Six years ago, Sylvan Learning introduced SylvanSync to its hundreds of learning centers around the world. The program took all of Sylvan’s existing math and reading lessons and put them on a digital platform, allowing students to engage with the material through iPads rather than pen and paper, and allowing instructors to track their students’ progress and customize lessons accordingly. SylvanSync was an enormous success, showing marked improvements in comprehension and retention among students. Now, Sylvan Learning is applying the same digital strategy to its writing programs with a new tool called Sylvan Paper.
Sylvan’s VP of Education, Emily Levitt, says the franchise had been eager to develop a digital writing program for years, but it was adamant about finding the perfect partner to facilitate the program.
“We looked at a number of different digital products,” Levitt said. “We wanted to find something that kept the interactivity that is so essential to the learning process, particularly with writing.”
Levitt says Sylvan found the perfect product in Citelighter, an education-technology startup that was based out of Baltimore, Maryland. The online tool boosted writing competency by providing guides and templates for every step of the writing process. Citelighter was not just a digital slate for students to write on, it was a fully interactive tool that supports students as they research, organize, compose and edit assignments.
Last year, when Citelighter managemnet decided to pursue other endeavors, Sylvan had the ability to purchase Citelighter’s technology and school contracts to add to its own product suite. Today, it’s known as Sylvan Paper.
“The blank white screen is what really intimidates kids,” Levitt said. “They don’t know where to start. Sylvan Paper provides a structure that walks students through every element of the writing process.”
When students open up a Sylvan Paper document, they are not met with a blank page. Instead, there is a sort of scaffolding that breaks down the document into sections, like introduction, body and conclusion, and provides instructions on how to approach each section.
Sylvan Paper is already active in 100 centers across the U.S. and Canada and used by more than 1,000 students. After encouraging initial results, Levitt says Sylvan has begun rolling out the program to all of its centers across the world.
“The pilot phase was a complete success,” she said. “Instructors found it easy to teach, and students found it fun and engaging.”
One of the primary advantages of Sylvan Paper over traditional writing programs is that it focuses equally on large- and small-scale writing habits, Levitt says.
“It’s one thing to get work on spelling and grammar, but it’s a whole other thing to teach students how to research, organize, smooth transitions between paragraphs, and all of the other things that go into writing well,” she said. “That’s what’s so great about Sylvan Paper’s model; it guides students through the entire process.”
And the benefits of Sylvan Paper for students extends beyond writing, Levitt says. It also helps prepare students for modern test-taking, which often requires digital writing and editing.
“What I really like about Sylvan Paper is that it helps to prepare students for more than just writing,” she said. “Testing is often conducted on digital platforms these days, and these tests have large real-world consequences for kids. They need to be comfortable with the format. Even if their writing skills are strong, they could do poorly on a test because they aren’t used to using those tools.”
Sylvan is in the process of launching Sylvan Paper at all of its learning centers, and Levitt says she expects all of Sylvan’s writing students to be using the platform by spring.