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Different Types of Online High Schools

In this article, you will learn who can benefit from a virtual education, find the different types of online high schools available, read about accreditations and learn what kind of social interactions are accessible to students.

Online high schools provide an avenue for you to obtain your high school diploma, and may be a viable option if you cannot physically attend a traditional high school. In order to access an online education, you would generally need a computer with internet, and software that the particular high school may require to participate in chat room forums or video instruction. Along with a core curriculum, electives, AP and dual-credit courses are also available depending on the type of school you choose.

What Options Are Available?

The different types of online high schools include public/charter, private and university-affiliated schools. The curriculum for each should meet the requirements of an accreditor that is either nationally, regionally or state-recognized. These schools provide a core curriculum of math, history, English and science along with electives from physical education to photography, depending on the school.

Who Benefits from Attending an Online High School?

Students who can benefit from an online high school education include AP and gifted students who are seeking specific courses or college credits; working adults who need to obtain their high school diploma; military families or families who live internationally but would like an American education; working teenagers who cannot physically attend class or need an alternative schedule; bullied kids who can no longer associate with the student body; those with specific health needs who need to stay at home or under medical supervision.

What Are the Different Types of Online High Schools Offered?

Public Schools

Public online high schools provide a tuition-free education to students and are accredited by the state in which they operate. Students will usually need to live in the state or district in which these schools operate. Online public schools include:

  • iUniversity Prep
  • Broward Virtual School
  • Scottsdale Online Learning

Charter and magnet schools generally partner with public schools to give students a well-rounded online education. Focused specifically on education, charter schools are run by both non-profit and for-profit organizations. Listed are also a few charter schools:

  • K12
  • Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School
  • Connections Academy

Private Schools

Private online high schools are tuition-based. These schools generally offer open enrollment so that students do not have to reside in a certain geographic area to attend. Enrollment can also be part-time and some courses can be taken individually. Students may also be able to seek financial aid and scholarships when applying to an online private high school. Below are a few popular private schools and the estimated annual tuition:

  • Northstar Academy; $24,450 annually
  • Laurel Springs School; tuition varies from $580 to $1,620 per course
  • Sheboygan Christian School; $8,665 annually

University-Affiliated Schools

University-affiliated online high schools also charge tuition. They are competitive and may require multiple steps when applying, like admission essays, writing samples or questionnaires. Students may also be able to seek financial aid and scholarships when applying to a university-affiliated school. Below are some popular university high schools and the tuition charged:

  • Stanford Online High School; $24,220 annually
  • University of Texas Online High School; $3,430 annually (on average)
  • Indiana University High School; $226 per course

Which Accreditations Should I Look for in an Online High School?

While browsing through online high schools it is important to consider how each school is accredited and how the accreditations are recognized. Schools should be accredited within national, regional and/or state regulations to ensure compliance and academic standards. Accrediting agencies include:

  • National: The Distance Education Accrediting Commission, Cognia
  • Regional: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, Middle States Association Commission on Secondary Schools, Northwest Accreditation Commission
  • State: Public online schools can be accredited by the state in which they operate

What Kind of Social Interaction Will I Have While Attending an Online High School?

Students who attend virtual schools will find peer interaction through chat rooms, classroom forums and sometimes school-housed events depending on the high school. Academic counselors and teacher support are also available via email, classroom forums, and chat rooms. Class size is normally smaller than traditional classrooms, so teacher-student engagement can thrive.