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New celebrity-led courses bring explosive growth to edtech startup’s virtual school program

Virtual School Day is designed to provide students nationwide with live education programming around core subjects as well as elective-type classes amid COVID-19
Credit: SLBJ

ST. LOUIS — In mid-April, St. Louis-based Varsity Tutors’ Virtual School Day program had about 30,000 enrollments. A month later, that figure has topped 100,000.

What’s behind the explosive growth? Star power.

Virtual School Day, launched in March and designed to provide students nationwide with live education programming around core subjects as well as elective-type classes amid COVID-19, this week kicked off a series of courses taught by celebrities.

Founded in 2007, Varsity Tutors has developed an online tutoring and learning platform. It is considered one of St. Louis’ most prominent startups, having raised a total of $107 million since its founding.

Virtual School Day’s “StarCourse” program includes classes from actress and dancer Julianne Hough, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, “The Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik and astronaut Leland Melvin. All four stars will host classes on Varsity Tutors’ platform during this month.

Key to the curation of the four celebrities was ensuring the instructors had diverse backgrounds and expertise to create courses that could appeal to a wide array of users, Varsity Tutors CEO Chuck Cohn said. As it crafted the StarCourse series, the startup saw the addition of celebrities as providing a dual purpose: it would provide an outlet for celebrities to give back during COVID-19 and could also draw in students and families who may not have otherwise heard about Virtual School Day. 

“We’ve definitely seen a lot of interest in these particular offerings and it’s helped us get the word out over the course of the last week or so,” Cohn said.

Virtual School Day’s new series of courses comes as the traditional school year would be reaching its final days and weeks, but Cohn said Varsity Tutors plans to continue its free programming into the summer months.

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