If you’re considering options for an accredited online high school, finding the right one that fits your needs is important. One of the trade-offs you need to consider in making this decision is whether to go with an “all-online” program versus a blended program. This article will address the differences, benefits and advantages of each, and give you some points to consider.
Blended programs are typically offered by traditional public or private schools. In a blended program, the school offers a combination of courses in a traditional classroom setting and online courses. Typically the “core” courses, the common ones that nearly everyone takes, are offered in a traditional setting. Electives and special interest courses, for example photography or Chinese, are offered in an online form. Another use of online courses is for advanced or remedial courses, such as AP Chemistry or a basic math course. In this model, the traditional school is using online methods to extend and expand its course offerings with minimal additions to staff. The online model also allows the school to offer courses where the interest is limited to a smaller, more select group of students.
In an “all-online” program, all or most of the courses, including and especially the core courses are delivered online. These programs are also known as “virtual schools”, and this type of delivery is known as “digital learning”. The big advantage of an all online accredited high school program is extreme flexibility. In an all-online program, since there is no building, you can literally take your courses anywhere you want. All you need is a laptop and an Internet connection. You can also take your courses anytime you want; you don’t have to organize your life around someone else’s schedule. The flexibility advantage of an all-online program is something you cannot get from a blended program. Since a blended program by definition involves some traditional courses, it requires that you be in a classroom at least some part of the week.
In trying to decide whether an all-online or blended program is right for you, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What is my motivation for considering online programs? Am I looking for a program that gives me more options and electives, or am I looking for the ultimate flexibility that an all-online program offers? How important are each of these factors to me?
- How important is it to have traditional classrooms available to me, and why? If this is a need, how do I balance it against the freedom and flexibility of an all-online program?
If having a traditional classroom setting isn’t important to you at all, there is no reason not to chose an all online accredited high school program. On the other hand if you are undecided between the two options, you have to ask yourself, what is drawing you to a traditional classroom? Is it –
- You prefer direct communication with the teacher for some subjects?
- You like the social interaction with other students?
In the latter two cases, consider the following:
- Some online accredited high school programs allow and encourage students to directly contact their teachers when they need to, if they need help with a particular point in the curriculum. Students can contact their teachers by e-mail, phone or even video conference. Look for accredited online high school programs that advertise low student-teacher ratios and personal student-teacher communications. Talk to other students and find out what their experience is. Avoid programs with high student-teacher ratios or that are impersonal.
- Some online programs provide avenues for students to meet and get to know each other, such as online chats, discussion groups and live video conferences. If you’re looking at an all-online program, find out what services it has to offer in this area.
On the other hand, if having a traditional program in some areas is extremely important for you, and the flexibility of an all-online program isn’t that important, perhaps a blended program would be a better choice for you. Ultimately, you have to make the call about what best suits your needs.