Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates has been a longtime advocate of the belief that children learn best when they’re able to guide themselves with a laptop or tablet with the teacher acting more as a coach. This type of learning is referred to as “personalized learning,” and 36,000 students recently agreed that this is their preferred method of learning in a recent study, the Education Elements Impact Report.
“Personalized learning at Sylvan means that we do a really thorough job in the beginning of our process to understand students’ strengths and weaknesses, and then we build a learning plan just for that child in conjunction with where the parents want the child to be. This could mean that a parent wants a child to catch up to grade level, get ahead, to pass algebra, or whatever the family’s goal might be,” said Emily Levitt, the VP of Education at Sylvan Learning. “In summary, we work to get the child to their goal with a personalized plan by the desired date.”
This certainly isn’t a new way of thinking for Sylvan, and the brand didn’t wait for tablet technology to become mainstream to implement this idea. It was adapted 15 years ago when Sylvan had their own custom software that would allow a center director to manually input a child’s answers from standardized tests and the software would convert that into the child’s personalized learning plan. It was then printed out and put in a binder with other relevant worksheets that were all used alongside textbooks at the table. Even though existing software had been helping to personalize Sylvan’s approach, as technology evolved, the corporate team began looking early on to move this program to a tablet. Once iPads were released at a reasonable price point, Sylvan decided that it was the right time to begin providing each student with his or her own tablet to work from. The national brand began to convert nearly everything from pencil and paper to iPad technology to provide an even richer personalized learning experience for the students.
And it’s no mistake that the nation’s largest supplemental and enrichment education supplier has been teaching with this type of learning for so long. It’s because it works.
“With personalized learning, we’re focusing on what needs to be focused on and the curriculum is very well crafted, based on a lot of research, and we make sure that the work assigned to students will help them build the skills they need. For example, if a lesson is about commas, we want to make sure that we’re properly addressing the right aspect of the skill. Maybe a student knows how to use a comma in a series, but needs help using commas when separating independent clauses,” said Levitt. “We’ve put a lot of great pride and hard work into the lessons we’ve crafted with our personalized learning plans.”
One way that Sylvan has been able to see great results is that franchisees and center directors monitor students closely after that initial assessment. They progress test the students every 24 hours of lessons to make sure they’re still on track. Levitt comments that they don’t just find a starting point and base all lessons off of that assessment for the child’s time at Sylvan, but they do a check-in periodically to learn if there are any new skills they can add to the personalized learning plan, or if there are skills that a student has mastered at school and Sylvan can remove from the list. These periodic check-ins help keep the program personalized and timely.
It’s clear to franchise prospects considering opening a Sylvan Learning that this type of attention to detail really allows them to embrace the mission-driven business. Parents and franchisees alike can feel good knowing that Sylvan is focused on a child’s success, and through its personalized learning approach and assessments, the team never loses sight of that goal.