January 6, 2014 | Marcus Varner | Leave a comment Online high school is becoming such a viable option for students that it almost makes me want to homeschool. (Did I say that out loud?) Attending an online high school is becoming a growing trend with credible curriculum choices, enticing perks and yes, even social opportunities for the students. Here’s what you didn’t know but should about online high schools. Why do students choose to attend an online high school? The reasons why students (or parents, for that matter) choose an online high school are as varied as the students themselves. Some students participate in extracurricular activities that aren’t just after school so online high school gives them flexibility with their schedule. Some students are struggling in a traditional high school setting and some are advanced or quick learners, so online high school works better for them. Even children in military families opt for online high school at times. In the 2012-2013 school year, 310,000 students attended full-time online schools. How does online high school work? It depends on the school. Some schools have a full-time online schedule and some have what they term “blended” schedules, where much of the work is done online, but a portion of the course work is done onsite, which can mean at the school’s campus or at partnering locations. For example, as part of Arizona’s Virtual Academy and the Insight Academy of Arizona, they have partnered with the YMCA to include health and fitness, aquatics, and sports as part of the blended learning opportunity. Either way, students at an online high school have access to counselors to help them choose classes to fulfill their state requirements as well as fulfill their career goals. The classes are taught by certified teachers. The George Washington University Online High School website explains that classes: “are conducted using a combination of asynchronous and synchronous (or ‘real time’) components—the combinations may vary based on the course. Courses contain asynchronous reading, activities, assessments, and videos, as well as synchronous ‘live’ sessions conducted by the teacher at predefined times. Many of these sessions are recorded so that students can ‘attend’ if they miss a session, or review all or part again, if needed.” What is the curriculum like? Most of the online high schools offer a variety of core classes to cater to different levels of students. There are English, math, history, science, world languages and social studies courses to choose from, as well as electives. The IQ Academy in Kansas offers classes such as digital photography, game design, audio engineering, personal finance, 3D art and other electives. For students who are eager to get started on college courses or to get college credit, many AP courses can be taken at an online high school. K12, which powers many of the online high schools, has a list of about 150 courses that are offered at most of their schools, 50 of which are NCAA approved. Many courses are not just completed online. They may include workbooks, assignments offline and tests. Field trips are also included in some courses so students aren’t glued to the computer for their whole school day. Because of this aspect, some schools require that a log is kept of all the time spent in educational activity. Cambridge Academy in Texas requires 900 net instructional hours to pass the grade. http://www.thecambridgeacademy.org/generaldiploma.php What about the social scene? One of the biggest hang-ups for parents and students about online high school is the perceived lack of social interaction. At typical high schools, students don’t just receive book-learning, but social skills as well. Many online high schools are combating that obstacle by offering clubs and events that include the students. These clubs work to satisfy the need for social interaction because students not only communicate over the internet, but also have opportunities to meet together and get to know others. The Arizona Connections Academy lists on its website clubs ranging from student leadership, which organizes service projects, to theater arts, robotics and Quiz Bowl. How much does online high school cost? The big question to consider—cost. It all depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. Most states have public online high schools, which are free. Some are restricted to those who live in certain school boundaries, but many states have statewide online high schools so you wouldn’t incur any more expense than being at a traditional high school. There are also private online high schools. These schools are not free and vary from school to school, but on the low end you can expect to pay about $1,200 for a four-year diploma program to upwards of $66,000. How do you find an online high school? The easiest way to start is to search on the internet for an online high school in your area. This will let you know if there are any public online schools that you can consider. The K12 website also has a map that lets you know of public or private schools that you can consider. Online high school isn’t just an easier way to a diploma and it’s not for everyone, but because of the growing number of courses and school options, the flexibility of the schedule and even social opportunities, it’s becoming a viable option for parents to consider for their student.