Is An Online High School Right for You

What is an online high school?
Online high schools are an alternative to the traditional brick-and-mortar high school; instead, you “attend” classes online. This option meets the needs of students who benefit from the freedom and flexibility of distance learning (ie. actors, musicians, athletes, students from military families, etc.).

How does it work?
Students complete their assignments, take their quizzes, tests and exams and submit their coursework and projects online. Course materials may include class notes, video downloads and textbooks. Interaction with classmates may take place on discussion boards and communication with teachers could be done via phone, email or even video chats.

Some online schools require you to be online during certain times, while others leave it up to you as to when you login to complete the work.

How much does an online high school cost?
As with traditional high schools, some online schools are public while others are private. Therefore, the cost can range from a minimal expense to thousands of dollars. Some states offer free public online high schools where tuition and textbooks are free. Some online schools charge a fee per class and for materials, while others charge a flat monthly fee, but provide the student with free textbooks and course materials. It’s really up to the family to research each school and determine what fits their needs and budget.

What are some things to consider when choosing an online high school?

Accreditation
It is important to know whether or not an online high school is accredited by a reputable national, regional and/or state accreditation organization such as AdvancED and Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools. If not, you run the risk of receiving credits for classes that won’t be recognized or accepted by other high schools or some colleges and universities.

Curriculum
Most online high schools will have a core curriculum that includes English, math, science and social studies, but it varies from school to school. Some core curriculums include physical education and health and a foreign language while others do not. Honors, Advanced Placement and dual-credit courses may also be offered.

When it comes to electives, the number of courses that are offered differs from school to school. From business management to theatre to web design, the range of electives offered is wide and varied. Some offer less than 10 while others more than 25.

Assessment
It is important to know how students are assessed and evaluated at the online high school. Students should be given feedback on a regular basis as to how they are progressing academically. Homework assignments, quizzes, tests, exams, projects, etc. are often used to make this determination.

Diploma/Graduation Requirements
Online high schools not only differ in the types of diplomas they may offer, but also in the number of credits that are required for graduation. Some schools offer a general diploma while others offer a general diploma as well as a college prep diploma. Oftentimes, students who choose the college prep track will need to earn more credits for graduation than those students enrolled in the general track.

Teachers
Some online high schools require their teachers to be certified in their subject area and have teaching experience, while others do not. It’s up to you to research the school and determine the credentials and qualifications of its teachers.

Something else to keep in mind is the accessibility of the teachers. Are they readily available should students have a question and/or a concern?

Technology/Software
It is critical that students have access to a reliable computer/laptop with a compatible operating system and a high-speed internet connection. They will also need to have the capabilities to run the latest browsers and software programs on their computer/laptop.

In addition, students may be required to have a scanner (to show hand-written work) and a camera on either their computer/laptop or cell phone to video chat with teachers. Because schools determine their own technological systems, it’s important to find out what is required ahead of time.

What about socialization?

“Attending” an online high school doesn’t have to negatively impact social interaction. Students have an opportunity to meet other students from across the country and perhaps all over the world in their online classes. Some online high schools even have their own social media discussion boards and interest-based clubs.

Outside of the virtual world, students can still maintain the friendships they have already developed prior to enrolling in an online high school. They may also have the opportunity to participate in the local school district’s extracurricular activities.

Online high schools offer students flexibility, accessibility and the opportunity to work at their own pace. However, in order to be successful, the student must exhibit self-motivation, self-discipline and focus. If s/he is easily distracted and/or lacks drive, online schooling may not be the right option.