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Fast learners: Queensland technology company wins big from virus shutdown

Business

If there is a Queensland business that has found a sweet spot in the COVID-19 crisis, it’s Teach Starter.

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The Milton-based company, which employs about 40 staff, provides digital resources for primary school teachers and in the past six weeks its learning from home product has been downloaded 250,000 times, helped along by the company making it free for a short period.

Teach Starter now has 780,000 users globally after eight years of operation and has kicked off an office in Austin, Texas, as it makes a gradual move into the US market.

Now it’s doing a podcast with 35,000 subscribers, as well as blogs, and has 140,000 pages of teaching resources.

It comes as the Commonwealth Bank reported that online education was one of the areas where Australians were spending.

It’s household spending intentions series for the end of March showed Australians were adapting to a new way of living.

The bank’s chief economist Stephen Hammarick said in the past month spending intentions had declined sharply for entertainment and travel.

“In contrast, retail, online learning and health and fitness spending intentions saw sharp rises as people prepared themselves for an extended shutdown of many parts of the economy,” Halmarick added.

Halmarick says the latest HSI series also highlights how some Australians were remaining focused on learning new skills online.

“After a large fall in February 2020, education spending intentions increased in March – as online and virtual schooling and higher education began to dominate,” Halmarick said.

Teach Starter co-owner Scott Tonges said the results had been amazing but the growth had been building in the eight years since it started. COVID-19 had just “opened people’s eyes to the possibilities”.

“A lot of schools have been tinkering with it (before COVID-19) and this has brought timelines forward,” he said.

“Being digital we can make content available at scale.”

The business started essentially as homework. Scott’s wife Jill Snape was studying to be a teacher and making material for classes and Scott had a background in digital. They realised they could produce quality products much quicker and a business was born.

“On our first day someone paid $29 for a product and we knew that we had something people would pay for,” he said.

The products include worksheets, games, arts and crafts and lesson plans, which can either be printed out and used in a classroom or distributed digitally.

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