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Virtual tutoring

By Dalhousie Gazette Staff

Junior high and high school students won’t have to stay long hours at school for extra help. They won’t even have to step outside their homes. Or meet their tutors.
The virtual school project at Imhotep’s Legacy Academy uses an online videoconferencing program to help high school students with their math and science homework. Students and tutors communicate with each other by writing on a virtual white board, sending personal messages, and talking face to face via webcam while using the program.
Emmanuel Nfonoyim, the academy’s project manager at Dalhousie University, says the project is designed specifically to help black Nova Scotian students achieve their full potential in math and science regardless of barriers they face at home or in the community.
“The parents and teachers are very, very dedicated, but they cannot move mountains,” he says. “They need help to make those mountains shift, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The project is currently in its pilot phase, and will become available to six more high schools in Nova Scotia by the end of November.
“The rationale is that there is a need for support programs to be in place to facilitate access for African Nova Scotian students,” says Nfonoyim.
Students enrolled in the project can sign out headsets, webcams and video conferencing software from their school’s office for free and get help with homework at home. Students also have access to a live tutor for more than six hours a day, Monday to Saturday, during and after school hours with the project.
Nfonoyim says these extra resources can help compensate for after-school programs that are unavailable to students.
“Students in rural areas don’t always have access to support (for math and science) at home or after school, since the bus schedule is not (convenient) for them,” he says. “This is something that will help facilitate their learning after school.”
The project currently has seven online tutors, and the academy will hire three more by February 2010. The project’s pilot phase will end in June 2010, and the completed version of the project will launch in September 2010.
Nfonoyim says the completed project can support up to 80 students. He says the academy is trying to expand the project to rural areas like Antigonish, Amherst, Shelburne and Digby.
“We’re always working with our stakeholders and different communities in Nova Scotia to see how we can access resources that would enable us to establish a program,” says Nfonoyim. “It always comes down to personnel and financial resources.”
The project’s long-term goal is to help students make the transition from high school to college or university math, computer science and engineering programs. Nfoyonim says many students in Nova Scotia who aspire to work in these programs are taking applied math in high school when they should be studying university-level math.
“They’re basing their choices on what their perceived ability is and the type of support they think they will have,” he says. “Our program comes in to help students realize that there is support they can get in addition to what they already have.”
Nfonoyim wants black high school students in Nova Scotia to know that if they have the potential and the drive to succeed, the academy is there to help.
“What we do may not be sufficient to solve all the issues, but it adds to what others are doing, because that much more is needed for those mountains to be moved.”


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