Online High School Vs. Traditional High School Diplomas: Pros & Cons

Online high school diploma programs can offer the safety, flexibility and convenience of studying from home, but they also lack the social interaction of a traditional high school. Get information on the benefits and drawbacks of both types of programs. View article »

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  • 0:04 High School: Online…
  • 0:39 Online High School Pros
  • 2:03 Online High School Cons

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High School: Online vs. On Campus

Let's take a look at the factors high school students need to consider when choosing between on-campus and online programs. These include convenience, scheduling, safety, curriculum, social atmosphere, cost, technological requirements, learning style, and school accreditation. Whether you're being bullied at school, live in a remote rural area, or simply have a lifestyle that's not conducive to a traditional school schedule, an online program can offer you a practical alternative for earning a high school diploma. However, these programs aren't right for everyone.

Online High School Pros

  • An online high school program offers the convenience to study and take classes from anywhere that you have a computer and an Internet connection. This is particularly useful for students who live in remote areas or travel frequently for athletics or other extracurricular activities.

  • Related to convenience is the benefit of flexible scheduling, which offers another major advantage for young people whose lives are too busy for traditional school. Although some online courses do require students to attend live meetings in real-time, much of your studying can be done asynchronously, or on your own schedule.

  • Safety is a top concern for parents. Bullying, whether it involves physical threats or social isolation, is a growing problem at U.S. high schools. Students who suffer from extreme bullying may feel safer completing high school diploma programs from the safety of their homes.

  • Some high school students may wish to finish early. Some online high school programs allow students to complete work at an accelerated pace. This may be beneficial for students who are ready to move on to college or the workplace.

  • What about classroom materials? According to the U.S. Department of Education, many online high school programs are able to offer students access to higher quality learning materials. The quality of your teachers and materials in an online program will not be limited by the quality of your local public schools, which can vary widely from region to region.

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Online High School Cons

  • A major disadvantage of online learning for many students and parents is social isolation. While being away from peers may be a benefit for some students, it's a detriment for others. High school can be a period of important social and emotional development that's dependent upon peer interaction. Plus, many young people enjoy activities like student clubs, sporting events, and the prom, none of which are offered through online high schools.

  • Cost can also be problematic. Free online high school programs are available for residents of some states; these programs have not been expanded nationwide. You may have to pay private school tuition to study online. Even free programs will require you to purchase your own computer, books, and other supplies that might be offered at no additional cost through a traditional high school.

  • In addition to buying their own supplies, online students may need to have access to a broader range of technologies than traditional students. Specific requirements may vary by course, but some of the general hardware and software requirements for an online high school program can include a desktop or laptop with a certain amount of memory; high-speed Internet; office software; certain Internet browsers; a webcam; a microphone; a printer; and a scanner.

  • In addition to having access to certain technology, online students need to have the computer skills to succeed in an online study environment. For success in an online program, you should probably be comfortable with the following tasks, among others: taking a screenshot, using office software, printing worksheets and PDFs, scanning assignments to a computer, typing, sending emails, and browsing the Internet.

  • Guidance can be critical. Many students struggle to grasp difficult materials without a teacher present. Although you'll have access to teachers via email, forums and, at times, instant messaging and video, online programs can't offer the same personal level of instruction. Some students may consider hiring a tutor to help them with the hardest materials, but that does add another cost.

  • A related issue concerns motivation. Some people may find themselves struggling to get motivated without the structure of a traditional high school program. If you're not highly self-motivated, you may find yourself falling behind on coursework, exams, or other academic obligations.

  • Some non-accredited online high school programs grant diplomas that won't be accepted by colleges or employers. Make sure to carefully research your options. Consider contacting your state's department of education to double-check an online school's credentials before enrolling.


While online high school can be a great option for some students, it's not ideal for others, so it's important for prospective students to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before enrolling in an online program.

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