Is Online School Better For Anxiety? The Benefits of Online Learning for Students with Social Anxiety

Posted on August 18 2020

High school student works on laptop.

Most students desire an educational environment tailored to their needs. Sometimes realizing that desire can pose a challenge. Students who struggle with social anxiety, for example, may find it difficult  to participate in class conversations, work in assigned group or give presentations in front of an entire class. Ultimately, their social anxiety can interfere with their ability to excel academically.

Fortunately, the option to attend an online school may help resolve these issues. By learning more about online learning programs, such as The American Academy’s individual courses, students and parents can make informed decisions about choosing the best learning environment. 

Online Learning at a Glance

Online learning gives students the chance to work with skilled, dedicated teachers without going to a physical school. Though students and teachers aren’t in the same location, students still receive instruction from teachers and have the opportunity to ask questions. They also receive explanations about materials and regularly interact with their teachers. Using online platforms and technology tools, teachers deliver lessons, assign projects and homework, and administer and grade tests. 

Because online learning doesn’t have set class times, students have flexibility regarding their study schedules. If students have jobs, family vacations or other obligations, online learning can make it easier to manage competing demands for their time. Additionally, if students can’t physically make it to a traditional school, either due to a disability or a medical or mental health concern, online learning can offer a beneficial alternative. For instance, students with social anxiety may have difficulty functioning in an in-person classroom environment, especially with the added stresses that returning to school during the COVID-19 crisis might create.

COVID-19 has led to an explosion of online learning, and as more schools and students turn to this platform, there’s also been a surge in education technology. From language apps to online learning software, students can find a host of new innovative tools at their disposal. 

The flexible nature of online learning also allows students to work at their own pace. This means that if students excel in a subject area, they can charge ahead and finish quickly. If they struggle, online learning affords them the extra time they need to master the material. In home schooling, parents determine the structure and pace of each class. But how is online school better for anxiety?

 Benefits of Online Learning for Students with Social Anxiety

There are many reasons why an online school may be better for students with anxiety. First, online schools allow students to work in familiar environments. This can help put students at ease and make it easier for them to handle difficulties or frustrations with school material. Additionally, without social stressors to worry about, students can focus all of their attention on learning.   

Social anxiety can disrupt a student’s ability to succeed academically. For students diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, the stress and fear provoked by school social situations can seriously compromise their ability to function and learn. These students may dread being called on by the teacher so much that they can’t focus on what the teacher is saying, or they may want to ask a question but their fear of speaking in front of others keeps them from getting the clarification they need.  

An online school can help students manage social anxiety symptoms and overcome the barriers that might otherwise get in the way of their academic success. 


For some students, school-induced social anxiety symptoms stem from feelings of not being competent in a specific academic subject. They may worry that other students will discover their perceived weakness, and this fear stops them from engaging. Online learning, however, provides students with the chance to work with teachers privately, allowing them to more easily ask questions and get the help they need. It can also help them build their knowledge and feelings of competence.


Another concern for students with social anxiety involves self-determination. Having limited control over one’s environment can aggravate social anxiety. Traditional school environments offer students few opportunities to choose when and with whom they’re going to complete tasks and activities. 

For example, teachers often choose work groups for students, and they usually dictate how long students have to complete an in-class assignment. This can cause a lot of stress if students have uncomfortable relationships with the people they’ve been assigned to work with, or if they feel unable to complete the work in the allotted time. Online learning can ease this stress by allowing students to make key decisions about the pace of their learning, who they work with and when they tackle assignments. 

Social Connections

Finally, online learning allows students with social anxiety to connect with others in a framework that’s comfortable to them. Instead of being forced to interact with others to complete a school task, students can determine when to connect with their peers, choosing circumstances that don’t place added stress on them as they try to learn new concepts or finish assignments. They may also have more time and energy to connect with peers outside of the school environment.

Access to Educational Tools
Many technological innovations have come along that can enhance and improve online learning environments for students with social anxiety. These tools create effective, interesting classes that can increase student involvement, address any bumps on the learning road and provide opportunities for students to delve deeper into material they find exciting.  

Today’s online learning platforms allow students to engage with a range of multimedia and visual representations that can improve their understanding of certain concepts. Students learning about astronomy can look at 3D images of Earth’s rotation, while students studying The Great Gatsby may listen to jazz music and watch video clips taken from the 1920s to help them get a better sense of the novel’s setting.    

Online learning tools can also help ensure effective communication between students and teachers. Drop-down menus organize classroom assignments and allow students to upload their work. Announcement features can help students keep up to date on teacher activities and engage in peer conversations. Chat boxes can allow students to ask questions and get prompt answers. In the wake of COVID-19, teachers and students have relied on these tools to deliver lessons, share resources and engage in dialogue with one another, as well as to grade and turn in assignments. 

Discover Online Learning Opportunities

Is online school better for anxiety? For many the answer is a resounding yes, due to the ability to control the student’s learning and social environment. The flexible structure of online school coupled with its ability to offer classes not available in many traditional school settings make it appealing to students coming from many backgrounds and circumstances. 

At The American Academy, students can sign up for individual online courses to see if online learning is for them. When signing up for individual classes, students should check with their guidance counselor to make sure the credits will transfer. For students who would like to transfer to full-time online learning, The American Academy’s High School Diploma program offers flexible options designed to suit each student’s individual needs. Learn more about The American Academy’s Online High School Programs.


Recommended Readings

Managing High School Stress: 5 Key Tips

Organizational Tips for Successful Online Learning

Six Tips to Create a Productive Study Space at Home 


4-H, “What Is 4-H?”
California Department of Education, Distance Learning ConsiderationsCoalition for Responsible Home Education, Assessment & Intervention

Niche, “Homeschooling vs. Online School: What’s the Difference?”

UNICEF, Open Digital Educational Tools for Interactive Online Teaching and Learning

Verywell Family, “Social Causes of School Anxiety” 

World Economic Forum, “The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Education Forever. This Is How”