Accredited Online High Schools and High School Diploma Programs
There are a growing number of accredited online high schools that are offering students an alternative way to earn credits and high school diplomas. While many online high schools offer rigorous academic courses and widely-accepted diplomas, not all online high schools are equal, and you need to research your options and be wary of unaccredited programs.
Accredited Online High Schools
One challenge with earning a high school diploma online is finding a legitimate, accredited program. Some online high schools are 'diploma mills' which take a fee, but award a diploma that is not recognized by employers or colleges because the program required little or no coursework. Legitimate online schools require substantial academic course work.
To check a program's academic credentials, you can contact the school directly and ask about its accreditation. Diploma mills may be vague or unable to provide documentation, or you may not be able to contact a person at the school at all. Diploma mills may also falsely claim accreditation, or be accredited through agencies that don't apply demonstrated standards of academic rigor when granting accreditation. The Federal Trade Commission also recommends contacting a college admissions officer to see if online high school diploma is accepted at that institution or calling your state attorney general's office for information about a school or program.
Types of Accredited Online High Schools
A number of well-known colleges and universities have launched accredited online high schools that offer high school diploma programs. Stanford University, Brigham Young University, the University of Missouri and the University of Texas at Austin are just a few of such programs now available.
There are also a number of nationally recognized for-profit online high school programs. Penn-Foster High School and Keystone National High School are two of the oldest for-profit online high school programs which began as correspondence schools.
More and more public school systems and public charter schools are also offering online high school programs. The Florida Virtual School is an online public school that offers a high school diploma and Virginia has recently launched Virtual Virginia, which is part of the state's public school system. The Virtual Learning Academy is an online charter high school which is part of the New Hampshire public school system.
Applications and tuition
Most schools require copies of any and all previous high school transcripts, a completed enrollment application and an application fee to be considered for admission. Some online high schools require you to demonstrate educational preparedness at a minimum of the eighth grade level. Other online high school programs schools, such as Stanford, request scores from standardized test such as the ACT, SAT or PSAT. If accepted, students are usually mailed a copy of graduation requirements, costs and class listings.
Many online high schools welcome adult learners pursuing a high school diploma, but some programs are designed specifically for high school students and do not accept anyone over 18, or, in some cases, 21.
Tuition for online high school varies. Online high schools that are part of a state's public school system are free to state residents but charge fees for out-of-state students. Other programs charge fees for individual courses or annual tuition.
Online classes take place over the Internet using educational, chat room, video, voice and forum software in addition to e-mails and phone calls. Some classes, particularly in science and computer disciplines, may require purchasing additional software or learning materials.
Like in traditional classrooms, students typically have regular homework assignments, which are graded by instructors. Sometimes, classes participate in live video chats or conference calls. Tests are also administered online, while papers are usually submitted and graded via e-mail.
Generally, students who pass enough classes to meet minimum requirements are eligible for graduation. Some programs also require online students to pass standardized assessment tests required by certain states.
Most online high school programs mail graduates a diploma without a formal commencement ceremony.