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Sylvan Learning goes digital

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Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 11:49 am

The Sylvan Learning Center in Ahwatukee Foothills may soon be the main hub for a satellite sites across Arizona as Sylvan is beginning to use Apple iPads to take its customized curriculum to kids in need.

Sylvan Learning Center has been growing across the nation for 33 years. Their approach to tutoring has always been to assess where a child needs help, develop a customized curriculum, teach the skills and then apply them.

In the past, to open up a new center a franchisee would have to find a location, staff the location, and then have a large up-front cost in books and supplies. Now, Sylvan has uploaded all of the same curriculum to a server so it can be easily uploaded onto an iPad and taught from anywhere.

While franchisees no longer need their own brick and mortar location to expand, they still plan to have curriculum taught by licensed teachers. Now, because the curriculum is easily transported it can be taught in local schools, libraries, Boys and Girls Clubs or YMCAs so families may not have to drive as far to reach a center.

“Our secret sauce is we have our curriculum online but we’re a teaching environment,” said Kathleen Casprowitz, owner of Sylvan Learning Center in Ahwatukee Foothills and 16 other locations in Arizona, Washington and Canada. “Every student that comes in is on a customized program designed specifically for what they need. We use teachers to teach the curriculum. Often with online programs you have to be a self-learner. It’s sort of a talking head. Sylvan is a teaching environment. We are designed to teach skills not curriculum.”

Casprowitz said any teachers she assigns to satellite sites will be experienced from working in the main location. That way, she’ll be able to ensure that the children being taught at a satellite site are getting the same attention they would at the main site.

“We view that the teacher is the important part of the process,” said Barbara Timm-Brock, chief growth officer for Sylvan Learning. “Schools do everything they can with the resources they have but if you think of everything a classroom teacher has to deal with, they have to teach the entire group of kids to get them to pass a task. If a child is ahead or behind their needs don’t get met. There is nothing more powerful than a caring adult sitting 18 inches away from you saying ‘Good job, keep trying, that’s awesome’ to really transform a child.”

Sylvan is the largest private employer of teachers, said Timm-Brock, with about 20,000 teachers in centers across the U.S. and the world. Sylvan’s transformation into digital will make global expansion even quicker.

There are currently 800 Sylvan Learning locations. The goal, company-wide is to have 200 satellite sites by the end of the year. Casprowitz said her goal is to open six satellite sites by the end of 2013.

For more information about Sylvan’s move to digital, call any of the local centers or call (866) 963-1289.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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