Earn Your High School Diploma Online

Learn more about the different types of online high school diploma programs. Discover several of the top online high school diploma programs.

In the past, it was much easier to start a career without having to stress about educational requirements. Today, the majority of jobs require at a minimum a high school diploma or equivalent degree. There are still many students who are unable to complete high school, greatly limiting their career options. One option is to pass a General Education Development (GED) test. While the GED is technically the equivalent of a high school diploma, employees with a GED typically earn a lower starting salary compared to workers with a traditional diploma. There are also more limitations on what financial aid is available if you have a GED versus a high school diploma.

Previously, the biggest advantage GEDs had over a traditional diploma was accessibility. There were more GED programs available, with almost no options for getting a high school diploma. Because of online classes, this is no longer true, with many students finding it easier to complete an online high school program to get their diploma.

Types of High School Diploma Programs

Not only are there more high school diploma programs available online, but there are also multiple types of programs to choose from. The three primary categories are self-paced, live learning and accelerated programs. Which program you choose is largely based on your personal preference, as each one has their own positives and negatives to consider.

Self-Paced Learning

Self-paced learning takes advantage of high school classes being taught online. For many students attempting to get a high school diploma, it is difficult to set aside time to take classes. The majority of classes are hosted during the day, which are challenging to attend for students who are working. Night courses are often difficult as well for students who have family responsibilities. 

With self-paced learning, you get to choose when you attend your lessons. Self-paced lessons are designed to be completed without a classroom or an instructor present. With these classes, you login to the program whenever you have the time. Many students browse the material during breaks, using their phone or tablets to review material.

Another benefit of self-paced learning is you get to choose how long you spend on material. For example, if you are proficient at math, you can quickly go through those lessons, but spend more time on areas where you struggle, such as science or history. You can also go back to review lessons if you need a refresher before you take a quiz or test.

There is significantly less stress with self-paced learning because you do not have to worry about meeting deadlines and changing your schedule to match your classes. The downside is you must be self-motivated to make the most out of these classes. You must also be comfortable learning with limited interaction from an instructor. While you can email an instructor to ask questions or get clarification, this form of communication is much more limited than asking questions in a live environment. 

Live Online Learning

Live online learning classes attempt to simulate a traditional classroom setting by having students log into their classes at scheduled times. During these classes, an instructor guides students through lessons. Some of the lessons are largely lecture based, with the teacher going through the material and answering questions. Other classes are more interactive, involving live discussions with other students and completing group assignments.

The biggest advantage of live learning classes is you get immediate feedback from your instructor. It is also easier to ask questions and you get the added benefit of having the material taught directly to you. This is especially helpful if you have a hard time processing material you read, which is the only option with a self-paced class.

The biggest downside to live online learning is scheduling issues. You must be able to set aside time to make each class. Depending on how many classes you need to take, this may end up being a large commitment.

Accelerated Pace

How long it takes to complete your high school diploma largely depends on your educational history. Some students only need to complete a few courses to get their diploma, while others must start from the beginning. Accelerated programs are available for students who are already familiar with the material and want to quickly advance through the classes to earn their degree. Accelerated programs can be completed within a few months.

Smart Horizons

Smart Horizons was one of the first private online schools. There are options available for students who want to transfer existing high school credits, as well as adults who are starting fresh. Students gain access to a number of resources upon enrollment, including their own academic coach to help them manage their lessons. In addition to educational material, the website also has career preparation options, as well as programs to help students apply for college after completing the program. There are different courses available for both live and self-paced learning, as well as accelerated options. Tuition costs $77 each month.

Excel High School

Excel is one of the top options for self-paced online schools. Excel allows you to set your own pace, going as quickly or slowly as you need. All students have access to free online tutoring, as well as other learning material. Classes are available for both English and non-native speakers. There are also class options for standard grades 9-12, as well as students who previously completed some of their courses. Classes are also divided into material for both adults and teenagers. There is even an honors and advanced placement option for students.

For teenagers taking the full-time program, tuition costs $149 a month, covering six credits per grade level. For adults, it is only $99.90 each month. The honors program for both adults and teenagers is $169 monthly.

Smart Schools

Smart Schools offer self-paced and accelerated learning for adults. The accelerated program is one of the quickest options, with each class taking less than two months to complete. The school also allows you to transfer existing high school credits to limit the number of classes you must take. Enrollment is open throughout the year and is available to all students, even if you live outside of the United States. The school provides a number of educational materials to help students with their lessons, including student help videos and guaranteed access to one-on-one tutoring at least once per week for each course. Tuition costs $99 each month, plus an initial $49 enrollment fee.