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    School Support

    BALTIMORE — Sylvan Learning, a leading provider of personal learning for students in grades K-12, recently announced the launch of School Support, a program that will provide a variety of services to help children stay on track and parents manage the complexities of this upcoming school year.

    “Whether your school has announced plans already or you’re still waiting for finalized plans for the 2020-2021 school year, we know the school year will not look like anything it has in the past,” said VP of Education Emily Levitt. “As parents consider the pro and cons of in-person, online-only and hybrid school options, we want them to remember that they’re not alone in their child’s academic journey. Sylvan is here for your family with a variety of K-12 tutoring options. From personalized math and reading programs, to homework help, to homeschool support and advancement options, our expert tutors are ready to help your child.”

    Now, parents can also take advantage of School Support at Sylvan. In addition to online options, Sylvan Learning will have in-person support at many centers to help families while children are not in school. For example, Sylvan will offer sessions at physical locations where teachers can help children login to Zoom lessons or offer assistance on assignments. Parents will love having a dedicated learning environment for their child where they can take advantage of distanced, in-person learning time with Sylvan’s team of expert, caring teachers. Children will also receive the bonus of social connection with peers, appropriately social-distanced, of course. Similarly, Sylvan is in talks with corporations on how they can provide School Support at offices to help parents get to work and ensure that children are still receiving their education.

    Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sylvan Learning has worked hard to support parents. First, in March, Sylvan Learning introduced a virtual tutoring option as school districts transitioned to remote learning. The brand also rolled out a mobile app in some markets that allows parents to book virtual lessons with Sylvan-approved tutors. The brand is also continuing to utilize its proprietary software, SylvanSync™, which provides teachers and students with adaptive practice sessions. Now, School Support will help parents and schools prepare for the future.

    “For working parents and those who are worried about the upcoming school year, Sylvan Learning will be a safe place to go for support,” said CEO John McAuliffe. “School Support at Sylvan will ensure that children get the most out of virtual education through a socially distanced, safe environment where parents can receive the aid of a qualified professional.”

    Virtual Learning Possibilities

    When schools across the country officially shut down thanks to COVID-19, it forced many students to engage in virtual learning. While it did have its benefits, virtual learning became stressful for families who were all stuck at home together. Parents were often required to balance their own jobs with the task of making sure their children learned concepts they themselves had long since forgotten. Added to this the emotional stress children felt from being separated from their friends, and the result was less than ideal. Now, the entire country looks toward the fall school year with uncertainty and a mix of students who are returning to classrooms, learning from home or even attending Sylvan Learning locations for teachers to help students start the new year on the right foot.

    While virtual learning has its challenges, it also has its conveniences. For one, families spent less time commuting, which is especially appealing to those with multiple children who attend different schools. Virtual learning can also be hugely beneficial for families with students who may not be able to attend school due to illness or other stressors. And for some students, virtual learning isn’t even an entirely new concept. Even before the pandemic, some school districts across the country had processes and digital resources in place to ensure students did not miss school due to events like snowstorms. They could carry on with their assignments without missing a beat.

    Indeed, once the pandemic is over, some families might want to retain at least some virtual learning options for their children. In order to capitalize on virtual learning and make sure it’s as effective as possible, though, we need to acknowledge the difficulties and adapt accordingly.

    The number-one challenge to successful virtual learning is a lack of access to the basic tools that facilitate it. Depending on a student’s socioeconomic status, not all students may have access to devices such as laptops and tablets or even internet access. These students might possess a smartphone at best, and learning on such a tiny screen difficult. Some school districts have responded by purchasing Chromebooks and Internet hotspots for their students, but not every school district has the budget to provide equipment for everyone.

    There’s also the social aspect of virtual learning — or lack thereof. It’s hard for kids to not see their friends on a daily basis. This can be especially true for our so-called “littles,” in ages pre-K through third grade. Research shows they learn much better in an in-person environment due to the brain development at those ages. Virtual learning often puts these students at a disadvantage.

    For virtual learning to be successful, families need to set up a dedicated space for learning in the home. This spot should be uncluttered and as quiet as possible and set up with the right resources, such as scratch paper for math problems and a good wifi connection. If internet connection is simply not an option, families in different homes can consider pooling resources to make sure their children all have the access they need. Parents should also let their children have some say in where they do their work – within reason. This will give them a sense of control and comfort in a time where there’s not a lot of either.

    To that end, parents must avoid pushing their kids too hard and encourage them to take breaks. This is especially true for overachieving students. Learning continues to be of the utmost importance at this time, but parents must do what they can to ensure their children emerge from COVID-19 with their physical, emotional and mental health.

    Opportunity Amid Crisis

    In recent months, the coronavirus crisis has taken a heavy toll on business across virtually every industry, but a few brands have been able to initiate strategic pivots to keep revenue flowing in an increasingly down-trending economy. One of those brands is Sylvan Learning, whose franchisees have not only remained open throughout the crisis, but have also found promising growth opportunities.

    “Consumer demand is high,” said Chief Franchise Operations Officer Susan Valverde. “Schools across the country have experienced unprecedented disruption, and parents are largely on their own in ensuring that their children don’t fall behind.”

    Sylvan Learning is well-equipped to meet that demand, with almost all of its centers still virtually open throughout the crisis. In light of the social-distancing protocols that have kept consumers away from public spaces in markets across North America, Sylvan quickly made some adjustments. Fortunately, the brand had already built a robust suite of virtual services even before the pandemic arrived.

    “We’ve created a foundation strong enough to weather just about any crisis, but there are three things we did that made us particularly well-prepared for this challenge,” Valverde said.

    The first of those things, Valverde said, started more than a decade ago when Sylvan Learning began converting its entire curriculum to a digital platform called SylvanSync, which allowed centers to reach students off-site at convenient locations like schools or community centers, and develop curriculums around each student’s unique needs and circumstances. Last year, Sylvan built a new cloud-based CRM system that allows operators to manage customer interactions remotely. And this year, just before the full impact of the coronavirus crisis revealed itself, Sylvan rolled out a new cloud-based administration system, the final element that would allow Sylvan franchisees to operate their businesses entirely online.

    “All of this was designed to make running the business more efficient and more profitable for franchisees,” Valverde said. “These initiatives have also allowed us to move to virtual instruction literally overnight when other businesses started closing.”

    Now that Sylvan Learning has gone virtual, the brand is unlikely to return to a predominantly   on-site operation, even when social-distancing rules relax and students return to schools. “Now that it’s out of the bag, it’s never going back,” said CEO John McAuliffe. “Our customers love it, so they wouldn’t let us even if we wanted to, and for franchisees, virtual operations increase their capacity and allow them to grow quickly.”

    Pandemic Support

    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.