The Ultimate Guide to Online School – How Does Online School Work?

By: National School Choice Week Team

Last Upated: September 19, 2022

Whether due to health concerns or other reasons, many parents are looking for a learning option that isn’t in-person. If online learning or K-12 online school is your top choice for the 2022-2023 school year, this page is for you!

Online schools are different than emergency remote learning, or doing classes on Zoom, as your family may have experienced over the last several years. Many online schools have been around for more than a decade, and they have systems in place to make it easy for families to make the switch. 

Most online schools in America are public schools, which means they are tuition-free! If you’re wondering whether your state has an option allowing you to choose a full-time online school for free, keep reading.

Maybe you're thinking about switching to online schooling. How does online school work? Or, maybe you're wondering whether your state has an option allowing you to online school for free. @SchoolChoiceWk created this guide to answer those questions. Click To Tweet

You may hear a lot of terms like online school, remote learning, and homeschooling thrown around interchangeably right now, but they’re actually quite different school choices! Read our explainer on the differences.

Why do families choose free online schooling? Internet access has transformed our shopping and social life, and it is transforming schooling as well. Importantly, online learning programs offer students the ability to work from home (or anywhere with internet). That flexibility makes for a good fit for many families.   

As Chris McBride, superintendent at an online school in Nevada, describes, “There are many reasons students may need flexible schedules, from medical issues to competitive athletes to performance artists. Some families enroll at our school because they are escaping some of the bullying and other cultural/climate issues that are present in brick and mortar schools. Other families enroll because they view it as an excellent alternative to home schooling.”

 

 

 

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How to Switch to Online School

Are Online Schools Free to Attend?

While there are some private online schools that charge tuition, the majority of online schools are public schools and 100% tuition-free. Some of these free online schools are public charter schools, while some are public district schools. In many cases, online schools even provide loaner computers and internet reimbursements to students.

In the U.S., approximately 375,000 K-12 students attended a free, statewide online school full-time in 2019-2020, a number that jumped to 656,000 for the 2020-2021 school year. While the numbers for 2022 aren’t in yet, there are certainly many families choosing tuition-free online learning.

How Does Online School Work?

Online school students work from home and follow a set curriculum, submitting assignments through an online portal. Moreover, students receive feedback and grades from accredited teachers who may communicate through email, web conference, or phone calls. 

While parents aren’t asked to be teachers, online school programs usually ask parents to be involved in their child’s education. Parents act as learning coaches, helping their student stay on track.

You just are so much more in tune with what they’re doing. That’s such a benefit that you wouldn’t have when sending your kid through another schooling option. – Tara Boedigheimer, online school parent

Two of the biggest K-12 online school programs in the U.S. are Connections Academy and Stride K12. Connections Academy supported schools are tuition-free online public schools that are currently available in nearly 30 states. They are operated by Pearson Online & Blended Learning K-12. Similarly, Stride K12 offers tuition-free public schools in many states, as well as fee-based independent courses and career classes.  

While some virtual schools are fully online, others are “blended schools.” So, what are blended schools? Blended schools are online schools that offer on-site locations that students attend from time to time. GOAL Academy in Colorado, for instance, has “drop-in centers” where students can receive tutoring, participate in activities, or simply spend time with peers.

Besides blended learning, more and more variations of online schooling are developing  – in some states, students can even create a “playlist” of classes between their neighborhood school and an online school. This is why some online leaders say the real power of online learning is personalization. Curriculum can be differentiated to meet student needs, and students can pace coursework and test out of material they have mastered.

adult-points-to-computer-screen

Making the Switch

If you’re just getting started, here are steps you can take to switch to a free online school:

1. Review state guidelines: First, find your state in our list below to review your state’s guidelines for online schools. Did you know that 35 states offer full-time public online schools for free? In other states, private online programs are available at a cost.

2. Connect: Second, reach out to the online school that interests you and get more details. Some may allow enrollment at any time, while others may have deadlines. 

Online public schools must accept all students, regardless of their academic performance or needs. Moreover, students are not required to take special entrance tests for enrollment in online public schools. However, some states place caps on attendance or funding, so make sure there is availability at the school you choose.

When you reach out to the online school, you can also ask about the school’s expectations and what resources you’ll need at home. For instance, you can ask: Will the school provide a computer for my student? Does my child need a web camera? What’s a typical day like? How much parental supervision is required? 

3. Officially withdraw (if applicable): In some cases, if you’re currently enrolled in a public or private school, you’ll need to send a withdrawal letter to your school district if you’re switching to a full-time online school that isn’t district-run. It’s a good idea to keep a copy of the letter, in case any questions arise. Also, you may want use this opportunity to request your child’s transcripts from the school.

Of course, your state’s guidelines come first. Please note that in some states, like Missouri, West Virginia, and Rhode Island, students only have access to free online schools through their resident district. In these cases, since the district is responsible for paying for access, families should remain enrolled in the district as they switch to online school.

4. Enroll and get started: Now, enroll in your online school of choice. Partner with your child to decide what your new learning routine will look like. For example, what time will your student start school in the morning? How often will exercise and outside activities be worked into the week? Does the online school have an in-person component you’ll be using, or no?

ipad showing student with yellow scarf

Expect a learning curve

If online school is something you and your student decide to try, even just temporarily, it is important to realize that there’ll be a learning curve. Don’t let that get you down!

“You just have to be open minded,” said Bryan Klochack, principal of an online school in Michigan. “We often refer to it as drinking out of a fire hydrant at the start because it is so different.”

While online school is not for every student and every family, it can make a world of a difference for some. As Klochack said, “Having that option for families to put their kids where they’re going to find great success: That’s what we’re all about.”

How to Find Out Your State’s Laws

What options do you have for online learning? Check out your state’s parent guide or scroll below to learn whether your state offers online school for free.

In 36 states, online public schools have been established by state authorities, by school districts, or charter schools, meaning students can attend these schools full-time, tuition-free for all grades K-12. In Vermont and D.C., free, full-time online public school is available for grades K-8. In addition, at least 35 states offer part-time online public schooling through course access, which allows students to use online coursework to supplement their education with specific classes. In many states, this is accessible, and sometimes even free, for private school or homeschooled students.

While not every state offers online school for free, paid online school programs are available in all 50 states. For instance, paid options such as Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (which is free to New Hampshire residents), The Keystone School, and Laurel Springs School are available to families in any state. You can learn more about public online schools and resources at the National Coalition for Public School Options and the Digital Learning Collaborative

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY DC

Free, full-time online school is available statewide for all grades
Free, full-time online school is not available statewide, but localized or paid options may be available
Free, full-time online school is available for grades K-8

Source: Digital Learning Collaborative, 2022; Independent research by NSCW 

Alabama:

Alabama offers several free, full-time online learning options for students. Statewide options include Alabama Connections Academy, Alabama Destinations Career Academy, and Alabama Virtual AcademyGenesis Innovative School is based out of the Conecuh County system but is available to students statewide. Similarly, Athens Renaissance School is a district-run option that offers a fully virtual program for students statewide, as well as a blended program for students in-district. Jefferson County Virtual Academy of Learning is also available to students statewide, but in-district students can participate in extracurriculars at their zoned school.  Alabama families willing to travel to Elmore County a few days a year for state testing can also consider The Edge Virtual School.

Depending on where you live, additional district-run options may be available to you. For example, Mobile CountyBaldwin CountyFlorence City,and Blount County have online offerings.

For free part-time classes, ACCESS Alabama functions as the state’s virtual school and is designed for high school students to take courses that may not be available (or easy to schedule) at their schools. Public school students in grades 9-12 can take classes for free; nonpublic school students can take courses for a fee.

As a graduation requirement, all Alabama students are required to take at least one online or technology-enhanced course.

To read more about online learning in Alabama, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Alaska:

In Alaska, middle- and high-school students in certain districts can enroll in online courses through the Alaska Digital Academy for a fee. Alaska doesn’t offer any statewide online schools or multi-district online schools, but families can consider national online learning programs, like Virtual Learning Academy Charter SchoolThe Keystone School, and Laurel Springs School, for a fee. 

On the district level, the ASD Virtual Program offers a free, fully online home learning program that Anchorage families can choose through their neighborhood or choice school. The virtual learning program is staffed by Anchorage School District teachers and allows families to maintain a connection to their local school. The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District also offer online options, and you can always ask your district about whether an online program is available to you.

In 2022, the Alaska legislature approved a new virtual education consortium. Once established, this will provide a library of virtual classes available to Alaska students. Additionally, Alaska has many correspondence school offerings, some of which are free, that families can choose from. 

To read more about online learning in Alaska, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Arizona:

Arizona students can choose from many free, full-time online charter schools, including the state’s single largest online program, Primavera Online School.  Other options include Arizona Virtual Academy Arizona Connections AcademyAstravo Online AcademySequoia Choice Arizona Distance Learning, and ASU Prep Digital. Starting in 2022-2023, high schoolers can also consider Khan World School, a creative partnership between ASU Prep Digital and Khan Academy. Students in high school can also consider Insight Academy of Arizona or Hope High School Online, both of which specialize in helping struggling students succeed. Students in grades K-8 can also consider Leman Virtual Academy or Great Hearts Online, both of which have classical learning focuses.

In order for funding to transfer to one of these schools, families switching to an online school may need to initiate withdrawal from their previous school. You can learn more about the online school community in your state at AZ Parents for Education.

Besides online charter schools, there are more than 100 districts in Arizona currently offering part-time or full-time online learning! These include the Mesa Distance Learning ProgramChandler Online AcademyScottsdale Online LearningDeer Valley’s Aspire Online Academy, and Paradise Valley Online. The State Board of Education makes a complete list of district online programs and the grades they serve available to families. 

To read more about online learning in Arizona, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Arkansas:

Arkansas offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, like Arkansas Connections Academy and Arkansas Virtual Academy.  These are multi-district, fully online options. More options are on the way: Two additional statewide virtual charter schools have been approved to open.

For part-time classes, Virtual Arkansas offers online options for any Arkansas student, though online classes for students in grades K-6 are limited. Students enrolled in a public school can take all or some of their Virtual Arkansas classes online. While Virtual Arkansas’ website lists fees for courses, the local school district pays those, not students and their families.

There are also some district online school options; for example, Bentonville Schools, Siloam Springs Virtual Academy, and the Van Buren School District offer full-time virtual learning. Hybrid learning options include the Springdale School District’s Virtual Innovation Academy and LISA Academy Arkansas Hybrid School.

To read more about online learning in Arkansas, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

California:

California doesn’t have an official state virtual school, but there are several free, full-time online learning options for students. In California, a fully online school is only allowed to serve students in contiguous counties, not students statewide. Because of this, some education management organizations operate multiple online schools to be able to serve students from across the state. Two of the biggest of these online school “networks” are California Connections Academy and California Virtual Academies

California has more than 30 online charter schools, giving every California student a fully online option. California Pacific Charter Schools is a free online choice for students in more than a dozen California counties. Meanwhile, Method Online School serves southern California students, and Compass Charter Schools serves Los Angeles, Yolo, San Diego, and surrounding areas.

K-12 students in Ventura, San Bernardino, Kern, and Orange counties can also consider IQ Academy-Los Angeles. While much of the learning is facilitated by technology, this learning program offers in-person field trips and meet-ups as well. Students in grades 9-12 needing additional academic support to overcome obstacles may wish to consider Insight Schools of California

Additionally, some districts have created their own online schools, like Davis School for Independent Study and Vista Virtual Academy. Students in the district or who have received an interdistrict transfer can apply. Los Angeles Unified School District’s Virtual Academy served nearly 18,000 students during the 2021-2022 school year. In response to the appetite for online options, the district created six new theme-based online schools for the 2022-2023 school year. Each online program has a unique focus, such as computer science or leadership and public service.

When considering your options, you may also want to keep in mind that the University of California’s Scout Program allows highschoolers to take part-time online courses and earn credit for a fee. To read more about online learning in California, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile and California Parents for Public Virtual Education.

 

Colorado:

Colorado offers several free, full-time online learning options for students statewide. Some of these online schools, like Colorado Virtual Academy and Astravo Online Academy, are public charter schools. Other online options are managed by traditional districts. District-run online options that serve all grades K-12 and allow enrollment across districts include Colorado Connections Academy, Colorado Preparatory Academy, Aspire Online Academy, Boulder Universal, Branson School Online, District 6 Online Academy, Peyton Online Academy, and PSD Global Academy.

There are also many online schools serving specific grades. For example, students statewide in grades 6-12 who are interested in career technical education may wish to check out Destinations Career Academy of Colorado, which specializes in real-world training for specific careers. Students in grades 9-12 who need extra academic and social support to excel may want to consider Pikes Peak Online School.

You can dive into a full list of online options at the Colorado Department of Education. Note that some of the online options listed are available only to local students.

In addition, Colorado Digital Learning Solutions is the official state virtual school and offers part-time courses for middle-school and high-school students. While Colorado Digital Learning Solutions charges fees, students attending Colorado traditional public schools and public charter schools may have their fees subsidized. Another part-time option for some Colorado students is My Tech High, which partners with Colorado Early Colleges, the Vilas School District, and Kiowa County School District RE-2 to offer online learning opportunities for students ages 5-18.

We recently interviewed a Colorado online school, GOAL Academy. This online school has drop-in centers where students can work and frequent school field trips, offering families a unique blend of virtual and in-person education. To learn more about the online school community in your state, check out the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families and the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Connecticut:

While most states have free online school programs, Connecticut only has paid options available at present, such as George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy. While the schools are available to families in Connecticut for a fee, they are not specific to the state. 

Many Connecticut districts do offer online options for credit recovery.

To read more about online learning in Connecticut, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Delaware:

Most states have free online school programs. Delaware does not have an official state online school, but the Christina School District in New Castle County offers a fully virtual academy. Families outside of the district may be able to use open enrollment to attend the school.

Additionally, some Delaware districts offer part-time online courses, and some high schools allow students to participate in the University of Delaware’s Online High School’s dual enrollment courses.

Paid options are also available, such as George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy. These private online schools are available to families in Delaware for a fee, but they are not specific to the state. 

To read more about online learning in Delaware, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Florida:

In Florida, districts are required to offer students at least one virtual option. Florida has the largest state virtual school in the nation. Any Florida student can take courses through Florida Virtual School, full time or part time, free of charge. 

Additionally, other free online learning options are available to all Florida students. Some of these are technically online charter schools, such as Florida Connections AcademyCoastal Connections Academy, and Florida Cyber Charter Academy. Others are statewide but managed by traditional districts, such as the Digital Academy of Florida. Keep in mind that there are currently enrollment caps for district-run virtual schools in Florida, so you may want to apply early.

There are also many district-run hybrid and part-time learning opportunities. Many districts arrange a franchise with Florida Virtual School to offer at least some online courses for students, sometimes for free and sometimes for a small fee. You can find a complete list of approved online program and course providers at the Florida Department of Education.

To read more about online learning in Florida, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Georgia:

Georgia’s free, full-time online learning options for students statewide include Georgia Connections Academy and Georgia Cyber Academy, both of which serve all grades K-12. Students in grades 6-8 can also consider the newly-opened Destinations Career Academy of Georgia for the 2022-2023 school year.

Georgia Virtual School is the state’s official virtual school and provides online courses at the high school level, plus a credit recovery program and some middle school courses. Public school students can enroll full-time or part-time at no cost. Some state funds are available to cover tuition for private and homeschool students on a first-come, first-served basis. Due to COVID-19, the state allotted $1.2 million in funding to hire new teachers at Georgia Virtual School and provide increased course access for grades 6-12. The state also allotted $3 million in funding to increase wifi availability in high-need neighborhoods, and $1 million to acquire personal internet hotspots for students.

Some districts in Georgia have developed their own online schools, and in some cases out-of-district families may be able to transfer into one of these schools. For example, Gwinnett Online CampusCobb Virtual AcademyRockdale Virtual Campus, DeKalb County’s FLEX Academy, and Fulton Virtual serve students within their districts. Forsyth Virtual Academy is a district-run online option open to students within and outside of Forsyth County.  

To read more about online learning in Georgia, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile. You can also learn more at Georgia Families for Public Virtual Education.

 

Hawaii:

High school and middle school students enrolled in any traditional public or charter school can take up to two online courses for free through the Hawaii Virtual Learning Network – Hawaii Online Courses (formerly known as the Hawaii E-School).

During the pandemic, some districts developed online learning plans, and some of these may still be available for the 2022-2023 school year. You can find a complete list of these options at the Hawaii State Department of Education.

Additionally, parents who would like to enroll their student in an online school full-time can hire a private provider. Paid options such as George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy are available in any state, including Hawaii.

Finally, there are blended learning options for Hawaii families statewide. These include Hawaii Technology Academy, which is Hawaii’s largest statewide public charter school, and Myron B. Thompson Academy, an accelerated curriculum charter school and extension of Hawaii’s Virtual Learning Network that operates through campuses on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Hawaii-Kona, and Hawaii-Hilo. 

To read more about online learning in Hawaii, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Idaho:

Idaho offers several full-time, free online learning options for students statewide in grades K-12, like Inspire Connections Academy, Idaho Virtual Academy, and the college-prep-focused Gem Prep Online. Students in grades 6-12 can also consider Idaho Connects Online School, while students in grades 8-12 can consider iSucceed Virtual School or Idaho Home Learning Academy. Students in grades 9-12 can consider Idaho Technical Career Academy, a full-time online school focused on career readiness. Meanwhile, Kootenai Bridge Academy is an alternative online option for students ages 16-21 seeking to finish high school.

For part-time options, Idaho students may enroll in online classes through the state virtual school, Idaho Digital Learning Alliance. Idaho Digital Learning Alliance is available to students in any type of educational setting, public or private. But, parents should check with their local public school or district for details, as fees may apply.

Additionally, more than 10 Idaho school districts have established online school programs. For example, students in the Boise School District, or students with an approved open enrollment status from another district, can choose the Boise Online School.

To read more about online learning in Idaho, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Illinois: 

Illinois students in grades 5-12 may be able to take supplemental online courses through their local school in partnership with the Illinois State Board of Education. Some schools and districts may pay course fees on behalf of their students. (Note that previously, online course enrollments took place through the Illinois Virtual School, but that program closed as of June 2022.)

Additionally, some individual Illinois schools, such as Naperville Community Unit School District 203 and Cambridge Lakes Charter School, are developing their own online or hybrid classes for area students. So, you can always ask your district if you have any choices like these.

Paid full-time online options, like George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy, are available to Illinois students, but they are not specific to the state. 

To read more about online learning in Illinois, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Indiana:

Free, full-time online learning options for Indiana students include Indiana Connections AcademyIndiana Digital Learning School, Indiana Gateway Digital AcademyPhalen Virtual Leadership Academy and Achieve Virtual, the only public virtual statewide K-12 school operated by a local Indiana school district. Students in grades 7-12 can also consider Hoosier College and Career Academy (formerly Insight School of Indiana), while students in grades 9-12 can consider Indiana Connections Career Academy.

Families who qualify for the state’s voucher program may be able to apply those vouchers to two newly-accredited private virtual schoolsGEO Focus Academy and Faith Prep.

A local, fee-based option Indiana students can choose is IU High School, a fully accredited online private high school run by Indiana University. Students at IU High School can take courses to supplement their educational experiences in brick and mortar institutions, or students may pursue a high school diploma online full-time. IU High school was founded in 1925, so it’s been allowing students to attain a high school diploma at a distance for nearly a century! 

Finally, some schools will cover costs for students to take part-time high school courses through Indiana Online. Many families choose to use Indiana Online for summer school courses.

To read more about online learning in Indiana, including hybrid schools and single-district online offerings, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Iowa:

Iowa offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, such as Iowa Connections Academy and Iowa Virtual Academy. In order for funding to follow a child to online school, families need to fill out the Iowa Open Enrollment Application with their assigned district for approval; this could potentially be denied if completed after the open enrollment period closes in the spring.

In addition to these statewide options, several districts currently offer online programs serving all grades K-12. You can find a full list of online school options  at the Iowa Department of Education.

High school students across the state also use online courses for credit recovery through Kirkwood Community College. Enrollment must take place through your local school. 

To read more about online learning in Iowa, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Kansas:

If you’re considering online learning in Kansas, you’re in good company. More than 14,000 Kansas students used a part-time or full-time online option in 2021. Kansas offers many free, full-time online learning options for students across districts. These include Andover eAcademyManhattan Virtual AcademyHaven Virtual AcademyUSD 309 Central State AcademyE-School Virtual Charter AcademyMaize Virtual Preparatory SchoolKansas Connections Academy, the Lawrence Virtual School (the largest online school in the state), and Kansas Online Learning Program

There are many other options, some of which serve specific grades or regions. For example, for students in grades 7-12, an online option is the Insight School of Kansas, which specializes in helping students overcome obstacles to academic success. The Kansas State Department of Education keeps a comprehensive directory of virtual school programs, which includes many single-district online schools too. You can search the list for programs near you or programs that allow out-of-district student transfers.

To read more about online learning in Kansas, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

                                                      

Kentucky:

While many states have free, full-time virtual schools available statewide, Kentucky does not yet have such an option. However, part-time or full-time courses may be available at a cost via Barren Academy of Virtual and Expanded Learning (BAVEL), The Corbin School of Innovation, or Jefferson County Public Schools eSchool. In some cases, schools may cover costs for a student’s online courses. More information on these paid options is available on the Kentucky Department of Education website

There are also some district online learning programs, such as Hardin County Schools Online Academy.

Plus, there are private, full-time online schools that are available for a fee in all 50 states, such as George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

To read more about online learning in Kentucky, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Louisiana:

Louisiana students in grades K-12 can attend Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy, or University View Academy, both online charter schools, full-time. In 2021, these schools enrolled more than 5,000 students! For part-time options, online providers participate in the state’s Supplemental Course Academy program, which offers free classes to students attending underperforming public schools, public schools that do not offer a certain course, or private schools on opportunity scholarships. Students who do not qualify for free classes can take these courses for a fee. 

If a student would like to switch to an online charter school, their parent or legal guardian must notify the currently enrolled school in order to withdraw and identify the online school they are transferring into.

There are also district-run online or hybrid schools available to some families, including St. Mary Parish’s Virtual Learning ProgramSt. James Parish’s Virtual AcademySt. Martin Parish’s Virtual Learning Program, the East Baton Rouge Parish’s Virtual LearningSt. Tammany Parish’s Virtual Academy, and Virtual Academy of Lafourche.

To read more about online learning in Louisiana, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Maine:

Maine students can attend free, full-time online school programs through one of two online public charter schools: Maine Connections Academy or Maine Virtual Academy. Both schools have enrollment caps.

Additionally, Portland Public Schools has a Virtual Scholar program offering online and blended options. 

For highschoolers, there are a few more online options. The University of Maine at Fort Kent offers Rural U, a free, part-time early college program open to high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors, including homeschool students. The University also runs a program allowing public school students statewide to take online Advanced Placement classes for free. Finally, Maine students in grades 11-12 can take early college courses for free through University of Maine’s Academ-e.

To read more about online learning in Maine, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Maryland:

Unfortunately, Maryland does not currently have its own free, full-time online learning program available to students statewide. But, there are paid, full-time online school options available to families in all 50 states, Maryland included. Some of these paid providers are George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

A local online option Maryland families can choose for a fee is Bryn Mawr Online, an AIMS-accredited, NCAA-approved, and AP-authorized online school for girls. The school is an outgrowth of Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, which is ranked as the number one college prep school in Maryland. For 2022-2023, Bryn Mawr Online is enrolling 9th and 10th grade students for an initial cohort.

Also worth mentioning is that students in select Maryland districts, like Baltimore City Public Schools and Montgomery County Public Schools, can access district-run online learning for free. In addition, the Eastern Shore of Maryland Blended Virtual Program offers a blended learning program to public school students in grades 6-12 in certain Maryland districts. These include: Caroline County, Cecil County,  Dorchester County, Queen Anne’s County, Somerset County, Talbot County, Wicomico County and Worcester County public schools. Finally, students in some districts can take part-time courses through their school and Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunities.

To read more about online learning in Maryland, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Massachusetts:

Currently, students in Massachusetts may attend one of two free public virtual schools – TEC Connections Academy Commonwealth Virtual School or Greater Commonwealth Virtual School (formerly known as Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School) – either full-time or part-time, with an agreement from their local school district. These schools are a popular choice. During fall 2021, nearly 2,000 students were on waitlists for them! 

Private virtual schools are also available. For a fee, highschoolers can consider full-time learning with Massachusetts Mayflower Academy, a private online school opening for the 2022-2023 school year.

In addition, seven district-run online schools opened in fall 2021, and some of these have been approved to continue (and in some cases expand) for the 2022-2023 school year. You may also want to keep in mind that for the 2022-2023 school year, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is partnering with online learning non-profit VHS Learning to offer free online Advanced Placement (AP) courses to highschoolers in areas that lack access to such courses. 

To read more about online learning in Massachusetts, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Michigan:

Michigan offers many opportunities for online learning. As of fall 2021, there were at least 90 full-time online options for Michigan students, some available statewide and some district specific. Free, full-time online learning options serving students in grades K-12 statewide include: Michigan Connections Academy, Highpoint Virtual Academy of Michigan, Michigan Virtual Charter AcademyMichigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy, Uplift MichiganMichigan Cyber AcademyWest Michigan Virtual AcademyiCademy GlobalMichigan Online SchoolMy Virtual AcademyLifeTech AcademyPrepNet Virtual AcademyLighthouse Connections Academy, and Michigan International Prep School. Students in grades 9-12 who would like extra academic support or credit recovery courses may be interested in considering Insight School of Michigan. And students in grades 6-12 can also consider Great Lakes Learning AcademyWAY MichiganMichigan Online School, or West Michigan Virtual Academy.

About half of Michigan’s school districts participate in GenNET Online Learning, which offers online courses schools may use to meet their students’ needs. Many districts also have their own online schools for resident students. There are also regional offerings, like Success Virtual Learning Centers of Michigan, which blends online learning with in-person support at learning centers throughout the state.

Giving families still more options, Michigan Virtual is the state’s official virtual school and offers part-time online classes for middle-school and high-school students; in some cases, fees may apply. You can search statewide courses through the organization’s online course catalog.

In Michigan, public school students in grades 6-12 who aren’t switching full-time to a cyber charter school may take up to two online courses per term. To read more about online learning in Michigan, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Minnesota:

Minnesota has more online options than most states! Any student who lives in Minnesota, even if they have permanent residency elsewhere, can attend a full-time online school free of charge. For instance, students in any grade can do this through Minnesota Connections Academy (a charter school program and the largest online public school in the state), Minnesota Virtual Academy, IQ Academy of Minnesota, Tonka OnlineEden Prairie OnlineSaint Paul Public Schools OnlineOne91 Virtual Academy5Rivers OnlineEdina Virtual Pathway, or Minnesota Public Schools Online. Some of these statewide options are charter schools, while some are district-run schools that accept out-of-district students. For a full list of statewide options serving all grades, see the Department of Education’s website.

Besides online schools serving all grades, there are additional online options for students in specific grades. For example, students in grades K-8 can choose Cologne Academy Online, a public charter school with a Core Knowledge focus. Another option is Insight School of Minnesota, which specializes in helping struggling students in grades 6-12 catch up and achieve academic success. Keep in mind that, in order for the funding to follow a student who switches to online school, the family must fill out a Statewide Enrollment Options form. 

Additionally, several Minnesota districts are now offering online schools just for local district students, like Moorhead Online Academy. Finally, free part-time online options are available for students enrolled in public schools (including charter schools), and paid part-time options are available for nonpublic school students.

To read more about online learning in Minnesota, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Mississippi:

Mississippi does not offer a free, full-time online school. However, in some cases, students may be able to enroll in part-time classes through their school district and Mississippi Online Course Approval (MOCA). For example, students can take some MOCA-approved online classes through Booneville School District Online.

Also, paid full-time online school options, such as George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy, are available to students in every state, including Mississippi. Additionally, both Mississippi State University and University of Mississippi allow highschoolers to take online courses for a fee.

To read more about online learning in Mississippi, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Missouri:

Missouri public school students have access to individual online courses or free, full-time online programs primarily through MOCAP (Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program). In order to participate, students must get enrollment approved by their resident school district. (Missouri is the only state with such a requirement for switching to online school.) Some districts only allow classes to be taken on campus, while others allow for full-time virtual learning, such as through Missouri Virtual Academy or Missouri Connections Academy.

Students must be currently enrolled in a Missouri public school to switch to online courses through MOCAP. Any non-public student in Missouri, from kindergarten through 12th grade, can take courses online through MOCAP for a fee. In some cases, such as students having certain medical conditions, the tuition can be waived.

Another virtual learning program that partners with many Missouri districts is Launch Virtual Learning. You can check Launch’s member directory to see if your child’s school partners with Launch. If so, your child may be able to enroll in Launch’s part-time or full-time online courses for free through your home district.

Unfortunately, some families applying to Missouri online schools have experienced administrative delays or been challenged by their school district. In response, a bill passed in summer 2022 seeks to streamline the application process and improve families’ access to virtual schooling. To read more about online learning in Missouri, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Montana:

While Montana does not currently have a free, full-time online learning option, Montana Digital Academy (MTDA) allows middle and high school students to take online classes on a part-time basis through their local school. More than 4,000 Montana students took at least one online course through MTDA in 2020-2021. Also, families in any state can choose from paid online learning providers for a full-time option. Paid online schools include George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

In a few areas, families can also choose a district-run online school. For example, the expanding Bozeman School District has an established online high school for district students, and recently added an online charter school for students in grades K-8. Another district option is Missoula Online Academy.

To read more about online learning in Montana, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Nebraska:

While the majority of states have free, public online programs available to families statewide, Nebraska does not currently have that option. Families can choose a paid option: University of Nebraska High School Online. Other paid options, like George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy, are available to Nebraska families but are not state-specific. Families interested in enrolling at University of Nebraska High School Online can do so at any point during the year; there is no deadline for enrollment. The school does not supply families with technology or wifi. 

Additionally, some districts are developing their own online programs for students. Lincoln Consolidated Schools students can choose the fully online LCS Virtual Academy. Omaha Public Schools offers local students Omaha Virtual School, a blended learning program that incorporates both in-person sessions and at-home online classes. 

To read more about online learning in Nebraska, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Nevada:

Nevada offers several free, full-time online learning options, some of the largest of which are Nevada Connections AcademyNevada Learning Academy, Leadership Academy of Nevada, and Nevada Virtual Academy. The Nevada Department of Education provides a complete list of distance learning options, some of which are district-specific and some of which are open to students across districts. Some of the full-time options operated by specific districts include North Star Online School in Washoe County, Pioneer Academy in Carson City, and Northeastern Nevada Virtual Academy in Elko County.

To read more about online learning in Nevada, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

New Hampshire:

New Hampshire elementary, middle, and high school students can take courses free of charge, full- or part-time, at Virtual Learning Academy Charter. If there will be a gap between attendance at a student’s previous school and their start at the virtual school, the student must file a notice of intent at their local public school. Homeschoolers can take up to six credits per year through the Virtual Learning Academy Charter.

One feature that makes the Virtual Learning Academy Charter unique is that it is mastery-based: students progress based on mastery of learning content, rather than a fixed schedule.

If you choose online schooling, keep in mind that the New Hampshire Department of Education is currently offering Yes, Every Student scholarships to help students negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this scholarship, students can receive $1000 for state-approved tutoring and special education services.

To read more about online learning in New Hampshire, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

New Jersey:

Unfortunately, New Jersey does not have a free, full-time online school option. However, New Jersey Virtual School offers full-time and credit-recovery enrollment to students in grades 6-12 for a fee. Enrollment typically begins in April and courses begin in September, but if students are interested in enrolling mid-year, they may be able to do so. Students attending New Jersey Virtual School must have access to technology and wifi; the school does not supply these for families. 

Besides New Jersey Virtual School, students can also consider other paid online school options, like George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

Another part-time course option some New Jersey families may access through their local school is VHS Learning. You can ask your school if supplementary online courses are available to you.

To read more about online learning in New Jersey, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

New Mexico:

In New Mexico there are several free, full-time online learning options for students, such as New Mexico Connections Academy, Pecos Cyber AcademyeCademy K8 and eCademy High School, and New Mexico Destinations Career Academy. In addition, the New Mexico Virtual Course Consortium offers a supplemental online course program for students across the state. The state-run program charges fees to schools who enroll students. Some local districts absorb these costs, while some pass them along to families.

There are also local district-run online and blended programs in some places, such as Rio Rancho Cyber Academy and Taos Cyber Magnet School.

To read more about online learning in New Mexico, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

New York:

While most states offer a free, statewide, full-time online learning program, New York does not currently do so. However, New York City has announced plans to launch two fully virtual schools. These schools will initially accept ninth-graders only, but gradually expand to additional grades. While New York is currently one of the most restrictive states for online schooling options, students in some districts, especially students with medical exemptions, may be able to access remote learning programs.

Keep in mind that there are some paid online school options that are available to students in New York and all 50 states. These include George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

Additionally, there are part-time learning opportunities available in many schools. For example, New York City offers a digital learning program called iLearnNYC. This allows students in participating schools to take specific online courses unavailable in their brick-and-mortar school. Additionally, the New York State Education Department lists course providers that schools statewide may collaborate with to offer online courses to students.

To read more about online learning in New York, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

North Carolina:

Free, full-time online learning options available to families statewide include North Carolina Virtual Academy and North Carolina Cyber Academy, both of which serve grades K-12.

Additionally, middle school and high school students may enroll in online courses part-time, or in some cases full-time, via North Carolina Virtual Public School. Especially in rural districts, some students use North Carolina Virtual to take classes not offered at their local school, such as an AP class, STEM class, or alternative class. Public school students interested in attending North Carolina Virtual Public School should connect with their school’s e-learning advisor, since enrollment takes place through local schools and North Carolina Virtual Public School does not grant diplomas. Students not enrolled in public schools may be required to pay tuition. 

There are also some district-run online or blended options, such as Crossroads Flex High School, Charlotte Mecklenburg Virtual Schools, and Guilford e-Learning. A new partnership between NC State University and North Carolina Virtual Public School has created the Virtual School Network to support and connect local traditional public schools offering virtual learning.

To read more about online learning in North Carolina, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

North Dakota:

While there is not currently a free full-time option for North Dakota students statewide, elementary through high school students may enroll in part-time or full-time courses through the North Dakota Center for Distance Education for a fee. Families can enroll in courses at any time throughout the year, and most courses do not have a set deadline. The Center for Distance Education offers more than 400 different courses, including Advanced Placement courses and career and technical courses. The organization  does not supply free technology and wifi to families, so students must have access to these at home.

Besides the North Dakota Center for Distance Education, students can also consider other paid online school options, like George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

Additionally, some North Dakota districts offer blended or online programs, such as Mandan Virtual Academy. In some cases, out-of-district students can transfer in through an agreement with the student’s home district.

To read more about online learning in North Dakota, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Ohio:

Ohio families can choose from several free, full-time online schools, or “e-schools” as they are commonly called in The Buckeye State. These include Ohio Virtual Academy, Buckeye Online School for SuccessAlternative Education Academy, Quaker Digital Academy,  Greater Ohio Virtual SchoolGreat River Connections Academy, and Ohio Connections AcademyTRECA Digital Academy is another option for students in grades 7-12, and students aged 16-21 needing extra academic and emotional support to finish high school may be interested in Ohio Digital Learning School. 

You can find a complete list of Ohio’s e-schools at the Ohio Department of Education. These schools do have enrollment caps, which are adjusted annually. You can learn more about the Ohio online learning community at the Ohio e-School Families and Friends Coalition.

Finally, there are also district-run blended or completely online options, including the Cincinnati Digital Academy and Middletown City Schools Virtual. Students in elementary through high school grades across more than 50 school districts in northwest Ohio may enroll full-time or part-time in courses through Northwest Ohio Virtual Academy at no cost, but they must register through their district. Plus, any student in Ohio can be enrolled in the Virtual Learning Academy or Blue Sky Virtual Academy with their district’s permission. Each district determines availability, acceptance, and logistics for their students’ courses. Reach out to your district to learn what options are open to you!

In Ohio, districts that operate an online learning school must provide all online students a computer and access to the internet at no cost. To read more about online learning in Ohio, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Oklahoma:

Oklahoma currently offers six fully online public charter schools for students: Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy, Oklahoma Connections AcademyEpic Charter SchoolInsight School of Oklahoma (grades 6-12), E-School Virtual Charter Academy and Oklahoma Information and Technology School (grades 6-7). These schools are authorized by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and served nearly 40,000 students in 2020-2021. More online options may be on the way – additional online charter schools have applied to open.

Certain districts offer their own online choices for local families, such as Tulsa Virtual AcademyOklahoma City Public Schools’ Online LearningVirtual Edmond, and Moore Virtual Academy. Plus, part-time supplemental online courses may be available through your public school via the Oklahoma Supplemental Online Course Program. 

Remember, virtual school is different and it can feel like “drinking from a fire hose” at first. But, for some families, it becomes the perfect fit. Learn more about all of Oklahoma’s online options at the Oklahoma Virtual Charter School Board and the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Oregon:

Oregon has about a dozen online public charter schools serving families across districts in all grades K-12.  These include Clackamas Web AcademyMetro East Web AcademyOregon Charter AcademyOregon Family School, Sheridan AllPrep AcademySilvies River Charter SchoolTEACH-NWWillamette Connections AcademyOregon Connections AcademyOregon Virtual Academy, Frontier Charter Academy, and Baker Web Academy.  A full list, including virtual charters only serving specific grades or districts, is available at the Oregon Department of Education website.

In order for funding to follow a student to an online charter school, the student’s family may be required to submit a letter of intent, stating that they will be enrolling in a virtual school. You can learn more about the online school community at the Oregon Virtual Public School Alliance.

Another option for some Oregon families is to attend a district-run online school. Districts such as the Beaverton School District, the Hillsboro School DistrictBend-La-Pine Schools, the Eugene School DistrictSalem-Keizer Public Schools, and Portland Public Schools have developed their own online programs.  

For part-time courses, students can ask their district if they can enroll in courses through Oregon Virtual Education, a statewide network that supports online learning and offers a catalog of approved courses.

To read more about online learning in Oregon, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Pennsylvania:

If you choose online learning in Pennsylvania, you’re in good company. More than 60,000 Pennsylvania students attended a cyber charter school in 2020-2021.

Pennsylvania offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, such as PA Virtual Charter SchoolReach Cyber Charter SchoolAgora Cyber Charter SchoolCommonwealth Charter Academy,, PA Leadership Charter SchoolPA Cyber Charter SchoolCentral PA Digital Learning FoundationPA Distance Learning Charter School, and Insight PA Cyber Charter SchoolEsperanza Cyber Charter School and ASPIRA Bilingual Cyber Charter School also serve grades K-12 statewide; these two schools offer special programming for bilingual students.

Students in grades 7-12 can also consider 21st Century Cyber Charter School or Achievement House Cyber Charter School, and students in grades 9-12 have another option in SusQ Cyber Charter School. Finally, students between the ages of 17 and 20 who are seeking to finish their high school diploma can choose Passport Academy Charter School. You can find contact information for these cyber charter options at the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

After a student has been accepted into a cyber charter school, his or her family must complete withdrawal paperwork as their assigned school to ensure that there are no gaps in enrollment and that funding follows the child.

In Pennsylvania, most statewide online school options are charter schools. But, there are also some districts that have developed online options recently, like the School District of Philadelphia’s Virtual AcademyPittsburgh Public Schools’ Online AcademyAllentown School District’s Virtual Campus, and Reading Virtual Academy. Contact your district to learn about any online options they may offer.

To read more about online learning in Pennsylvania, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Rhode Island:

Since fall 2021, Rhode Island Connections Academy has offered a free, full-time online learning option for Rhode Island students. Participating students remain enrolled in their school district and must have the approval of their superintendent.

There are also paid, full-time online learning options available to students in all 50 states, Rhode Island included. These paid options include George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

Plus, most Rhode Island students can enroll in part-time online courses through their local school district. You can contact your local public school to ask whether there are free or paid online options available to you. The Rhode Island Department of Education’s All Course Network is one option for taking individual online courses.

Finally, some districts offer hybrid programs, including the Village Green Virtual Public Charter High SchoolNowell Leadership Academy, Pleasant View Elementary School, and Providence Career and Technical Academy.

To read more about online learning in Rhode Island, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

South Carolina:

South Carolina offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, like South Carolina Virtual Charter SchoolSouth Carolina Connections AcademySC Whitmore School, the South Carolina Preparatory AcademyOdyssey Online Learning, and Cyber Academy of South Carolina

In addition, public, private, and homeschooled students in grades 6-12 in South Carolina can enroll in tuition-free online classes through the state virtual school, Virtual SC. VirtualSC recommends taking a maximum of four classes at a time, and families should work with their school to arrange their schedule and sign up. Some schools partner with VirtualSC to offer a blended learning experience via Virtual Learning Labs where students take online courses in a lab setting with a course facilitator. 

Also, some South Carolina districts offer their own online programming. Examples of this include Pickens County Virtual AcademyGreenville Public Schools’ Virtual Program, and Horry County School Virtual.

To read more about online learning in South Carolina, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

South Dakota:

South Dakota families may be able to take free, online learning courses through their local school district if it participates in an online learning community.

The South Dakota Virtual School, in conjunction with the state Department of Education, offers a list of approved providers for online courses. Students coordinate with and register through their local district to take these online classes. Whether the student’s district will absorb the cost of the classes or will require the student to pay a fee varies by district. Some districts allow students to take online classes full-time, some allow students to take online classes part-time, and some do not allow for online learning. Students taking online courses remain enrolled in their home district and follow their district’s policies. Typically, registration is only open at certain times of the year and families must supply their own computer and internet access. 

Besides the South Dakota Virtual School offerings, a few districts offer their own online options, like Rapid City Area Schools’ online learning program.

Finally, keep in mind that there are paid, full-time online school options that are available to students in all 50 states, South Dakota included. Some of these are George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy.

To read more about online learning in South Dakota, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Tennessee:

Virtual schools in Tennessee are overseen by school districts. While some virtual schools may be open only to in-district students, others (like Tennessee Virtual Academy and Tennessee Connections Academy) serve students statewide. 

As of 2022, Tennessee has more than 50 virtual schools! Schools that are approved to serve all grades K-12 statewide include Bradley County Virtual School (currently serving grades 3-12), Greene Online Academy of Learning (currently serving grades 6-12), Tennessee Online Public SchoolHawkins County Virtual AcademyPioneer Virtual Academy, and Roane County Virtual Academy.

You can find a complete list of TN’s virtual schools, both those that enroll statewide and those designed for local students, on the Tennessee Department of Education. More than 10,000 students in Tennessee used a fully online schooling option in 2020-2021.

Some superintendents say that, while their district always planned to expand to offer an online education option, the COVID-19 pandemic sped up the process. To read more about online learning in Tennessee, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Texas:

Texas offers several free, full-time online learning options for students, including tuition-free online schooling through the Texas Virtual School Network’s Online Schools. For the 2022-2023 school year, full-time online schools to choose from in the Texas Virtual School Network include: iUniversity Prep, Texas Virtual Academy at Hallsville, Texas Connections Academy at Houston, Texas Online Preparatory School, eSchool Prep, and iSchool Virtual Academy of Texas. Students can also choose part-time options through the network.

For Texas district and charter schools, state funding has historically been based on the number of students physically present in classrooms, which has made it tough for schools to fund virtual learning. Still, some school districts and charter networks have developed online schools, such as Harmony Public Schools’ new virtual offering. In 2021, Texas lawmakers passed a funding bill to help districts cover the costs of virtual learning. According to the law, district and charter schools that received a C or higher in the latest accountability ratings can receive funding for students enrolled in full-time remote learning in their boundaries. In some cases, district online options may be available to out-of-district students through open enrollment.

To read more about online learning in Texas, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Utah:

All Utah students, grades K-12, can enroll full-time or part-time in online courses through Utah Online School. All courses are tuition-free. Other free online learning options are also available, such as Utah Connections Academy and Utah Virtual Academy. Moreover, Utah’s My Tech High partners with public schools to offer a full-time, personalized, distance education program for students ages 5 to 18.

Mountain Heights Academy is another free online public option for students in grades 7-12. The school is the first secondary school in the country to create and publicly release its own curriculum as an “open educational resource” freely available for anyone’s use. 

Additionally, a number of Utah school districts have developed their own online school programs, some of which may be options even for out-of-district students

You can also check out Utah’s Statewide Online Education Program, which allows 7th-12th grade students regularly enrolled in public, private, or homeschool to enroll in up to six online course credits per academic year. The program gathers approved online courses to make it easy for families to access courses not available at their regular school. 

More than 23,000 students enrolled in fully online schools in Utah for fall of 2021. Parents, educators, and community members can find education-related data about all public schools, including online public schools, at Utah State Board of Education’s Data Gateway. To read more about online learning in Utah, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Vermont:

While Vermont does not yet offer a statewide, free, full-time online learning option, some students may be able to take part-time or full-time courses through the Vermont Virtual Learning Cooperative. For the 2022-2023 school year, K-8 students enrolled in a public school can access full-time online learning through the cooperative for free. In other cases, a variety of factors determine whether the school or parent will pay tuition. For more information, contact your local public school.

There are also paid, full-time online options, such as George Washington University Online High SchoolThe Keystone School, Excel High School, and K12 Private Academy, that are available to students in any state. 

To read more about online learning in Vermont, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Virginia:

Virginia students can enroll in free, full-time online learning through Virginia Virtual Academy. Find out more about Virginia Virtual Academy in our interview with Head of School, Suzanne Sloan.

Additionally, students in middle and high school may be able to take part-time or full-time online classes through their local school in partnership with the state’s virtual school, Virtual Virginia. Tuition is usually covered by the public or private school in which the student is enrolled, or the parents if the student is homeschooled.

In some areas, districts have also developed their own online school programs. These include Prince William County Public Schools’ Virtual High SchoolFairfax County Public Schools’ Online CampusLoudon County Public Schools’ supplemental online coursesVirginia Beach City Public Schools’ Digital Campus, and York County School Division’s Virtual Academy. 

Virginia students are actually required to take at least one online course or blended learning experience to graduate. To read more about online learning in Virginia, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Washington:

Washington offers several free, full-time online learning options open to students statewide, like Washington Virtual Academies, Washington Connections Academy, and Virtual Prep Academy of Washington. Students in grades 9-12 looking for extra academic support can also consider the Insight School of Washington

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction has compiled a complete list of the more than 100 districts that offer online learning options, either full-time or part-time.  Many of these online options are multi-district, allowing students to enroll from across districts. 

In Washington, if your child’s school district doesn’t offer online learning options, you may request a “choice transfer” into another approved online school program. Getting a choice transfer release from your school district each year allows for funding to follow your student.

To learn more about online learning in Washington, you can also check out the Digital Public School Alliance – WA and the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

West Virginia:

Whether your child wants to accelerate his or her learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, you may be interested in giving virtual school a try. West Virginia public school students can access part-time or full-time online learning for free through the West Virginia Virtual School. Enrollment takes place through a student’s local school district, which may set guidelines and determine the number of courses a student can take. Non-public and homeschool students can access the virtual courses by enrolling as a part-time student in their local school. Fees apply for summer online courses, and in some other cases.

There are also two virtual charter schools open to West Virginia students statewide as of the 2022-2023 school year in West Virginia. These schools are the Virtual Preparatory Academy of West Virginia and West Virginia Virtual Academy, which has a career-technical focus.

Finally, in some cases, districts have developed their own virtual offerings, like Kanawha County Schools Virtual School and Upshur County Virtual School

To read more about online learning in West Virginia, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Wisconsin:

In Wisconsin, students can access several free, full-time online school programs. These include Wisconsin Connections Academy, Wisconsin Virtual Learning, and Wisconsin Virtual Academy. K12-Stride, the online education provider that powers Wisconsin Virtual Academy, also offers Destinations Career Academy of Wisconsin, a technical skills-based online school for students in grades 9-12. Additionally, K12-Stride offers a program for at-risk students in grades 9-12 called iForward.

You can find a complete list of virtual charter schools at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. As of 2022, there were 20 entirely virtual charter schools serving all grades K-12. Note that in order for funding to follow a student to an online charter school, their family may be required to submit an Alternative Application through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Plus, many Wisconsin districts are developing or expanding their own blended, hybrid, or fully online options for families. Some districts, including 8 of Wisconsin’s 11 largest districts, partner with the Wisconsin e-School Network to provide their students summer school or part-time or full-time online classes. Green Bay’s Online School, for example, is expanding to include 6th graders for the 2022-2023 school year.

For part-time classes, middle-school and high-school students in Wisconsin may be able to enroll through their local public or private school in the state virtual school: Wisconsin Virtual School. There may be fees attached and you should connect with your school to learn more. 

To read more about online learning in Wisconsin, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Wyoming:

Wyoming offers several free, full-time online learning options for students across districts, like Wyoming Virtual AcademyWyoming Connections Academy, Cowboy State Virtual Academy, and Tech Trep Academy. Additionally, paid part-time options are available through a variety of providers.

Additionally, several Wyoming districts have developed local online school options, some of which may be open to out-of-district students. Many of these districts operate through Virtual 307, which provides a complete list of online programming available by grade and district.

To read more about online learning in Wyoming, check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Washington, D.C.

Whether your child wants to accelerate learning or needs a quieter environment in which to focus, you may be interested in trying virtual school. Students in Washington D.C., from kindergarten through eighth grade, can enroll full-time in Friendship Online Academy, a fully online, tuition-free school. Enrollment in Friendship Public Charter School Online takes place through the My School DC Public School Lottery. The school does not offer a part-time option, but paid part-time options may be available from other providers.

Some high schools offer blended courses, but there is not currently a free public online high-school for D.C. students.

To read more about online learning in Washington D.C., check out the Digital Learning Collaborative’s state profile.

 

Shareable Facts about Online School

Online_learning-Infographic_2021
Sources: The School Choice Roadmap, by Andrew Campanella; Digital Learning Collaborative; Independent Research by NSCW

Download and share the graphic of our guide to online school.

Myths about Online School

Because online school programs aren’t as well-known as traditional school programs, there are some common misconceptions about them. For instance, here are two myths about K-12 online schools, along with answers from online school experts.

 

Myth 1: Online school would make it too hard for my child to have friends.

Suzanne Sloan, head of school at Virginia Virtual Academy (VAVA) shared a perspective on this. “One of the myths of virtual learning is that students are at home learning and they don’t get a chance to socialize and they don’t get a chance to be with other people,” she said. “Our families will tell you that it is the polar opposite. Because they have the ability to be flexible with their scheduling, they actually have more opportunities to be with other students. One of the ways they do this is through service projects, which help their individual communities.” 

 

Myth 2: Online school is less academically rigorous than traditional schooling.

We talked with another online school leader who had this to share about the rigor of online learning: “Our coursework is very challenging,” says Bryan Klochack, Principal at Michigan Connections Academy. “When we provide surveys to our parents about their happiness with our curriculum and whether it’s more or less challenging than their previous experience, it’s well into the high percentage of numbers that [say] it’s more challenging.”

He continued, “One of the things that we continue to fight over the years is that when you take a course online, people think of it as a credit recovery course that is not very challenging. As a full-time virtual option, that’s not who we are. We’re not a credit recovery program. We award diplomas. We’re expected to meet the same expectations every traditional brick and mortar district has for students to earn credits and their diploma, so it is very challenging, it is rigorous.”

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Download and share the graphic of our guide to online schools.

 

online learning infographic 2022

 

 

Stories from Online School

If you’d like to hear more firsthand advice about online school, check out these interviews and stories from our archives:

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Why one family tried online school and hasn't stopped yet

VAVA Students at the Capitol 2015

At this online school, each student designs a volunteer project

GOAL Academy-students-hold-school-choice-week-signs

At this blended model school, students get prom AND online classes

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Here's what you should consider before switching to online school

 


The information in this guide to online school is designed to help families who are considering online schooling in their decision-making process. Our mission is to provide families with the information they need about all the school options available – traditional public, public charter, public magnet, private, online, and at home – so they can choose the right fit for their child. Read more guides about choosing other types of schools.

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