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CK-12 Foundation

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Title: CK-12 Foundation  
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Subject: Vinod Khosla, Textbook, Murugan Pal, QOOP
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CK-12 Foundation

CK12 Foundation
Founded 2007
Key people Neeru Khosla, Executive Director
Murugan Pal, President
Jay Chakrapani, President
Area served Global
Focus(es) Education
Method(s) Donations and Grants
References: Headquarters location[1]

The CK-12 Foundation is a California-based non-profit organization striving to reduce the cost of, and increase access to, K-12 education in the United States and worldwide. A leading provider of open educational resources, CK-12 provides free and fully customizable K-12 educational materials aligned to state curriculum standards and tailored to meet student and teacher needs.

CK-12 was established in 2007 by Neeru Khosla and Murugan Pal to support K-12 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. The organization first generated and distributed educational content via a web-based, open-source, platform called the "FlexBook."[2] Recently, CK-12 updated its FlexBook platform and has begun to focus on concept-based, multi-modality learning. CK-12 is presently the only free service of its kind, and is being funded by the Amar Foundation and by Vinod and Neeru Khosla.[3]


Neeru Khosla, Executive Director and Co-Founder of CK-12 Foundation, holds a bachelor’s degree from Delhi University/San José State and a master’s degree in Molecular Biology from San José State. She received her second master’s degree from Stanford University.[4] Neeru currently serves as a member on several advisory boards, including The Nueva School’s Board of Trustees, the Board of Directors for High Tech High School’s Graduate School of Education, the Advisory Board for the Foundation, the Advisory Board for DonorsChoose, the Advisory Board for Stanford University’s School of Education, the Advisory Board for, and is one of the founding members of the K-12 Initiative of the Design School (Hasso Plattner Institute of Design) at Stanford University.

Murugan Pal, Co-Founder, & President of CK-12 Foundation until his passing in 2012, was a serial entrepreneur based in the Silicon Valley. He held a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Thiagarajar College of Engineering (affiliated to Anna University in India), a master’s degree in Computer Science from Arizona State University, a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from Arizona State University, and was a Doctoral Candidate in Industrial Engineering at Arizona State University. Pal was the founder and CTO of SpikeSource and has also worked as Entrepreneur-In-Residence with Foundation Capital. He also served venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers.


Neeru Khosla teamed with her husband, Vinod Khosla, to think about how to make a positive impact in the educational sphere. Together, they decided to try to revolutionize the way students interface with textbooks, which can be burdensome, expensive, and slow to update. Neeru chose to focus in particular on high school and middle school students and teachers, most notably in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Neeru found an enabling partner in Murugan Pal, whose strong technical and entrepreneurial skills helped the CK-12 idea manifest into a not-for-profit educational organization.[5] She then recruited teachers from all across America to author CK-12 textbooks, to be published under Creative Commons licenses.[6] Explaining why she chose to provide open-source and collaborative content, Neeru says, “We can’t make all kids get an education, but we can make it simpler, easier, and more affordable. That’s the philosophy behind the openness as far as I’m concerned.[7]

FlexBook System

The FlexBook System is an online platform for assembling, authoring, and distributing interactive, multi-modal educational content. Content is searchable by subject, grade-level, and state and national education standards. FlexBooks can be downloaded and used as-is, or can be customized by teachers to match their students’ learning styles and their schools’ curricula. Inside each book, entire chapters or bite-sized concepts can be rearranged, added, removed, and edited. Any user can input text, photos, videos, exercises, study guides, assessments, notes, or highlights to their FlexBook. FlexBooks can be shared, for free, with user-created groups in print, online, by email, or on social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter. Some FlexBooks are even available in Spanish and Hindi.

All FlexBooks conform to national and state curriculum guidelines, Common Core Standards, and can be re-aligned to International standards. FlexBooks are offered under the Creative Commons by Attribution, Share-alike, and Non-commercial license removing many of the restrictions that limit distribution of traditional textbooks.[8] Most CK-12 FlexBooks are created internally by authors with teaching and domain expertise. Additional FlexBooks are acquired through university donations and licensing partnerships. CK-12’s current library of 88 downloadable FlexBooks can be accessed in PDF, ePub, and Amazon Kindle optimized format.[9]

The technologies used in creation of CK-12 FlexBooks are:[10]

  • Django- Django helps in making better web apps quickly and with less code.
  • MySQL- MySQL database is the world's most popular open source database. MySQL offers a wide range of database tools, training, support, and consulting services.\
  • Google Web Toolkit (GWT) - Used by many Google products, including Google AdWords and Orkut, GWT is a development toolkit used for building and optimizing complex browser-based applications. GWT is completely free, open source, and is used by thousands of developers around the world.
  • Apache - Apache provides support for the open-source software projects.

Concept-based and multi-modal learning

CK-12 organizes its educational content into roughly 5000 concepts (e.g. "Two digit multiplication" or "Photosynthesis" or "Newton’s law"). CK-12 believes that these “Byte-Sized” units of content and modalities of learning (as well as varied styles of learning) are more important tools for facilitating learning than traditional educational materials like textbooks. These concepts are further organized into "Learning Paths.".[11]

Ck-12 content is available in a number of formats, which the organization describes as multiple “modalities of the concept.” Each modality is defined as “a different way to learn or explore” a specific concept and its relationship to other concepts. Examples include, but are not limited to:[12]

1. Textual descriptions

2. Video lectures

3. Supplementary videos

4. Multimedia simulations

5. Interactive exploration models

6. Quizzes/exams and question banks

7. Examples of the concept in real-life use

8. Maps of related concepts

9. Web resources related to the concept

10. Galleries of photographs

11. Peer learning

12. Labs or other experiments

13. Flash cards

14. Lesson plans

Other products

In addition to its 88 FlexBooks, the CK-12 Foundation also offers the following resources to K-12 students:

  • CK-12 Braingenie.[13] Braingenie is the Web's largest and most comprehensive repository of math and science practice materials. Braingenie provides practice problems and video lessons relating to more than 4,000 skills. The system's adaptive learning system, which features games and awards, is intended to inspire students to achieve.
  • CK-12 FlexMath[14] - The FlexMath system provides an online, interactive, year-long Algebra 1 curriculum. In addition to its daily lessons, FlexMath offers a gamified system designed to help students practice core math skills at their own pace.
  • CK-12 I Need a Pencil[15] - is a free, online SAT preparation website. The site features over 800 practice questions and lessons in math, reading, and writing. was founded in 2007 by then high school student Jason Shah.[16] He wanted to provide access to SAT prep to thousands of low-income students who cannot afford traditional test preparation.

In the future, CK-12 intends to expand its offerings by continuing to produce its own content, but also by asking for contributions from its active, engaged community. CK-12 will continue to match its content to an expanding base of learning standards like McREL Compendium.[17]


  • CK-12 has been listed in Top 25 Websites for Teaching by American Association of School Librarians[18]
  • The National Tech Plan - The Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Department of Education – has mentioned CK-12 model as “Transforming American Education – Learning Powered by Technology”[19]
  • NASA has teamed up with CK-12 on Physics FlexBook[20]
  • Tech Awards-2010 listed CK-12 in “15 innovations that could save the world”[21]
  • In introducing Washington state bill, HB 2337: “Regarding open educational resources in K-12 education,” Representative Reuven Carlyle testifies to the benefit CK-12 materials can have for school districts around the country.[22]
  • Fortune Magazine described CK-12 as a threat to the traditional textbook industry, and wrote about CK-12's push towards concept-based learning.[23]
  • National Public Radio writes about CK-12, including its use of "Real World Applications" as teaching devices.[24]
  • Neeru and CK-12 have been featured in the New York Times,[25] the Gates Notes,[26] Mercury News,[27] TechCrunch,[28] Education Week,[29] EduKindle,[30] The Patriot News,[31] Getting Smart,[32] and [33]


Further reading

  • CK-12 Community Site.
  • O'Reilly Radar blog, Feb 12, 2008 : "Remix and Share Your Own Text Books as FlexBooks"
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