Virtual learning to reach more students

More Nova Scotia students will be able to log on to long-distance learning in the next couple of years.

Nova Scotia Virtual School will offer about 800 positions in September, and up to 1,500 the year after, Education Minister Ramona Jennex announced Friday.

In the current school year, about 500 students from 58 high schools chose from 22 courses, according to the Education Department. There will be 46 courses offered next school year.

Jennex said the expansion will cost $1.7 million, which covers items like hiring a French immersion teacher, buying equipment and providing technical support.

The expansion was part of an education strategy released in February.

At a news conference in Halifax on Friday morning, high-school students in Iona and Lockeport and a teacher in Sydney joined Jennex via video conference to talk about the virtual school.

Visual arts teacher Carol Lee Boutilier said she conferences with students each week to go through lessons, and they can access other lessons on a website.

She provided a glimpse of a lesson on principles of design. The cover of a document appeared on the screen, and an online student analyzed the use of contrast, using a highlighter to make her points.

Another student, Jennifer Kressebuch of Lockeport Regional High, then rearranged information on a business card to improve its presentation.

The students said they also take regular classes with other students and a teacher in front of the classroom, but the online work is a nice change.

Jennex said the online courses are a way to deal with declining enrolment that reduces course offerings at smaller schools. Courses range from advanced chemistry and pre-calculus to fitness leadership and tourism.