What is a Virtual High School?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing
Two young boys
Two young boys

A virtual high school is an online distance learning program that offers academic courses for the completion of a student's secondary education. This type of high school experience is growing in popularity because it can be a positive option for students who for a variety of reasons are unable to attend a traditional public or private high school. A virtual high school can be utilized for just a few courses to fill in gaps in a student's education or it can provide a complete educational program. Students typically complete their assignments from home, but they can work anywhere with an Internet connection.

Based on other models of a correspondence-type distance education, a virtual high school utilizes the Internet as a platform for the completion of secondary level coursework. Students are able to access content online, read notes and watch videos, as well as complete tests and other assignments. There is usually interaction with a teacher via e-mail, telephone, or instant message, and some schools are able to facilitate real time instructional lectures complete with class discussions. Some courses utilize a printed textbook, while others are completely computer based.

Although it's not ideal for every student, the virtual high school experience can be a great option for students who require more flexibility than a traditional "brick and mortar" school setting. This can include students from all walks of life. Examples include those who are involved in creative pursuits such as acting, music, competitive athletics, as well as those who travel a lot with their families. It can also be helpful for students who wish to learn through real life experience such as internships or for young people with health issues that may interfere with attendance at a traditional school. Students who are homeschooling also sometimes opt for a virtual high school to complete their secondary education.

Some private virtual high schools charge tuition and accept students from all over the world. There are also public virtual schools that are tuition-free for students who live in a specific region. In these instances, the costs are usually covered by the local public school district. Virtual high schools are a rapidly growing form of alternative education.

In order to be successful learning with a virtual high school program, the student needs to be a disciplined and organized individual who works well in an independent setting. Some students use a virtual high school to complete a few courses, for instance students who wish to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses not offered at their regular schools, while others complete their entire secondary education online. Students can complete their assignments from any place with an available Internet connection. Many work from home, but other options include the local library or coffee shop as well as studying while traveling.

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    • Two young boys
      Two young boys