School snow days should be turned into e-learning days with students attending class online, a Halifax education expert says.

Paul Bennett, director of Schoolhouse Consulting and adjunct professor of education at Saint Mary's University, said the “throw away” days hurt students’ education.

He said in 2008/09, Nova Scotia had a record high number of snow days — and test results fell in every board. 

Bennett said the lack of make-up days means students miss about two weeks of learning each year.

In the U.S., some districts have introduced e-lesson days when snow days pile up. In Ohio, it kicks in after five snow days in one year.

21st century learning

“It’s an ingenious response to a never-ending question about why aren’t we doing something about the school days that are being lost,” he said. 

Paul Bennett wrote a 2010 report for the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies called: School's Out, Again:  Why "throw away" school days hurt students.

Pupils log in via computers or mobile devices and spend the day participating as usual.

“They make the best possible use of the day. It’s basically 21st century learning,” he said.

Bennett said the concern that not every student has access to computers, or a fast internet connection, is not reason enough to prefer lost days.

“People will find a way to get computer access on a day when school is closed. You ask any family what their kids are doing on a day school is off. I will guarantee they are online, and yet education will be the last to take advantage of that,” he said.

“You’d be surprised at how ingenious those American school districts are in overcoming that problem.”

Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia government told Internet provider Eastlink Thursday that it has until the end of the year to offer rural broadband service to isolated pockets of the province that don't already have high-speed service.

Attendance rises on e-learning days

Bennett noted that on any given day, 10 per cent of high students are absent. If 90 per cent could access e-learning, it’d be about the same rate, he argued.

Students could use home computers, community access points or mobile devices. Bennett said studies show 90 per cent of high school students have mobile devices that connect to the internet.

He said attendance sometimes rising on e-learning days in the U.S. “Because it’s exciting, it’s different and everyone is involved.”

Here's a tally of board-wide snow days in Nova Scotia this winter:

  • 10 in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board (13 for pupils north of Smokey)
  • 7.5 in the Strait Regional School Board
  • 9 in Annapolis County
  • 8 in Kings County
  • 7 days in the Municipality of West Hants
  • ​7 in the Chignecto School Board
  • 6 in the South Shore Regional School Board
  • 2 in the Halifax Regional School Board

with files from the Canadian Press