The considerations for choosing an online school are the same, whether it’s for acquiring a high school diploma or a college degree. The only difference is that there are four types of virtual high schools to choose from — private, public, chartered and university sponsored – and it is possible that geography will be a factor (e.g. charter schools are available only to students living in a certain area). Being familiar with these types can help parents and students in their decision.
That aside, the first thing to assess is whether the school offers or specializes in the program that the student wants to pursue. For instance, it might be better to get a nursing degree from a school that specializes in medical fields. Also consider that some schools offer only certificates, not diplomas.
The program offerings meet the requirements, but are the schools properly accredited? The accreditation should include oversight by recognized creditors and not just a license to operate. This ensures that parents and students will not spend money, time and resources on a diploma mill or an illegitimate operation.
Having found an online school with the right programs and proper accreditation, it is time to look at the price. Aside from tuition, are there hidden costs; technology fees, graduation fees, etc? It is also a good idea to ask if there are discounts, scholarships or financial assistance options available.
Studying the curriculum and learning about the school’s credit transfer policies can reduce costs and the time it takes to earn a diploma. Some schools allow students to skip courses already taken in another institution. Others offer credit for real-life work experience.
Knowing how classes are conducted will also help in decision-making, since the process should fit the student’s learning style and schedule. Things like teacher-to-student ratio, learning format and support for struggling students should be considered. It also pays to ask about the qualifications of online teaching staff, as well as opportunities to attend a demo class.
Next, examine the school’s track record. The longer the school has been in business, the better. Aside from the number of students currently enrolled or the number of graduates, parents and students should also try to find out the quality of graduates the school has produced. For instance, how many students from the virtual high school went on to college? What is the drop-out rate?
Finally, parents and students can get additional feedback from current and past students and faculty. Other sources include online discussion boards and blogs on online schools. The important thing is to take time and exert effort to get to know several prospective schools before making a decision, instead of settling for the first school that seems to meet all the requirements.