How to Switch from Traditional Public School to Online School: Tips for a Successful Transition

Posted on July 16 2020

Student engaged in online school lesson with teacher.

The global COVID-19 pandemic forced students around the world to shift to online learning. However, online education has been growing steadily since the 1990s. According to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), the K-12 distance learning population is growing at a rate of 2% to 8% per year, and more than 2.5 million K-12 students in the United States currently attend some form of nontraditional school.

For students and parents who have spent most or all of their educational careers in traditional school settings, determining how to switch from traditional public school to online school can be a mystery. Programs like The American Academy’s online high school diploma program can help them make the transition by providing expert teachers who evaluate assignments and provide final grades. There are also action steps parents can take to ease the transition.

Switching from Public School to Online School

Students choose to move to online school for a number of reasons, including personal beliefs, religious beliefs and medical conditions. They may also be looking for increased family time, greater educational choices or distancing from a bad situation like bullying. Many families are also looking at online options due to COVID-19.

Studies have found no significant difference in performance between online and traditional classroom students, according to Frontiers. However, there are still major differences between online and traditional schools. The obvious difference is where classes take place, but other key differences include scheduling flexibility, social interaction and self-discipline requirements. 

Online schools allow students to work at their own pace, whereas traditional settings have set times for students to attend classes. Videoconferencing software and screen-sharing features allow teachers to provide specialized attention, which could increase the student’s potential for success. Because they set their own pace, students may perform better in online programs if they’re committed to their learning and have strong self-motivation skills. 

To switch to an online education, parents must find an accredited program and create a new schedule and learning environment for their student.

Tips for a Successful Transition

From setting up a dedicated workspace to learning how to “deschool,” these tips will explain how to switch from traditional public school to online school and will set both the student and parent up for success in an online setting.

Ensure Program Accreditation       

While looking for an online school, it’s important to look at the program’s accreditation. According to Cognia, an accrediting board, schools are accredited based on rigorous standards evaluating policies, programs, practices, and learning conditions. An accredited school must meet the needs of all their students and sustain student outcomes. Additionally, most colleges will only accept degrees from accredited high schools. To check a program’s accreditation, visit Cognia’s website. 

Approach Online School as a Deschooling Process 
Students leave traditional schooling for a number of reasons. Taking some time off between leaving the brick-and-mortar setting and beginning online school can help ease the transition. This is known as deschooling. 

During this time, new, personalized standards can be set by researching information on the transition and holding family meetings to set expectations. Students can become more engaged in household chores and activities. Online school subjects can be introduced gradually, starting with interest-led topics.

Find an Effective Online Program
Finding the right online program to facilitate a student’s educational journey can differ from student to student, depending on their needs and expectations. Online programs might offer features such as:

  • Microlearning. Some programs provide small units that use short-term strategies for skill-based education. This content is delivered in bite-sized portions that are easy for students to grasp and master.
  • Interactive lessons. Interactive lessons can include classroom discussions or live quizzes that allow teachers to assess students in real time.
  • Synchronous and asynchronous learning. Some online programs mix elements like class participation (synchronous) and self-learning (asynchronous) styles. 
  • Accessible content. Programs might offer recorded lessons for students to revisit if they don’t fully understand or were unable to attend a live lesson. 

Connect with Other Students and Families for Support       

Creating a support network will help both the student and the parent. Families with students who have successfully taken online classes can provide advice for families who are new to the experience. There are multiple organizations at both the national and state levels that help facilitate contact between families.

Create a Schedule  
Creating a personalized schedule and agenda can help students stay on track. Online schooling allows students to move at their own pace, so no two plans need to be the same. When creating a schedule, parents should keep the student’s work habits in mind. Students who work at a slower pace may need more time to complete certain tasks. Meanwhile, those who work at a faster pace can move on sooner, or they can gain a greater depth of understanding by spending more time on a subject.

Designate a Study Space   
Setting up a specific study and test-taking space can help keep students focused. This will simulate a classroom setting and remove distractions. Families may want to have multiple designated learning areas in the home. They may also want to establish places or baskets where students can set aside their school materials and leave the “classroom” when they’re finished for the day.

Enjoy the Process      

Switching from public school to online school doesn’t have to be daunting. Families can enjoy the process by creating fun projects and hands-on learning experiments. Parents can help kids learn practical skills through cooking and grocery shopping on a budget, for instance. Completing lessons outdoors can help with the student’s productivity and facilitate new projects and activities.

Finding an Online School Program 

When finding the right program for their student, it’s important for parents to find online curriculum options through accredited programs. These programs will lead students to an advanced accredited high school diploma that’s recognized by employers and colleges. 

Students should also take courses that can prepare them for college and their future careers. These range from Advanced Placement courses to life skills classes.Finding online programs that students enjoy will not only help ease the transition, but will ultimately help them succeed.

The American Academy’s Online Program 

The American Academy’s online high school diploma program offers expert teachers who will guide students through assignments by grading and providing feedback on their work. Teachers also hold regular office hours to provide additional support. This helps take the burden off of parents, who may not have time to serve as the student’s primary educator. Discover The American Academy’s program and how it can help students pursue their educational goals.

Recommended Readings

Organizational Tips for Successful Online Learning

Six Tips to Create a Productive Study Space at Homes

Time Management for Online Courses


Coalition for Responsible Home Education, Current Homeschool Law

Cognia, “Accreditation and Certification”

ezTalks, “Online Education vs. Traditional Education: Which One Is Better”  

Frontiers, “A Comparative Analysis of Student Performance in an Online vs. Face-to-Face Environmental Science Course: From 2009 to 2016” 

Home School Legal Defense Association, Homeschool Organizations

National Home Education Research Institute, Research Facts on Homeschooling  

New York Magazine, “Homeschooling Your Kids Because of the Outbreak? An Expert (My Mother) Has Some Tips” 

Newrow, “5 Tips for Designing Effective Online Courses in 2020”

NPR, “Tips for Homeschooling During Coronavirus”  

ThoughtCo, “Can I Begin Homeschooling Mid-year?”