What Is Online High School Really Like?

High school student stdying on the floor of her room wearing headphones.

From the elite athlete who needs more time to train to the gifted student looking to be challenged to the student suffering from social anxiety, online high school welcomes students from all different backgrounds and provides a supportive learning environment that adapts to their individual needs.  

Making the choice to enroll in online high school can be life-changing but also difficult for families that have no experience with online school. If your only experience is brick-and-mortar schools, homeschool, or virtual learning during COVID school closures, you may be asking yourself, what is online high school like?   

What Is Online School?

First, let’s start with what a virtual high school is. Virtual schools, like Connections Academy®, offer accredited curriculum for high school students that aligns with state and national standards. Students are required to take core courses in language arts, math, social studies, and science. Connections Academy offers honors, Advanced Placement® (AP ®*), NCAA eligible, and credit recovery courses in these subjects. Students are also required to take state-mandated tests to achieve their diploma.  

“What interested me most about Connections Academy was the Gifted & Talented program. My children needed to be challenged more academically, and Connections Academy provided that challenge,” noted Monica, a parent at Georgia Connections Academy.  

Olympic gold medalist and Connections Academy graduate Nathan Chen noted that “while many have preconceived notions about online learning being easy, Connections Academy is just like any other public school—it has a challenging curriculum and high expectations of its students.” Today, Nathan attends Yale University and credits Connections Academy’s online learning approach for preparing him for the rigor and independence of college.  

Online high schools also offer a wide variety of electives for students to pursue their passions or try new things. Students can learn new languages, take coding classes, develop creative writing skills, or choose from the hundreds of other electives available to them. 

“Before Connections Academy, I was more limited in the courses I had available to me and in the ways I could challenge myself academically,” said Kaia, a student at Connections Academy who took classes in journalism and had time to write poetry, plays, and stories. “When I joined Connections Academy, I found many diverse and exciting course offerings.”   

An online high school student studies in a café.

Flexible School Schedules

While there are no set bell schedules, students have to meet state-mandated attendance requirements, which is monitored by the student’s Learning Coach, who is typically a parent or other trusted adult. Students receive their learning materials prior to the first day of school, and access lessons online, where they complete and turn in their coursework to their teachers.  

Lessons can be completed at a time and location that works best for them, giving families flexibility with their school schedules and allowing students to pursue outside passions, including training for elite sports competitions, volunteering, and starting their own businesses.  

“My husband and I were concerned that the local brick-and-mortar school left very little time for anything except homework. Both of our children study piano, but there was less and less time to fit piano into their day. We were looking for a school that would allow our children to attend lessons and practice often. Additionally, we really wanted to visit places across the United States together as a family before our children went to college. Connections Academy gave us the opportunity to do that,” said Janelle, a parent at Indiana Connections Academy.  

Gemma, a student at Texas Connections Academy Houston (TCAH), noted that “the TCAH program worked best for me because I could work ahead and take Fridays off to concentrate on my nonprofit Fluffy Love, where I deliver stuffed animals to hospitals. I had to travel to a conference, and I did my learning in a hotel and did not have to fall behind in my lessons.” 

“The amazing flexibility allows me to keep up with my courses while training for tennis. I have attended regular school all of my life until sophomore year of high school. Connections Academy is less time-consuming, and way more flexible,” said Juan, a student at Washington Connections Academy

Students complete lessons at their own pace, working ahead on subjects that come more easily and spending more time on lessons that are more challenging. Every week, students can attend live classes with their teachers, where they can engage with other students.  

“What I like most about Connections Academy is that I can work at my own pace. If a certain subject is really easy for me, I can move ahead, or if a subject is really interesting to me, I can go to the links on my home page to learn even more about it. Sometimes there are things I don’t understand, but I can either call or WebMail my teacher to get help or watch the teaching tutorial again,” said Joshua, a student at Wisconsin Connections Academy.   

An online high school teacher communicating with her students.

Passionate, Dedicated Teachers

Online high schools have dedicated teachers who are specially trained to teach online. They know how to inspire and motivate students and keep them engaged in learning. They also work closely with families to create a personalized learning plan that fits each student’s unique needs.  

“Everyone deserves a school where they are the teacher’s priority, and that’s what Connections Academy gives you,” noted JoAnn, a student at Utah Connections Academy.  

Students connect with teachers in one-on-one interactions as well as regular office hours, where they can get additional support. 

“One of my favorite things about teaching here are the touch-base calls I have with students and their families. This time together builds open lines of communication and allows for individual support and collaboration in creating the most accessible learning environment for each student according to their unique learning styles and needs,” said Brittany, a teacher at Rhode Island Connections Academy. 

Let’s Talk About Socialization

One of the biggest myths of online school is that kids don’t have the opportunity to interact with other kids and develop socialization skills. Online high schools typically offer students more opportunities to socialize with others because of the flexible schedules.   

Students can attend in-person field trips to connect with classmates and teachers. They also interact with their peers in the live online classes and through extracurricular clubs. With flexible scheduling, they can participate in more activities outside of school, where they can interact with others.  

“Studying at Connections Academy meant that I could pursue my passion in music, hold a part-time job, and maintain an active and busy lifestyle. Most people equate schooling at home with being unsocialized, but MCA offers students many opportunities to interact with peers and make friends,” said Serena,  (MCA)

Online high school students volunteering at a community garden. 

A Day in the Life of Online High School

So, what is a typical day in online high school like? There really is no typical day because each student can personalize their learning experience to fit their unique needs. Students learn from a challenging curriculum, engage with dedicated teachers, and interact with peers in a safe learning environment at a time that works best for them.  

“When the demands of our daughters’ sport became greater, we found that the traditional public schools could no longer meet our family’s needs,” said Anthony, a parent at Arizona Connections Academy. “Even when the girls’ grades were excellent, the attendance policies couldn’t accommodate the flexibility they needed to pursue gymnastics. We wanted structure and standardized testing to keep track of their progress. We were not willing to give up an excellent education for a sport, but we believed our daughters could have both. Connections Academy has been the answer for us. Our daughters are thriving academically and athletically. We feel they are keeping up with and even exceeding expectations in some areas. They have made it to the highest levels in gymnastics, and we don’t think they could have done it without Connections Academy. At first, we were very nervous about virtual schooling at the high school level, but now we are fully confident that we made the right choice.”  

Want to learn more? Attend a Connections Academy information session to see if online high school is right for your student.  

 

*AP® and Advanced Placement® are registered trademarks of the College Board. Used with permission. 

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