift change in management and made significant staffing changes. A team that began in one hub was quickly uprooted and turned into a highly successful global remote team.
  • We foster and dedicate special resources to foster and support a dedicated core team of 9 highly driven, growth-oriented, value-aligned associates who are expected to stay with Khan Academy long-term. One of the partnership's goals has been to identify and protect talent that is heavily invested in both PH and KA core values.
  • We also add 5-7 new associates every year on 6-to-8 month contracts to support substantial seasonal activity surges during the Back to School season (approx. July - December). See image to the right: This is the current team, including the partner points of contact, and our core & seasonal associates.

PartnerHero Results & Achievements

  • 100% productivity goals met consistently
  • In reaction to this success, we have been able to increase the Weekly Agent Goal from 175 to 225 Public Comments.
  • March 2019 was by far the team’s highest support satisfaction month ever!  We normally aim to average 90%.
  • Even more specifically, one of our associates maintained a 100% satisfaction rate over 1,167 touches during this time.

Some examples of Positive CSAT reports from users:

Impact on Khan Academy’s Business

  • The PartnerHero team provides maintenance and upkeep of all of Khan Academy’s Help Center content for its main language demographics, including English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
  • Beyond routine maintenance (which is tracked across said languages), PartnerHero also conducts yearly Help Center audits in preparation for the Back to School season.
  • This includes polishing language, updating content due to platform changes, creating new articles and splitting existing articles into new
  • The PartnerHero team creates and maintains Khan Academy’s Zendesk Macros in its main languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
  • Expanded our service demographic from free (grassroots) users to paid user offerings.
  • This led to a subdivision within the global support team: the District team dubbed “Stormbreakers.” These are highly skilled team members with a track record of excellence and over a year of experience as Khan Academy Global Support associates.
  • They interact directly with school administrators, teachers, parents, and students of paid-product users, as well as serve as liaisons between said users and the Khan District Product team.

Covid-19 Impact:

  • PartnerHero went from managing many internal projects - such as content moderation, community insights, product liaising, app review responses, resource translation, and more - to being focused 110% on the tidal wave of Support influx.
  • The team reworked a number of team processes to focus on user issues this, including:
  • Creating a deflection macro for less-than-urgent issues, asking users to wait or self-service so that they can focus on the people who needed support on blocking issues.
  • This was an emergency move designed to buy us time while we staff up to appropriate levels and focus on unblocking people who need urgent help now.
  • The team replied to this backlog of ~1,653 deflected users in under four weeks of each issue being submitted.
  • For the first time in 3 years, the team relied on Overtime to ensure as much coverage as possible to support blocked teachers, parents and students.
  • Executed an emergency hiring sprint to onboard 5 new PartnerHero associates, as well as 2 NWEA (foreign/external support team) associates into the project full-time.
  • The biggest success of this hiring sprint was being able to submit a staffing proposal, recruit, hire, and train all new associates in under 4 weeks.

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