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Online High Schools: Overview of Course and Class Offerings

Online high schools are available for adult learners who want to complete their high school education from home. Students enroll in the same types of courses as traditional high school students and complete them using web-based course management systems, word processors, and specialized software.

Overview of Online High Schools and Courses

Online high schools are aimed at high school-aged students looking for non-traditional education options and adults seeking to complete their high school education. Unlike public high schools, online high schools typically charge tuition for each course. Students complete assignments at their own pace and may continue working full-time.

Students as young as Grade 6 can apply to an online high school and all applicants must take a standardized test to be eligible. To receive their diplomas, students must typically complete at least 20 full-year courses or 200 units that include the core courses of English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, and Foreign Language.

Online Course and Class Requirements

Online high schools use computers and the Internet to deliver class materials and facilitate interactions between teachers and students. For some classes, students may need access to special software, such as Microsoft Office Suite or Adobe Photoshop. Course delivery systems vary by school, but many online high schools use course management systems like Moodle, Blackboard, or Litmos LMS. Some online high schools require that students take proctored exams at testing centers and students may need to pay fees for each exam.

Online High School Course and Class Offerings by Department

Students in online high schools must take the same types of courses as students in traditional high schools. Every state has different requirements and students should make sure the high school they choose is recognized by their state.

English Classes

Online high school English classes cover literature, writing, and special topics like journalism. Students are typically required to take at least three years of general English, but some opt for additional electives like creative writing or grammar.

Mathematics Classes

High school mathematics classes typically follow a sequence starting with beginning algebra. Students then take geometry, intermediate algebra, pre-calculus, and calculus. The order of classes may vary by state or high school. Adults with some high school credits may start in mid-sequence.

Social Studies Classes

Online social studies classes include history, geography, and social sciences classes. Although students can often select classes, many states require a U.S. history class before graduation. Other course offerings include world history, psychology, government, and economics.

Science Classes

Online high schools offer a range of science classes, including biology, physics, earth science, and chemistry. Students may need to meet math prerequisites before registering for certain science classes. For example, geometry may be a prerequisite for physics courses. Students may need to purchase software that simulates a lab environment.

Foreign Language Classes

Many schools and states require students to study a foreign language for at least some portion of their high school career. Most schools offer Spanish, but other languages like French, Latin, German, or Chinese may be available. Students use audio and video computer applications to hear the spoken language. They may need to record themselves or call school-provided phone numbers to complete speaking assignments.

Elective Classes

Some states and high schools require a set number of electives. Required electives may be in specific areas, such as fine or applied arts. Online high schools offer a range of electives, including consumer economics, business, art appreciation, and computer science. Many elective courses are self-paced, which means that students don't turn in work on specific due dates.


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