ns Population: 971,395
Number of K-12 Schools: 371
Number of K-12 Students: 123,239
Number of K-12 E-Learning Programs: 2
Number of K-12 E-Learning Students: ~106,627

Note that these profiles are taken from the most recent edition of the report, please review additional annual profiles below.

Governance and Regulation

The provision of distributed learning (i.e., distance education and online learning) through the Nova Scotia Virtual School (NSVS) is governed by the eleven provisions included in the agreement between the Government of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. This collective agreement defines distributed learning as:

a method of instruction that relies primarily on communication between students and teachers through the internet or other electronic-based delivery, teleconferencing, video conferencing or e-correspondence. It allows teachers, students, and content to be located in different, non-centralized locations so that instruction and learning can occur independent of time and place. (Government of Nova Scotia, 2017, p. 56)

In addition to defining distributed learning, there are several clauses related to distributed learning teacher working conditions (e.g., requirement that the teacher be certified; requirement that distributed learning be considered part of the teacher’s formal workload; maximum distributed learning class size; mandated professional development for distributed learning teachers; and distributed learning school day can be different, must be equivalent).

Further, the collective agreement outlines a number of responsibilities for the schools and/or school boards that choose to operate distributed learning programs:

  • schools must have student supervision at the local level when students are engaged in distributed learning;
  • schools must have a local distributed learning coordinator; and
  • if the course exists in the student’s local school, they must receive approval from the school in order to take the course in a distributed learning environment.

Finally, there is a clause that creates a formal mechanism to allow for consultations between distributed learning program operators and the union through a provincial advisory committee.

In 2015, the Nova Scotia Action Plan for Education made additional commitments to the growth of online and blended learning, including providing NSVS students with flexible options and teaching support, classroom students with access to NSVS courses and the option to bring their own devices to school to do so. The plan also called for online learning opportunities for middle school students to prepare them for online courses in high school.

K-12 Distance and Online Learning Activity

The Learning Resources and Technology Services division of the Education Innovation, Programs and Services branch of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development manages distance education programs in Nova Scotia and works cooperatively with a Management Board representing all Regional Centres for Education and Conseil scolaire acadien provincial.

There are two distance education programs in the province. First, the NSVS provided online courses to approximately 1,407 students from the seven English-speaking regional centres and the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial during the 2019-20 school year. Second, the correspondence studies program provided courses to 834 students enrolled in courses through the correspondence study program (approximately half of whom are adult students, home-schooled students or students living outside of Nova Scotia). Currently, work is ongoing to transition these correspondence courses to an online delivery format.

K-12 Blended Learning Activity

There were also a number of blended learning initiatives that are being implemented in the school system. For example, Google Apps for Education (G-Suite) is now available to all students, teachers, and administrators province-wide and there are 120,000 students that have accounts. In addition, all grade 9 students participate in a blended learning component on financial literacy as part of the Citizenship Education 9 course. Further, the Department provides a blended learning platform through the Moodle learning management system that was extensively used in classrooms around the province to support instruction as well as to support professional learning communities for teachers.

Emergency Remote Teaching

Schools closed on March 15, 2020 and remote teaching began on April 8.  The Ministry released five learning packages available for download for each grade level April 8 and June 3.  The Ministry also provided a limited number of devices and connectivity primarily for high school students, as well as non-digital resources.  There were attendance expectations and students continued to be assessed on work completed throughout the school year.  The school year ended as scheduled.

Previous Provincial Profiles

History of K-12 E-Learning

Beginning about 1917, when soldiers were returning from World War 1, the distance education program started by offering correspondence education opportunities to obtain high school graduation certificates. Through the years, Nova Scotia has had rich distance education programming to take advantage of various technologies as they became available (radio, television, internet, email, telephone, video conferencing).

An educational television program (ETV) began in 1960, but is no longer in operation. It was funded by the Department of Education and began as a way of providing instruction from competent teachers in high school mathematics, science, and French as a second language to students in rural schools. It consisted of a partnership with the Canadian Broadcasting Company to develop and then broadcast the high school curriculum. By the late 1970’s, ETV was changing from direct teaching of individual classes to the creation of broader educational resources that were not otherwise available. The most notable was the Mi’kmaq series that recreated four seasons in pre-European contact Maritimes.

The Nova Scotia Virtual School (NSVS) was created from this long history of distance education, as well as a more recent history of individual, district-level, web-based initiatives that had been operating throughout the province (i.e., Strait Regional School Board Virtual School and Chignecto-Central Virtual School). In 2011-12, funding for NSVS was increased to allow course offerings to be brought together under one provincial umbrella, to increase course development, to enhance course quality and infrastructure, and to provide sustainable online learning to all public high school students.  Planning for growth and innovation for NSVS is accomplished through a Management Board with representation from every school board in the province and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. This cooperative structure works together to advance online learning opportunities for Nova Scotia students.


Individual Program Survey Responses

Program Most recent response  Medium  # of Students  # of Teachers  # of Courses 
Nova Scotia Virtual School
2018-19 Online 1366 25 full time  53
Nova Scotia Correspondence Study Program
2018-19 Correspondence and Online (mathematics only) 1,015 20 part time*  27

* The Nova Scotia Correspondence Study Program utilizes markers on an as needed basis.

To update this information, visit http://tinyurl.com/sotn-program-survey

Inter-provincial and International

Any online course from an online program outside of the province taken by a student in Nova Scotia would be reviewed at the school or board level to determine if an equivalent course exists.

Unless a student is registered in a public school in Nova Scotia students are not eligible to take an online course through the NSVS.  If an adult student within the province or a student from outside of Nova Scotia were interested in taking a distance education course from a program located in Nova Scotia, the student would be directed to the province’s correspondence study program.  For out-of-province students who successfully complete courses through this program, the Ministry issues a completion certificate and sends a transcript to schools as requested.