Northern Distance Learning

Since the 1990s, many small NWT community schools have expanded to become high schools. However, offering a wide-range of academic classes has been difficult. The trend has been to teach multiple courses in a single high school classroom (eg. ELA 10-1 and ELA 10-2) or offer some courses on a rotating schedule.

Blended and online learning is a solution used in many jurisdictions in Canada to provide a greater variety of courses to small high schools. From East Three Secondary School in Inuvik, NWT, NDL is using videoconferencing and a learning management system with online classes of up to 20 students in small communities. An NDL student’s school day is a blend of online classes and local high school classes.

From 2014-2018, the Department of Education, Culture & Employment (ECE) and the Beaufort Delta Education Council (BDEC) partnered to pilot and expand NDL in regions outside the Beaufort Delta Region.

During this time, the Department entered into a comprehensive renewal process, initiating a number of new programs and services. In March 2016, ECE was mandated by the 18th Legislative Assembly to expand NDL over the 2018-2021 school years:

  • 2017-2018 – 7 schools
  • 2018-2019 – 11 schools
  • 2019-2020 – 15 schools
  • 2020-2021 – 19 schools

NDL is not meant for all small community high school students. It is intended for students who have post-secondary plans. Northern Distance Learning is only offered in English. The following document provides the eligibility criteria for NDL:

The Fact Sheet and Infographics describe some of the details of NDL:

The following guides provide NDL information relevant to various stakeholders in the program:

Post-secondary bridging experience

One of the goals of NDL is to support and prepare students to enter a post-secondary program directly from high school. Through the Post-secondary Bridging Experience (PBE) trip, high school students visit a college or university in western or northern Canada to get first-hand experience in areas like choosing a program and school, city living and campus life, culture shock and homesickness, and finances. These trips help ‘bridge’ students from high school to post-secondary school, and support them in pursuing their dreams.

The first PBE was a trip to Calgary in 2019. In the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years, PBE expanded to include a virtual experience, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2021-2022 event was organized in collaboration with Northern Youth Abroad (NYA). Six post-secondary institutions, as well as numerous guest speakers and panelists, including NDL alumni, connected with NDL students over the course of the three-day event. Schools shared information about life on campus and programs of study, as well as support services available for students. All NDL students from grades 10 to 12 took part, and non-NDL Grade 12 students from the NDL family of schools were also invited to participate in the event – a positive opportunity for everyone.

In the 2022-23 school year, NDL offered another free in-person PBE to Calgary to all Grade 12 students currently enrolled. From Oct. 17-21, they visited Mount Royal University, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, University of Calgary and Alberta University. These post-secondary institutions were selected in part due to their reputation for having a strong sense of community for Indigenous students and students from the North.

The virtual format reaches even more students, and even more information can be presented. Going forward, NDL hopes to offer both a virtual and an in-person PBE.

Watch a video on Northern Distance Learning in the NWT.