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High School Parents of High School Students

Online High School vs. In-Person High School: What Should Parents Know?

If your teen is thinking about an alternate education option such as online high school, we've got answers for all your questions. Take a deeper look into online vs. in person high schools to make an informed choice for your child's education.
Lauren Ambrosio

Lauren Ambrosio

Choosing the right educational path for your teen can be daunting, especially with so many available options. You might have heard of online high schools' flexibility, but how do they stack up against traditional classrooms? What does a day in an online class look like compared to a brick-and-mortar school? We’ll examine what makes each education style unique while we demystify online learning and answer your questions!

Whether your teen thrives in conventional classrooms, yearns for the adaptability of online sessions, or a hybrid of the two, understanding the strengths of each can help you make an informed decision. Because, after all, every child's learning journey is unique, and finding the best fit can make a big difference!

What parents need to know about online high school

If you’ve never taken a web-based course, online high school may seem like an unstructured waste of time that leaves the learning entirely up to the child. While online school is student-led in many ways, there is more to it than flexibility and working at your own pace.


Here are some of the guiding principles of online high schools like Penn Foster:

  • Self-paced learning allows students to work through classes at their speed.
  • Online schools like Penn Foster offer DEAC-accredited programs, ensuring quality education.
  • Students earn a high school diploma upon completion.
  • Flexible schedules are helpful for students with other commitments or those who prefer to study during non-traditional hours.
  • Many online high schools are able to offer a wide range of subjects and electives, often including courses not found in traditional schools.
  • Students can study from anywhere with a stable internet connection.
  • Some programs adapt content based on student understanding, making the learning customized for the learner.
  • Online learning platforms allow parents to keep up with their children’s schoolwork and grades on an all-in-one platform.


Read more: Mejora Tu Inglés en Línea Mientras Obtienes Tu Diploma de Diploma de Escuela Secundaria


What parents need to know about in-person high school

High school isn’t the same as when you were a teen. A lot has changed when it comes to what our children face every single day within the four walls of their high school. Many factors affect the quality of your child’s education, many of which you may not have any control over.


Here are some of the attributes of most traditional, in-person high schools:

  • In-person schools often emphasize the importance of structured schedules, which can instill discipline and time-management skills.
  • Students can participate in physical extracurricular activities such as sports, drama, and band.
  • In-person schooling allows for immediate feedback during class, which can be valuable when there is a close turn-in date on assignments or projects.
  • Daily peer interactions help develop social skills, teamwork, and real-world communication abilities.
  • Many in-person schools have well-established student support systems, from guidance counselors to special education resources.
  • Hands-on labs, workshops, and field trips provide experiential learning opportunities that can be challenging to replicate online.
  • Immediate access to school facilities such as libraries, gymnasiums, and science labs enhances the learning experience.
  • Parents can engage directly with educators through parent-teacher conferences and events, fostering a close-knit school community.


Traditional high school is a good fit for students who thrive on structure and in-person instruction and have access to the resources they need to learn and pursue their extracurricular activities.


Online vs. in-person high school: Which is harder?

The question of difficulty when comparing online to in-person high school isn't straightforward, as both environments come with unique challenges and benefits. The perceived difficulty often depends on the student's learning style, preferences, and personal circumstances.


In-person high schools offer a structured environment with face-to-face interactions, benefiting students who thrive on routine and direct guidance from educators. The daily schedule and physical presence in a classroom might help some students stay focused. On the other hand, the challenges might come from commuting, adapting to a fixed timetable, or managing peer relationships daily.


Online high schools, such as Penn Foster High School, provide flexibility that allows students to tailor their learning to their pace. This can benefit students with other commitments or who prefer studying at non-traditional hours. However, it requires self-discipline, motivation, and effective time-management skills. The absence of immediate face-to-face feedback might be challenging for some, while others might appreciate the independence it offers.


Ultimately, the difficulty level is subjective. What one student finds challenging, another might find to be their strength. It's essential to evaluate personal preferences and the student's individual needs when determining the best fit.


Read more: Are There Any Advantages to Having a High School Diploma?


Frequently asked questions about online high school vs. in-person high school

You’ve got questions; we’ve got answers!


Is an online high school program as academically rigorous as a traditional public school?

Many online high school programs, including Penn Foster High School, maintain academic standards equivalent to those of traditional public schools. They provide a comprehensive curriculum, ensuring students are well-prepared for future endeavors.


How does the curriculum of an online high school program compare to that of a traditional public school?

The curriculum of an online high school program often mirrors that of traditional schools, covering core subjects like mathematics, science, and the humanities. Additionally, online schools can offer a broader range of electives and specialized courses not always available in traditional settings.


What level of accreditation does the online high school program have?

Penn Foster's online high school program boasts DEAC and Cognia accreditation, ensuring quality education that adheres to national standards for distance education. Similarly to a traditional public high school, it’s also regionally accredited through The Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.


Will my child receive the same quality of education and be prepared for college or their desired career path?

Absolutely. With comprehensive courses, personalized support, and a flexible learning environment, many online high school students graduate well-prepared for college or their post-high school job.


Read more: How to Apply to College


How does the online learning environment promote student social interaction and engagement?

Online learning platforms often provide forums, group projects, and virtual meet-ups to foster social interaction. Through Penn Foster’s Student Community, which is only available to enrolled students, your child can connect with their peers, find a study buddy, and get help with questions from students who’ve already gone through the same classes.


What support and resources are available to students in an online high school program?

Online high schools offer various support resources, including one-on-one teacher consultations, chat support, forums, and access to online libraries, videos, and other educational materials.


Can my child still participate in extracurricular activities and sports while attending an online high school?

Yes. The flexibility of online high school allows students to balance their academic commitments with extracurricular activities, sports, or even part-time jobs. After enrolling in an online school, you’d most likely work with your public high school to ensure your student can still participate in sports, but there are also plenty of opportunities to find local recreational leagues and programs your child might be interested in!


Read more: Peek into a Day in the Life of an Online High School Student


How do online high schools handle assessments, exams, and grading?

Online high schools use quizzes, assignments, projects, and proctored exams to assess student performance. The grading system typically aligns with traditional educational standards.


What technology requirements are necessary for my child to succeed in an online high school program?

At a minimum, students typically need a reliable computer or laptop with a stable internet connection. Specific software or hardware might be required depending on the courses taken. These aren’t required, but here are over 30 apps and websites to help your student study, stay on-task, and more!

How does the cost of an online high school program compare to that of a traditional public school, and are there any financial aid options available?

Online high school programs might have different fee structures than traditional public schools. While many public schools are tuition-free, online programs might have tuition costs. However, there are often flexible payment options that can fit your budget to help families manage expenses.


Feeling inspired? Experience the success stories and see the impact of education by watching the 2023 Penn Foster Group Graduation Ceremony.


Take the next step in your child’s educational journey today

Choosing the right high school for your teen is more important and harder than ever before. If you’re considering Penn Foster High School, know that our DEAC-accredited programs provide a comprehensive and flexible learning environment for every kind of student. Ready to explore more? Enroll in Penn Foster High School whenever you feel the time is right. If you have questions or are ready to start, our dedicated Admissions Specialists are available at 1.888.427.6500.


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