Online High School Diploma at a Glance
|Program Levels||High school diploma|
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent|
|Online Availability||Fully online programs are available; Distance Education and Accrediting Commission (DEAC) provides a list of accredited online programs on their website; National External Diploma program available in select states; GED (test must be taken in-person)|
|Curriculum Requirements||Vary by state|
|Program Length||Varies by program|
A high school diploma is an award given to students who complete the required coursework and credits for a secondary school program, which typically includes grades 9 through 12. Students who haven't graduated from a traditional brick-and-mortar high school may be able to earn an accredited diploma online.
One source of information on accredited online high school programs is the Distance Education and Accrediting Commission (DEAC), a nonprofit organization that operates an accrediting commission for distance learning programs. Its website, www.deac.org, provides a list of online high school programs accredited by its commission.
Another option is the Web-based National External Diploma program, which is offered in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington. This is an assessment-based program that evaluates the math, reading, and writing skills adults and teens acquire through life experience.
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Online high school diploma programs typically follow curriculum requirements for the state in which they operate. To see detailed curriculum and graduation requirements for a particular program, prospective students should consult the state education board in that program's home state and ensure that the high school has the appropriate state approvals.
Most programs offer an education structured similarly to traditional high school education programs. Students take classes in math, science, social studies, history and foreign languages, among other areas. Many programs also offer advanced placement or dual credit courses. Exempt from most online high school programs are physical education and other classes that require students to be in the classroom in person, such as speech or debate classes. Some programs require students to submit signed forms documenting physical education, while others simply waive the requirement.
Students use online discussion forums, video and voice conferences, instant messaging and email to communicate with instructors and turn in assignments. Likewise, instructors use the same methods to communicate with students and return graded work.
Most programs make other educational services available to online students as well, including counseling, tutoring and even extracurricular programs. Upon completion of all graduation requirements, students usually receive their diplomas in the mail.
Adults and out of school teens can also take the General Educational Development (GED) Exam, which covers topics in language arts, math, science and social studies. It consists of drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice and short answer, among other types of questions.
Although students can take prep courses for the GED exam over the Internet, the tests cannot be taken online. The American Council of Education (ACE), which develops and standardizes the test, advises potential test takers to be wary of programs offering to administer the exam over the Internet, since these are not approved or accredited programs.
Adults or out of school teens can earn an accredited high school diploma online. Accredited programs can be found through the Distance Education and Accrediting Commission (DEAC), a nonprofit organization that operates an accrediting commission for distance learning programs.