Online: Why Go Online & How to Choose a High School

Recent research indicates that online course enrollment is not slowing down, and that 1 in 4 students took an online class (during high school) in 2016. This statistic surprised me. Even in my own community (about 20,000 residents), many of them and their parents don’t know that online courses are an option and/or how great they can be.

So, why do students turn online, and why isn’t it made more readily available? Student often take an online class because it’s a graduation requirement, or because their schedule doesn’t allow them to take everything they want. Some students don’t have access to the classes they want to take, or they require a non-traditional schedule because of athletics, medical needs, or a personal preference. In these scenarios, most of the student or parent/guardian is very proactive in looking for and finding a solution that will allow their student to take the class they want. Many others may benefit from the online environment, but don’t know that it’s an option.

When considering an online class, whether one or several, your decision should be based on a few key ideas:

1.) Is the class from an accredited institution? Accreditation means the school has met the standards and expectations of a external review team and is also recognized by most other accredited (and non-accredited) schools (high schools and universities) in the country. This is important because it means the credit you earn online will likely be accepted more willingly from an accredited school than one who is not accredited.

2.) Does the school provide the environment you’re looking for? The nature of online learning often provides a more autonomous learning experience. Be sure that you know whether our classes are self-paced, asynchronous or synchronous, and how long they are active so that you can complete them successfully.

3.) Do they offer the classes you want/need? Most online high school offer all core class requirements, and even many electives and foreign language classes. If you are looking for niche classes, it’s best to do some research so that you know what’s available to you. In some cases there are state schools that provide free tuition. In the case of a private online high school, tuitions generally vary from $135 to more than $400 per semester.

High School: The Landscape is Changing

So much has changed, and continues to change, in the realm of education, and for the sake of this particular post–high school education.  Even considering my own high school experience sixteen years ago (has it been that long), with the options students have today, the landscape is completely different.

Let’s start with the number of choices students have today.  I’m mostly referring to the opportunity to take a very traditional high school experience and customize it.  Students can take online classes.  They can attend a school for the arts, a private prep school, or boarding school.  Students can attend schools that conform to their sports schedule, or even opt to home school.  There are endless possibilities.  So which is the right one?  Or better yet, is there a right one?

The biggest reason to leave your public high school is either to better align yourself with a school that supports your passion (sports, performing, etc.) or your academic or religious alignment (private school, prep school, home school).  When this is not an option, whether because of proximity, budget, or other factors, there are always other avenues.  You might consider an extracurricular club or group, whether through your school or community.  Or, you can look to online opportunities to find the classes you’re seeking or simply to reduce the classes you’re taking at school.  Whenever I meet with students, I ask them a few questions to help determine the best course of action.  You can download that questionnaire for free if you’re interested.

How do you access your education?  What led you to that decision?  We’d love to hear from you in our comments.

Elective Versus Fine Art

Elective credits are the category of credits that typically fall outside core and other required classes. In other words, students can choose what they want to take, and, depending on their school, may even be able to focus on a particular subject or topic throughout several semesters. Other times, electives are simply an opportunity for students to take several non-related classes as they work to refine their interests.

Fine Arts classes are typically broken into two different categories: visual arts and performing arts. Occasionally there’s a category of media arts, focusing on classes like film, production, or broadcasting. Fine Arts is your chance to study music/choir, drawing, painting, ceramics, jewelry, or even drama. And just because your school has a minimum requirement in this category, doesn’t mean you can’t take more classes. It just means that anything above the Fine Arts requirement will push to the elective category.

Chances are, you are required to take both elective and fine art classes, but the exact number of credits varies from school to school. Our advice: take advantage of both categories. Use these classes as an opportunity to take chances on a class you’re interested in, to learn from a teacher you may otherwise not have the option of studying with, or to simply expand your knowledge.

And in case you’re wondering, our catalog of music classes typically satisfies both categories.