Online High School Diploma Programs: How Do They Work?

Online programs generally offer the same types of classes as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. As with traditional high schools, online high school diploma programs must be state-approved and delivered by an accredited institution.

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Home-schooled and non-traditional students may use the distance learning options offered by online diploma programs as an alternative to a traditional high school curriculum. In general, coursework and testing for online programs are the same as those of traditional high school offerings. Here, we'll look more closely at how these online programs work for secondary students.

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How Online High School Diploma Programs Work

Online high school diploma programs are an option for home-schooled or non-traditional students. These programs are taught by certified teachers and are typically offered through accredited institutions. They are often self-paced and open to anyone worldwide.

Typical Coursework

Classes offered via online high school programs are typically the same as classes offered in traditional high schools. These classes typically include:

  • English
  • social studies
  • science
  • mathematics
  • visual arts
  • physical education
  • foreign languages
  • career education courses

Students may have the option of pursuing a general education curriculum or a college-prep diploma. Students who wish to attend college can take advantage of advanced placement and dual enrollment classes. In a dual enrollment math class, for example, students earn math credits toward both a high school diploma and a college degree.

Course Instruction

In an online high school program, students receive assignments and interact with teachers differently than they would in a brick-and-mortar classroom setting. Students typically receive course materials in various ways, including video lessons, downloadable lecture notes, and slideshows. To interact with and ask questions of course instructors, many classroom platforms employ multiple contact options such as email, phone, text, and even chat.

Technology Requirements and Other Components

Students access their work via an online content management system (CMS), but they may also receive assignments via physical media, like books or DVDs. For the most part, students will need computers with operating systems that can manage online access and CMS applications. Certain software programs may also be required, depending on the program. Students communicate with teachers through the CMS or email, but some communication through physical mail may also occur.

Testing and Graduation

Students complete their coursework and final exams online. Instead of a formal diploma, students usually receive transcripts upon graduation and a certificate of completion. Transcripts verify that a student has taken specific courses and earned particular grades in each of those courses. Most post-secondary institutions ask for transcripts to be submitted to verify an individual's academic training or knowledge. While the transcripts prove you have completed the coursework, they are not the same as traditional diplomas.

Families and individuals who are considering online high school options will find that this option includes all of the essentials offered by traditional classroom learning. Students should, however, be prepared to meet specific technology requirements and receive instructions in a variety of ways.

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