School Survival

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How to choose an online high school

Before you sign up with a school, take a bit of time to ask them some questions first.

Is the school accredited, and by whom? Make sure that it's accredited by the right regional associateion. If it isn't, the diploma may be worthless. If it isn't accredited yet, ask if it's scheduled for a review. Maybe it will be accredited in the future.

How much does tuition cost, and are there any hidden fees? Tuition shouldn't be too high, and if it's a state sponsored school, it should be free.

What experience do the teachers have? They should have equal or more experience than teachers in traditional high schools. They should also be decent with computers and internet use.

How many students does a single teacher work with? The more students each teacher gets assigned, the less time they can spend with each individual student. Make sure they don't have more than they can handle. Of course, with online schooling they can possibly handle a few more than a typical classroom size, simply because the students are not physically in the class and interrupting anyone.

What are the hardware and software requirements? Most online classes need a computer that can at least handle most multimedia and word processing programs. If your computer is really old, it might be too slow. Most online schools provide software that they use, but some may request that you buy extra stuff. If you need word processing or office software, has an equivalent to MS Office software completely free.

How long does it take to complete the course? Many schools will allow students to complete classes and assignments in their own time, but some will insist that you attend "virtual classrooms" that are basically normal high school, but over the internet. This is an important question to ask if you're interested in getting a diploma earlier than your normal high school counterparts.

Will I need textbooks? What curriculum is used? While some online schools may provide all class materials online over the internet, some still insist on using paper. If this is the case, ask how much the books will cost and whether or not you can buy them second hand, or borrow them from someone who has already used them, because they can work out to be pretty expensive.

What happens if I need extra help? Some schools expect students to figure things out on their own and don't offer any help, while others provide special "office hours" where students can talk to teachers and ask questions. Finding out how a school works in this area may be a good idea, unless you happen to prefer looking things up on the internet on your own anyway.

How long has the school been around? Being around a long time doesn't automatically make a school good (just look at most physical public schools as proof), but generally it gives you some idea of how much experience they have.

How many students are enrolled at the moment? Newer schools with few students may be a bit more unstable than more established ones. On the other hand, it might not.

How many students have already graduated? A high graduation rate is always a good thing.

Is everything online, or is there a phone number I can call if I need help? Having a number you can call, or a physical office you can go to, can be handy if you'd like to talk to someone in person if you have questions. Most legit schools will at the very least have a phone number that you can use to reach them for whatever reason.

Where to next? Pick one!

Posted in: Resources on September 11, 2009 @ 8:09 AM

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