Are there challenging online courses for advanced high school students, or are online courses mostly for remediation and filling credit gaps?

My daughter is in the 10th grade and mostly homeschooled. She's smart, but gets bored easily, so I'd like to find some really challenging courses for her. I'd prefer not to waste our time searching for courses if the only ones available are basic or for students who need extra help.


Jenny Bristol, Homeschooling Parent, Writer, and Editor

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There are definitely plenty of challenging online courses for high school students, especially advanced students. With so many MOOCs these days, high school students who like to stretch their educational legs have thousands of classes at their disposal. But there are even plenty directed specifically to high school students.

My favorite source for this is EdX. Among almost a thousand classes are dozens (currently 61) classes aimed at high school students. Some of them are AP test preparation classes, but these could easily stand in for a regular class, and plenty of the high school classes they offer are not test prep oriented. They are taught and organized by colleges such as MIT, Rice, UC Berkeley, among others.

The classes offered definitely slant toward the math/science/computer science types, but they also offer Spanish, Government, Psychology, and others.

Also check out some more college-level classes for your daughter and see what might be a good fit. EdX has plenty, and there are many other MOOCs available online.

Christine VanDonge, Senior Research Analyst

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Most online programs will not openly disclose the population they cater to (i.e. remediation, advanced classes) as they do not want to lose any potential students (after all they do get paid per student/class -- so they want as many students in as many classes as possible).

Given this lack of definition, there are specific questions to consider asking the program your are interested in.

  1. What kind of additional aid/support is offered to students? In addition to the material the student needs to cover online, is there an instructor the student can reach out to 1. seek help 2. further their understanding of the material 3. ask advanced questions/get advanced assignments.

  2. How is the material presented? Is your child expected to click through a bunch of slides or is there an engaging presentation for each lecture? When your child does have questions, how are these questions answered? Does he/she simply fire off an email that is responded to in a certain time or can your child video conference with their instructor to ask questions?

  3. Is there an opportunity to engage with other students through discussion boards or group projects? Learning how to interact with others in a respectful and kind manner as well as being able to work well in groups is an important life skill. Does the program offer your child a way to interact with other students in a variety of ways? How does the instructors facilitate these exchanges?

  4. Are there assignments due regularly to check on student progress/understanding? Sometimes in online classes students can save all their learning till right before the "big test"; however, a good program should require assignments along the way to allow students to test their understanding of material before their exam. In addition, it ensures that students don't save all their reading for right before the test. In addition, these assignments should be in a variety of different formats. For example, if exams are most multiple choice than other assignments should require a written response (in essay format) so that they can work on their writing skills.

Hope this helps in your search!

M. Erez Kats, Seattle Language Arts Teacher

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I don't know about the rest of the nation, but here in Washington, many students are already attending a whole host of college level courses which they receive both high school and college credit for as part of the "Running Start" program. And many of these courses are also available online as well. Schools like the University of Washington, Seattle University, and a whole slew of local community colleges offer these courses, and there is a pretty high population of students, mostly Juniors and Seniors that are taking part in these classes. Some of these students take 3 or 4 of these online or "Running Start" classes at the colleges, and take maybe 1 or 2 classes at the high school as well. Some don't take classes at the high school at all. Colleges offer greatly reduced rates and tuitions to these high school students and as I said earlier, they earn college credit at the same time so it really is a win-win for the students in my opinion. Especially for students like your daughter, who is already home-schoooled and therefore used to more alternative methods of schooling, theses courses might be just what she is looking for, and I would greatly recommend checking into enrolling in them at your local colleges.

Dr. Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Currently Program Director at Aviation Academy, Co-Author of Awakening Your STEM School

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It will also depend on the state in which you live in as well. For example, some of our students use something called Virtual Virginia which is a blend of regular and advanced courses.

I also found this site that may be on interest to you from College Board. Another possibility is this form Connections Academy.

While conducting your research, I'd like to ask that you make sure that these credits would be accepted towards the state or other requirements for your daughter. I'd hate for her to take a class that would count towards her diploma.

Good luck!

Dylan Ferniany, Gifted and Talented Education Program Administrator

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I have recently been tasked with implementing Virtual Learning in my school district and have been researching online high school courses for advancement. I have been looking for Advanced Placement offerings and creative and interesting enrichment electives. The following are the companies I have come across. I don't have experience with any of them but I am impressed with some of their course offerings. I do not know what the courses are like or how the content is delivered to students. I have pulled the following course lists from companies I have run across in my research to prepare for this course. I hope this is helpful!

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