Westmont Magazine The Benefit of Brain-Based
Bruce Lewolt ’77 is still annoyed he didn’t find out how to study until his last year of college. “I took a class on learning theory and was upset that no one had ever explained there were strategies for learning things faster and remembering them longer,” he says. The economics and business major had a busy schedule: he was student body president, he served on the presidential search committee, and he spent a semester in Washington, D.C., working for the joint economic committee of Congress. Study tips would have helped.
Interested in computers (he took the two computer science classes taught at Westmont at the time), he got a job with Burroughs after graduating, doing sales and systems design for three years. Then he went to work for himself adapting computer applications for a wide variety of needs and industries.
But he never forgot that class on learning theory. While still at Burroughs, he started seeking ways to automate expert learning strategies. “The technology simply didn’t exist until the 1990s,” he says. He plunged into research and began working on patents in 1998. In 2000 he founded BrainX to market the software he designed for retaining information. The BrainX Online Learning Mastery System relies on the latest findings in the neurobiology of learning, and Bruce has developed products for both schools and corporate clients.
“One of my passions is teaching students to be expert learners early so they will do better in school,” he says. “Unfortunately the California curriculum doesn’t cover the teaching of effective learning strategies.” Bruce has published his research-based learning strategies in the book “Getting A’s: Secrets Expert Learners Use to Get Straight A’s.” “The biggest waste of time is highlighting the book,” he says. “It’s better if students write study questions about what they are reading. When they are done, they practice answering the questions on at least three different days. Neurobiologists have shown that answering questions is far more effective than any other study technique.”
Bruce has developed a program for the high school exit exam. “Our online system uses a digital tutor that discovers what students already know and how they learn. It then personalizes a curriculum that doesn’t waste time on what they know and delivers information in a way that is best for the individual student. The goal is mastering the information needed to pass.”
This system doesn’t replace the traditional classroom, however. It works with the teacher to take each student down the fastest path to mastery of English language arts and math.
The same approach works for corporate clients. “Research shows that the most effective sales people reach a higher level of product and sales expertise with our system, which actually changes the way their brain processes information,” Bruce says. Large companies use his online system with its special learning strategies to improve the performance of their sales force.
Bruce’s children have benefited from his work: his daughter is a television actress who attends Bible college and has limited time to study. His son graduates from college this year with a degree in art and computer animation. Bruce’s wife, Kim, who has a degree in education, works with him in the business based in Camarillo, Calif. “We have a powerful tool,” Bruce says. “We want to do what we can to help students.”