Northern Distance Learning

Northern Distance Learning (NDL) is a program for students in small Northwest Territories schools that do not offer all high school academic classes. It allows students to stay in their home community while meeting graduation requirements and prepares them to enter post-secondary programs directly from high school.

Based in Inuvik at East Three Secondary School, NDL teachers meet virtually with up to 20 students in a class from Tuktoyaktuk to Fort Resolution. NDL classrooms include an In-class Support Person (ISP) who assists the live teacher on the screen, which makes it a similar learning experience to a student’s regular classrooms.

Blended and online learning is a solution used in many jurisdictions in Canada to provide a greater variety of courses to small high schools. An NDL student’s school day is most often 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. In March 2016, ECE was mandated by the 18th Legislative Assembly to expand NDL over the 2018-2021 school years. Since NDL piloted, it has expanded to 20 schools across the NWT.

  • 2017-2018 – 7 schools
  • 2018-2019 – 11 schools
  • 2019-2020 – 15 schools
  • 2020-2021 – 19 schools
  • 2023-2024 – 20 schools

NDL is not meant for all small community high school students. It is intended for students who have post-secondary plans, high level of independence, good attendance, and strong academic skills. 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 other Alberta universities. 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. NDL now offers both a virtual and an in-person PBE.

Watch a video on Northern Distance Learning in the NWT.