vs. Khan Academy: Better?

Here’s why Brilliant is better than Khan Academy or the other way around:

It’s really difficult to say that Brilliant or Khan Academy is clearly superior under all circumstances.

Brilliant tends to be better for expanding learning of advanced topics while Khan Academy is better suited for primary education.

The truth is that both are strong, and the better choice depends on the circumstances.

So if you want to learn all about whether Brilliant or Khan Academy is best for you, then this article is for you.

Let’s get into it! vs. Khan Academy: Better? (Everything to Know)

Which Between Brilliant and Khan Academy Is the Best?

Smart woman thinking holding a pen

Let’s expand on the quick answer.

There is not a clear winner here.

Brilliant and Khan Academy are two of the best online learning platforms, and both of them are very useful for many users.

Ultimately, they outshine each other in different aspects because they are designed rather differently.

I’ll go through more details for each platform and then give you some specific cases where each is the best.

In general, here’s how it works.

Brilliant is better at a college level.

Khan is better at a pre-college level.

But, that’s very oversimplified, and it’s worth taking a much deeper look at this comparison.

What Is Great About Brilliant? (2 Things)

happy redhead female college student sitting at desk writing in book

Let’s start with Brilliant.

Brilliant is a for-profit organization that provides professionally designed and curated online classes for anyone who wants to take them.

These classes are available when you pay a monthly subscription (there are various payment plans to choose from).

The general idea behind Brilliant is to provide totally self-contained classes.

You can use these classes to learn random topics on your own, or they can be supplemental classes that help you pursue a deeper understanding of certain ideas.

It’s really up to you.

Because of how Brilliant is designed and organized, it’s particularly useful for deep looks at specific topics, similar to the learning you might see in college classes.

#1 Going Deep

young female student solves complex mathematical problems

This is really the point of Brilliant.

While there are certainly lessons that cover primary topics, Brilliant is designed as a resource for getting deep into advanced learning.

It’s supposed to supplement college students and professionals, so it can cover very advanced topics in math and sciences.

Brilliant isn’t limited in this way.

You can start with pretty basic math to begin your journey, but the thing that makes Brilliant stand out from other learning tools is the availability of deep takes on advanced topics.

You don’t have to stop at introductory calculus.

You can get into topics like differential equations and group theory.

And, this holds true in areas outside of math too.

When you’re ready to really get deep into some advanced topics, Brilliant is one of the best.

#2 Specific Learning

attractive male student studies math, prepares report, calculates figures

Going hand in hand with deep learning is specific learning.

With Brilliant, you aren’t taking overview courses that softly touch on a broad range of topics.

Instead, Brilliant offers a ton of very specific courses.

So, you’re not going to cover algebra, statistics, and financial math, all in the same course.

Instead, you would take each course separately.

That allows you to really hone in and focus your time on the exact topic that you’re hoping to learn or master.

Because of this specificity, Brilliant is better than Khan Academy when it comes to achieving high levels of mastery in any of these specific topics.

Where Does Brilliant Fall Short? (2 Areas)

Thoughtful girl using laptop, preparing for final exam

For all that Brilliant does well, it’s far from a perfect platform.

Having a bunch of well-designed, self-contained, deep-reaching lessons is valuable, but that design philosophy comes at a cost.

In general, Brilliant is not very good at taking an individual by the hand to teach them a broad range of ideas and subjects.

It’s just more specific than that, and because of that, Brilliant isn’t as good at guiding students or building a strong learning foundation.

#1 Foundational Learning

students thinking about difficult tasks during classes

Let’s be fair to Brilliant here.

There are a lot of introductory/foundational level classes on the platform.

You can take pre-algebra, and you’ll learn the basics and really be set up to continue your math education.

But, that’s not the ultimate strength of Brilliant.

It’s not designed from the bottom up to take someone who has never added before and turn them into a math expert.

Instead, Brilliant is designed so that you can pick the area you want to work on and then improve through the courses.

In other words, Brilliant isn’t really designed for grade school kids.

Once you have a foundation, it’s amazing for improving in specific ways, but for building the foundation, there are definitely better tools and curricula.

#2 Guidance

Tired high schooler studying at home, getting ready before exams

Mostly, the problems that Brilliant has with foundational learning stem from a lack of guidance.

As I already said, some of the introductory courses are actually pretty great, and they teach students a lot.

The bigger problem is that Brilliant is not an overarching curriculum.

It’s not a degree program or even a state-determined primary education program.

When you’re on Brilliant, you pick the individual courses as you see fit.

Because things aren’t packaged and strung together in clear large-scale curricula, it’s easy to feel like the different topics you’re learning are random and largely unconnected.

So, if you’re trying to build an educational foundation for someone, you’re going to need more than just what is available with Brilliant.

The lack of guidance really holds it back in this way.

What Are the Strengths of Khan Academy? (2 Areas)

Young beautiful teacher woman wearing sweater and glasses sitting on desk doing happy thumbs up gesture

That’s enough about Brilliant for a minute.

Let’s shift our focus to Khan Academy.

It’s immensely popular, and there have to be good reasons for that, right?


The first thing to understand is that Khan Academy is a non-profit that is designed to offer free educational resources to teachers, parents, and students.

It’s available to absolutely everyone, and it tries to thoroughly cover foundational learning concepts, like math and reading literacy.

Khan Academy has a ton of different tools, classes, and other resources, and due to how it is built and the goals of the academy, it’s really good at a couple of things.

#1 Introductory Learning

a beautiful female college student leaning against a wall looking happy

As you can see, the philosophy behind Khan Academy is very different from Brilliant, and that leads to a couple of major differences.

The first is found in introductory learning.

Khan Academy was originally designed for primary students.

That refers to students from grades 1 through 12.

Now, Khan advertises itself as available for anyone from ages 10 to 100, and that’s pretty fair.

You don’t have to be a primary education student to use the resources or even benefit from them.

The point is that this is the focus behind Khan Academy, and it’s where the academy shines.

When you’re introducing the basics, Khan Academy lessons are extremely well designed and effective to these ends.

They’re great for teaching both children and adults who are experiencing an entirely new learning topic for the first time.

#2 Working With a Classroom

young students listening and talking with friendly young male teacher

The other major outcome of the Khan Academy design philosophy is that many of the resources were built specifically to help classroom teachers.

When teachers take advantage of this and use Khan Academy in this way, it’s at its best.

Khan Academy provides visual aids, supplemental problems, and many other similar resources that are all designed to fit nicely into a classroom environment. 

Now, you can definitely learn from Khan Academy without a formal classroom environment, but this aspect of design is one of the biggest differences between Khan Academy and Brilliant.

Brilliant is meant to provide completely separate supplemental lessons.

Khan Academy has many lessons and tools that are meant to integrate with a classroom.

It makes for a very different but still valuable experience.

When Is Khan Academy Less Amazing? (2 Things)

Serious teacher sitting at desk

Clearly, Khan Academy has a lot to offer for students and teachers alike, but I already mentioned ways that Brilliant is better.

Part of that is because Khan Academy isn’t great at everything.

If you really focus on primary education, then you’re probably going to have less invested in advanced education, and that’s really where Khan Academy drops off.

When it comes to higher-level concepts and classes, Khan Academy is weaker than Brilliant.

Additionally, we have to talk about how Khan Academy fairs in the realm of total self-learning.

#1 Advanced Topics

a young student writing on a note pad.

Again, Khan Academy is designed for grades 1 through 12.

You can certainly learn a lot in those grades, but aside from a handful of advanced high school classes, students in that range usually don’t get much into college-level learning.

As you might imagine, Khan Academy leaves a lot to be desired when you want to get past the fundamentals.

Math is a great area to explore this idea.

You can learn arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and even introductory calculus, but Khan topics don’t get much beyond that.

Advanced topics in differential equations, analysis, number theory, and a long list of other topics are rare or nonexistent at Khan Academy.

So, in that way, Brilliant is the stronger platform.

And, this holds true outside of math too.

The more advanced stuff is just beyond the scope that Khan Academy is really aiming for.

#2 Total Self-Learning

female Asian teacher at her desk marking students’ work

Similarly, the Khan philosophy holds it back as a total self-learning tool.

If you want to, you can learn a lot of things from Khan Academy.

You can even build a useful curriculum out of the lessons and tools available.

The real issue is that Khan Academy offers more than a single person is ever going to need or use.

It’s more than just a list of classes, and sorting through all of those resources can be pretty daunting.

Khan Academy is designed to be used by teachers who have more experience and expertise in building curricula and outlining long-term learning.

So, if you’re doing total self-learning with Khan Academy, you might be swallowed up by the forest of tools.

If, however, you can manage all of the resources, then things change dramatically.

At that point, Khan Academy is actually a very powerful self-learning tool.

It comes down to how you use it.

Maybe more accurately, it comes down to how well you can understand and organize the vast resources available.

Which Should You Choose Between Khan & Brilliant Academy? (4 Things)

pretty female student thinking, holding a pen against her face

Alright. That covers a whole lot of information about both Brilliant and Khan Academy—maybe a lot more than you bargained for.

With all of that said, which one is better?

This goes back to what I said at the beginning.

It really depends.

Since each has a very clearly different set of strengths and weaknesses, it’s up to you which you value more.

For instance, if you’re pinching pennies, Khan is the easy winner (more on that in a bit).

If cost isn’t an issue, then it’s a lot harder to choose.

But, I’m not stopping with such a generic answer.

There are actually a few common scenarios where I feel comfortable picking a winner.

Those scenarios are for primary education students, college students, and professionals.

I’ll also explain which is best in terms of monetary value and which is superior for supplemental learning.

Here’s a quick spoiler alert, neither platform is winning in all of these comparisons.

They’re both good resources, and they only edge each other out according to specific conditions.

#1 Before College

High school students having exams in the classroom

For students who are not yet in college, Khan Academy is usually the stronger option.

It’s very clearly designed for such students, and it has such a wide range of resources that you can likely find something that will help you or the student you care about in a number of ways.

Brilliant is not useless for college prep.

You can use it to gain extra practice and understanding in a lot of topics that help students prepare for and get into good college programs.

But overall, Khan Academy has more to offer primary education students.

This is especially true for younger students or pre-high school students.

As the topics get more basic and fundamental, Khan Academy really starts to outshine Brilliant in a whole lot of ways.

#2 During or After College

Female college student with books outdoors

When it comes to learning in college or professional fields, the focus on basic topics really inhibits the value of Khan Academy.

Sure, you could use it to break into basic stuff in areas you’ve never studied.

But, by the time you’re into college or working as a professional, you theoretically already have a strong educational foundation.

And, that’s what Khan is really trying to build.

Meanwhile, Brilliant offers courses and practice problems that can really help you hone some specific skills.

Maybe you’re a working engineer who still struggles with a few aspects of integration or series expansion.

Take some Brilliant courses and practice those specific things.

It will help you improve as a professional, and you can do it at your own pace.

During and after college, Brilliant really is easy to pick as a superior platform.

#3 To Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

young woman sitting on sofa holding a credit card while looking at the laptop

This is probably the easiest and most unfair way to compare Brilliant and Khan Academy.

Brilliant is fairly affordable.

If you stick with the annual subscription, it comes out to $12.49 per month, and every once in a while, they have special deals.

That’s not the very cheapest thing in the whole world, but it’s not exactly a house payment either.

On the other hand, Khan Academy is free.

It’s just plain free, and you will never be charged for it.

Now, being a non-profit, the Academy does ask for donations to keep running, and they even have an automated donation system that will pull money out of your account every month, but there are two things to understand about this.

First, automatic donations are entirely optional.

If you stop donating to Khan Academy, you still get full access to all of the tools.

Second, you can decide how much the donations are.

The website certainly makes suggestions, but if you want to donate a small amount, they’ll take it.

The one catch is that they cannot accept single donation transactions of less than $0.30, as that’s the cost of the transaction fee to accept your donations.

So. Brilliant is affordable, but Khan Academy is free, and even if you donate, you pick the price.

It’s not a comparison. Khan Academy is infinitely better for the amount you have to spend.

#4 For Supplemental Learning

High school group catching up workbook and having tutoring class

This is easily the hardest comparison to make between Brilliant and Khan Academy.

Ultimately, they’re both designed to function as supplemental learning resources, and they’re both quite good at it.

For all of the back and forth between which is better, they’re two of the best online learning platforms you’re going to find.

So, I’m going to take the easy way out and say that the supplemental learning value of each platform follows what you’ve already learned at this point.

If you’re working with primary education students, Khan supplemental learning is better.

If you’re getting into more advanced topics, Brilliant is better.

Even more important is how you use them.

Brilliant is better designed for independent self-learning, and Khan is more effective for incorporation into a classroom.

Both of those are part of supplemental learning, so the better platform is the one that fits into how you want to use it.

That might not be the most satisfying answer, but that’s how it is.

They’re both very good, and the one that makes more sense to you is the better choice.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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