Why I started an online education resource – by Skwirk founder Rod Salmon

Hello Skwirkers,

As Skwirk moves into it’s 9th year and crosses the 1000 school subscribers mark, I felt this was a good time to reflect on how far we have come.

Rod Salmon - The Founder of Skwirk

Rod Salmon – The Founder of Skwirk

The idea of Skwirk, or the ‘online learning thingy’ as I called it then, first came to me whilst I watched my son playing rugby. He had been struggling with some Maths homework that week which I had sat down and talked him through. Now I am the first to admit that I am no teacher or tutor, but I know my Maths skills are fairly strong, and I helped him through this time. If he had asked me to help him with his English skills it would have been a different story.

I felt like there had to be a better way to do this. Children learn in a variety of different ways including visual, auditory, textual and kinesthetic learning styles. Using learning resources online was nothing new, but I felt like we spent hours trying to find good content, and hardly any of it was Australian. That’s when it came to me, what if parents could go to one website which had all the core subjects for their child’s school year covered using a variety of different learning resources? I thought I have something here.

So I contacted a few colleagues, and before long, we had a number of investors on-board. Online Learning Thingy was a go! To be clear, this was pretty new territory, not just for us, but in the education industry in general. There was no blueprint for a project like this. What we did know was that content was key. And that was the main focus, quality education content.

Within months we had the shell of this idea in place, starting to fill with content such as animations, activities videos, text and worksheets. I had never seen anything like it, with hundreds of resources produced on a weekly basis. The name ‘Skwirk’ came about through an in house competition among the staff, and after someone said ‘school work’ very quickly, the word just stuck. We had a name! Our first ‘promo-video’ highlights how we intended Skwirk to be used. I admit we were a little rusty then:

It was around this time that the team started to think about approaching schools with our resources. That would be a key point in Skwirk’s timeline. I had never intended Skwirk to be a classroom resource. To be honest I didn’t know much about the education industry. But the feedback we were getting from teachers was incredible, and this changed the model of the company considerably.

It has not always been plain sailing. Since those days, the industry has been flooded with competition. Some have lasted the pace (Mathletics, Reading Eggs, Maths Online), whilst others have found it tougher.

Plus you are in an industry which is both stuck in time and constantly evolving. What I mean by that is on one hand you have schools with slower internet connections (this was before any mention of the NBN, which is still not available to everyone today), and out-dated computers and software (of no fault of their own, school budgets are always tight). On the other hand you have other schools starting to adopt tablets and other newer learning technologies and philosophies.

The toughest challenge has always been getting Skwirk in front of educators. Teachers are busy. I mean, really busy. Our processes have been tweaked and changed more times then I care to mention, to evolve with the times and teachers timelines. Bottom line, when we show teachers Skwirk, they get excited.

With all these challenges over the years, I believe it is testament to the Skwirk Team and our product that we are still here and still growing. In fact, we are now growing quicker then ever. We have a loyal customer base and Skwirk is considered valuable with 85% of schools renewing Skwirk every year. Although I love all the new teacher and school tools we have added over the years, I believe that the key to our product was and still is top quality educational content. And we have so much more coming next year.

To finish off, as I look back at the past 9 years, it is with great pride that I can say that we are now used in over 1000 schools in Australia. We are supporting over 20,000 Australian teachers. We are helping over 280,000 Australian children develop their knowledge, enhance their skills and improve their grades. We have now expanded outside Australia, into the UK, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Bali, New Zealand and Dubai. But what fills me with pride the most is visiting a school, sitting at the back of the classroom and seeing the teachers and students interact with Skwirk in the classroom. This is where it really matters. And as you can see in the video below, we have come along way since those early days.

I hope this highlights the passion and work that has gone into Skwirk. If any schools or teachers want to find out more, contact us. The Skwirk Team are always happy to help.

Thanks for sharing the journey, and watch this space, there is a long way to go yet.

Happy Skwirking,

Rod Salmon

Chief Skwirker (Director of the online learning thingy)

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