Over the weekend CBC News posted the following article:
Online learning program for N.S. high school students expanding
Only 3 courses available now, but ‘significantly’ more to be added by end of school year
The department calls the program Nova Scotia Independent Online Learning, or NSIOL, and Chris Boulter said it was created to fulfil the province’s policy on inclusive education.
What caught our attention was this section:
Jess Whitley, a professor of inclusive education at the University of Ottawa, said generally, it’s important for school systems to have programs such as this one.
“To me, one of the key elements of inclusive education is flexibility, a second would be access. So I see any efforts to provide a broader range of ways for students to access the curriculum, to gain credit, to engage in schooling in general, is a positive,” Whitley said in an interview.
Whitley was contracted by the Nova Scotia government in 2019 to evaluate the implementation of its inclusive education policy. That work is nearly complete, and reviewing the NSIOL program was not part of it, but Whitley said she saw the need for such a program when she was traveling the province and visiting schools over the past few years.
“Some of the time I spent, particularly in rural high schools, where students shared with me examples of some of their challenges in trying to access all of the credits that they needed.… I can certainly bring those students to mind when I think about this possible offering,” said Whitley.
These comments show a clear lack of knowledge about the distance and online offerings that were and are available in Nova Scotia. While Professor Whitley was conducting their review, there was a program that provided the exact same services as the Nova Scotia Independent Online Learning – as the province had maintained a much larger correspondence program that included a more robust range of offerings. In 2019, when Whitney was conduct their review, students had access to more courses through the correspondence program than is currently offered by the Nova Scotia Independent Online Learning program.
Further, the fact that neither Whitney or the author of this CBC News piece make any reference to the Nova Scotia Virtual School – which was also in operation at the time and was specifically designed to provide opportunities for rural high school students access to all of the credits that they needed. A quick review of the Nova Scotia profile of our annual report would reveal to both the professor and the reporter that much of what is contained in this article simply highlights their ignorance of the topic of K-12 distance and online learning in the province.