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For many children, a little extra attention and engagement means the difference between excelling in school and falling behind. In fact, students in personalized learning classrooms make greater gains in math and reading than their peers in other schools, according to a RAND study.

But not all schools can provide the additional hands-on attention or technology personalized learning requires. That's where Sylvan Learning comes in. Sylvan is a global organization—it has more than 750 franchises, which span the U.S. and Canada to Puerto Rico, Guam and the Middle East—focused on helping children build critical skills and confidence through personalized instruction and tutoring.

“Our whole goal is to change the lives of children for the better, in whatever that capacity is," Matthew Honaker, Senior Customer Experience Manager, explains. “We consider learning to be very personal."

As the company continued to expand, however, it became harder to provide a consistent learning experience from location to location.

Finding the Perfect Fit

It soon became clear that Sylvan's cumbersome Learning Management System was preventing them from achieving their goal, and they began to search for a new LMS that could provide an interactive and collaborative learning experience to global employees. After doing some research, they found that Cornerstone's LMS, a collaborative learning platform, fulfilled their needs perfectly.

Learning communities, discussion boards, peer-to-peer learning and other social collaboration tools now bring everyone together no matter their franchise location. Sylvan has found that when employees are able to share best practices, ask questions and interact with their peers, training becomes much more effective.

“That consistent learning experience was really our key reason for getting Cornerstone, and I think we've been able to provide that beyond what we initially even hoped," says Sherry Vaughn, Director of Sylvan University. To date, more than 8,000 users, directors and teachers have completed over 28,000 certifications.

Creating a Sense of Togetherness

In order to minimize in-person training, which can be time consuming and expensive, Sylvan wanted to virtualize the classroom experience. By using features such as WebEx, discussion boards and learning cohorts—small, collaborative learning groups—they were able to create an engaged and interactive community.

“Everything is at that one-stop," explains Vaughn. “It changed our approach to training."

Rather than providing an hour-long session where people would come in, multi-task or watch the recording later, interactivity took training to the next level. When people are rolled right into a community with active discussion boards, activities and questions being asked, they have to pay full attention, Vaughn explains.

Learning cohorts also helped increase engagement and confidence, and build a sense of community across global centers. Using Cornerstone's collaborative learning platform, employees can now easily speak to someone in their same position at a different franchise who has a wealth of experience and advice to offer.

“I think it has just really created that sense of togetherness, almost, instead of feeling like you're so isolated and by yourself," explains Erica Ford, LMS/WebEx Specialist for Sylvan University. “That's probably been one of the greatest benefits."

Keeping the Mission In Mind

Another big change Sylvan has achieved is standardization. Now, all employees receive the same certification trainings and learning paths. This has increased the overall effectiveness of training because it lets employees test out their new skills while they complete their certification. Standardized training also keeps everything on brand across franchises, simplifies administrative tasks, and has increased customer conversion rates.

“We've had an overwhelmingly positive response to the changes that we've made, how much easier it was, how much they enjoyed the different aspects of the curriculum and the blended learning. I think it's made it a lot easier and a lot more user-friendly all the way around," Ford says.

Sylvan's old LMS was prohibiting them from achieving their mission of providing personalized, life changing learning to children. Now, thanks to social collaboration tools and a streamlined collaborative learning platform, they've been able to create a cohesive learning community to better serve their students.

“If you can make it work for your company, it will definitely open up the possibility of creating that consistent learning experience for users," Vaughn says. “[Cornerstone] has brought us closer to our business."

Photo: Creative Commons