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How Sylvan Learning Continues to Serve Clients and Support Franchisees in a Changed Environment

The supplemental education brand has pivoted to online learning and increased communication with franchisees.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all types of industries, and that includes education. Schools across the country closed and canceled the rest of the school year, leaving many parents worried about whether their children will fall behind academically. 

Sylvan Learning knows this all too well, which is why the supplemental and enrichment education brand has pivoted to meet this challenge and roll out creative ways to continue helping students in the age of social distancing.

As soon as COVID-19 began to break out, the brand got down to business and pivoted to offering online solutions. Today, Sylvan Learning is using Zoom and screen-sharing features to connect students and teachers. The brand is also continuing to utilize its proprietary software, SylvanSync™, which provides teachers and students with adaptive practice sessions

The change happened very quickly. When the brand realized in mid-March that the COVID-19 crisis would result in widespread school closures, it was able to implement more online solutions over the course of a weekend.  

“When it looked like more than just Seattle would need to close schools, we got into action,” Vice President of Education Emily Levitt said. “We’re still amazed at what we were able to do, which was move instruction for more than 100,000 students from in-person to online in less than one week.” 

What helped the brand pivot so quickly and adapt so well to the situation was that so many systems were already online. 

“Last year, we spent the entire year migrating every single Sylvan Learning center to a web-based platform that facilitates multi-unit management,” Chief Franchise Operations Officer Susan Valverde said. “We’ve also migrated to a platform that allows us to centralize our content through SylvanSync™ in a way that has made this transition a lot easier. Those investments put us in a position of strength right out of the gate.” 

Sylvan Learning has also adjusted the hours of operation at its centers by switching to “summer” hours. Now, centers are open for business during the school day, the late afternoon and the early evening. 

“This provides families, especially those where parents are working from home, with some much-needed flexibility,” Levitt said. 

Parental feedback on online services and expanded hours has been enthusiastic. Levitt noted that not all schools are sending structured work to students, so families are thrilled that Sylvan can provide children with both structure and a sense of normalcy during this difficult time. The pivot to online services has also provided opportunities for more quality connections between tutors and students. 

“Teachers are now virtually going into the homes of their students,” Valverde said. “They’re meeting siblings and pets and being shown things they normally only hear about. One teacher said a student baked her a cake for her birthday — and then ate it for her. One student told his teacher he was getting a baby brother and showed her the sonogram photo. Tutors are connecting on a more personal level and are viewed as a welcome extension of the family. Students miss school more than they want to admit, and Sylvan Learning tutors get to be a constant source of support for them.” 

The quick rollout to online services also speaks to the strong corporate support Sylvan Learning provides franchisees and center directors, both of whom have been integral in successfully pivoting to online services. Not only is Sylvan Learning excited by the chance to continue serving students, but, thanks to the quick transition, centers have been able to continue generating revenue without missing a beat. 

The Sylvan Learning leadership team has also increased communication with franchisees. This includes offering daily phone calls with franchisees, plus a weekly town hall in which the conversation revolves around COVID-19 developments. One week, for example, the conversation was focused on SBA loans. 

“Franchisees and center directors were understandably preoccupied with their business and the health of their communities and families and children, so the fact that we were able to get online tutoring up and operational quickly was greatly appreciated,” Valverde said. 

Thanks to web-based services, strong franchisee support and a willingness on all sides to be flexible in serving students, Sylvan Learning proves why it’s a viable, community-focused brand in any economic climate. 

The startup costs for a Sylvan Learning franchise range from $70,270 to $163,625. The franchise fee is $24,000. To learn more about franchising with Sylvan Learning, visit


*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.