As a growing number of homeschoolers migrate to college, and as colleges and universities branch out to provide new learning situations, your student will be presented with both traditional and online learning options. Homeschoolers have the ability to begin taking online college courses while still in high school—but should they? If you and your student have already used online learning platforms, you have a leg up. If you haven’t explored online options, now may be a good time to consider how best to use technology to enhance learning and earn college credit while still in high school.
It can be surprising to learn that online learning environments can be as varied as more common homeschool methods and environments but some typical rules apply to online learning in general. As a homeschooled student, your child may feel reluctant to jump into this venue, especially if it’s a new or different experience from anything they’ve encountered before. To help answer questions, we profiled three of our home-schooled, online students to give advice about navigating the college process as well as take an honest look at the benefits and challenges of online classes.
Cassidy Coker, a homeschooled high school student, felt ambitious enough to start earning college credit online at age 15, well before she graduated high school, even as she started a photography business. Her successes led her to feel more confident and prepared as she enrolled into an entrepreneurship program. Likewise, Hanny Gunnick, a native of the Netherlands, wanted to earn a degree from an American university and found online classes gave her the window of opportunity she needed. She began taking online courses as a homeschooler at age 16 and eventually rolled the credits she earned into a degree from an accredited university in New Jersey.
Preparing Your Child for College
Both of these students discovered online options through family and friends, and their experiences can help guide you and your student as well. As a homeschooling family, you can take the proper steps to prepare your child for college before your student actually enrolls. There are three big picture things you can do to save time and money, and act as a springboard for smoothing the college admissions process for your child when the time comes.
- Be aware of ways to earn college credit before your student graduates high school. Students can earn transferrable credit through dual enrollment programs, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses, as well as online programs. With online courses specifically, age becomes less of a factor than academic preparedness, so if your student is up to speed and exceeding expectations, it might be time to consider online college-level courses.
- Start with the end in mind. If your student chooses to use online college courses to supplement their education while still in high school, do some research before beginning. Understand how the process of transferring credit from one institution to another works and be sure that the credits they take early will transfer to the college they plan to attend after graduation. You may choose to take specific courses that you know to be prerequisites for later work in their chosen major. Obtain and use the college’s catalog, which is their contract with the student, to understand policies and procedures around transferring credit and, when in doubt, pick up the phone and ask questions at the school’s registrar.
- Consider low-risk options. If you or your student is undecided about whether online college coursework will be a good option, taking a general education course is a good place to start. By enrolling your student in a subject in which they have a good understanding already,, they can minimize the learning curve in the online environment. “Low-risk” can also be applied to the financial impact of online courses, so if it turns out your student is not yet ready or does not learn well in the environment, you have not learned an overly expensive lesson.
Tips for a Good Online Learning Experience
Jennifer Sayre, the author of an Edutopia article about building relationships in online programs, noticed the trend toward online learning among homeschoolers early on and what it takes for students to have a good experience. She says that while many school systems offer online curricula, homeschoolers are at an advantage because they receive more individualized attention, even in an online learning environment. As a result, homeschoolers can become more open and adaptable to online learning environments as a whole because of such positive early experiences.
Let’s assume you’ve decided to move ahead with online college courses for your high school student. What can you do to help alleviate stress and foster success for your online student? Consider these tips from one experienced homeschooler who used online classes to enter college as a sophomore:
- Stay organized and print to-do lists. Teachers aren’t there to remind you to get your work done online.
- Figure out how to use the online interface effectively. Take the time to navigate the system.
- If you have questions, contact the instructor (or online tutor) immediately. Clarify issues before you get a bad grade.
- Be motivated. Be organized.
If you and your student are interested in earning college credit early, StraighterLine provides a low-risk opportunity for your student to gain education and experience in a highly supportive online learning environment. Curious students can take two lessons for free to try on the online college course experience first.
We’re happy to answer questions about our platform and curriculum, or our slate of partner colleges and universities, and serve as an additional resource in your educational toolbox. To get an exclusive $50 off for homeschool students, use promo code HOMESCHOOLSL50 at checkout for your first course. We’re available to help, so visit our website or give us a call today with your questions at (844) 357-5221. We look forward to working with you!