The province is providing high school students with more learning opportunities in their own communities and helping prepare them for good jobs. Education Minister Ramona Jennex announced today, May 4, that Nova Scotia Virtual School is more than doubling its online course to 46 to meet the needs of more students. “As enrolments decline, we need to build on innovative ways to teach and engage children, while at the same time supporting rural schools,” said Ms. Jennex. “As part of Kids and Learning First, we are providing students with a quality education by giving them access to courses that otherwise would be unavailable at their schools.” In the Nova Scotia Virtual School, students access course materials online and are joined by a teacher and other students from across the province using a webcam and e-chat. The virtual school also helps ensure that students in math, sciences and other courses are taught by teachers with background and experience in these subjects. The online resources, courses and professional learning supports are accessible to all public schools in Nova Scotia and can be used by any teacher as part of their teaching plan. The $1.7-million provincial investment will cover the costs of the expansion, including hiring a French immersion teacher, hardware and technical support, training as well as resources and course development. “Teaching online has allowed me to join two things I love, technology and teaching,” said Guy Aucoin, Instructional Lead and teacher with Nova Scotia Virtual School. “During my virtual office hours, the students can come in during the day and ask questions. This allows me to build a good rapport with the students, as they often come in to ask a quick question, but stay a little longer to chat.” In September, students can select from 46 new and present courses including advanced courses in sciences, French immersion, global politics and global geography. About 500 students from 58 high schools took advantage of the 22 course offered online this year. There will be a projected 800 seats available next September and up to 1,500 in 2013-14. “I am enjoying this experience more than normal classes because all the resources and supports are in one place online,” said Grade 12 student Daniel Prest, who is taking calculus 12 at Bridgewater Junior-Senior High School. “If anything is confusing, it is easy to find support online or from the teacher. The e-chats help to learn new material but there are lots of opportunity to learn on your own.” The virtual school also enables students to develop organizational, independent learning and technological skills. “The online courses provided our children with the opportunity to achieve their educational dreams in a small rural school setting,” said parent Alvina Nix of Pugwash. Nova Scotia Virtual School is a joint partnership between the province and school boards. It was recently recognized by Progress Magazine as one of four education finalists at the Innovation in Practice World Café and Awards in Halifax that showcase, promote and award innovation in the public sector.