Sylvan Learning looks to expand franchise base through new technology

By Jenny Hottle

Originally published on on Jan. 17, 2013.

Sylvan Learning is bringing technology to the forefront of its franchise expansion plans, using interactive lessons to better engage students.

The Baltimore education and tutoring company plans to add nearly 200 brick-and-mortar and satellite locations this year to its more than 800 franchises around the world, said Scott Hurlock, Sylvan’s newly named vice president of franchise development.

Most of the new locations will be satellite sites for SylvanSync, a digital learning system launched in January 2012. Unlike the traditional Sylvan learning centers, which are often located in shopping centers or office buildings, Sylvansync is more flexible and can take place anywhere, such as in a school classroom or at a library.

After diagnosing a student’s individual skill gaps, instructors use the technology to begin a specific program geared to bringing him or her up to speed, Hurlock said. Students complete lessons and education games on devices like iPads, and instructors provide instant feedback.

Hurlock did not disclose the cost of setting up a SylvanSync system, but he said the main costs are the iPads and instructor training fees. Franchisees must also be a traditional Sylvan operator to start a satellite program, he said.

Sylvan’s franchisee community “overwhelmingly believes” using technology in education is the best way to engage a child in learning new skills, Hurlock said. More than 80 percent of Sylvan center franchisees have signed up for or are already administering SylvanSync.

“We’re taking learning into the 22nd century,” Hurlock said, adding his 7-year-old triplet daughters use their iPads to participate in SylvanSync. “They love learning in that environment.”

Hurlock, who worked for Sylvan from 2000 to 2001 before moving to Colorado, returned to the company after his wife started researching a tutoring solution for their daughters. Seeing the job opportunity on the company’s website, “I jumped on it, and it worked out beautifully,” he said.

Hurlock sees “tremendous opportunities outside North America” for Sylvan, he said, noting the company has plans to expand to China. Sylvan currently has centers in the U.S., Canada and the Middle East. “We’re a very mature system with a whole lot more opportunities.”

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