Distance Learning

118-Year-Old Distance Ed School Goes Online

After a 118-year history of delivering traditional paper-based correspondence courses for students working toward their high school diplomas, the American School has moved recently into providing similar online alternatives.

It started in late March by introducing a new set of its traditional paper-based courses in which the exams can be taken online. The American School now has more than 50 paper-based courses with the online exam option.

American School President Gary R. Masterton said this hybrid approach to learning is comforting to students because "they know their exams have been received and can expect quicker turnaround time than if they submit their exams in the mail."

Then, early in April, the American School introduced an online general high school program, for students who want to earn a high school diploma and enroll in a two-year college, and a college preparatory program, for those who want a high school diploma and to enroll in a four-year college or professional school.

"This is a watershed moment in American School’s history," Masterton said of the online programs.

Each program requires 18 units of credit. The general high school program has 12 required courses and six electives, while the college preparatory program calls for 13 required courses and five electives — all of which are now available online.

Both programs require a mix of English, social studies, math, science and study skills courses. The college preparatory program has additional math and science requirements.

On April 16, the American School added to the list of potential online electives that moves beyond the original business, career and technical courses to now include subjects like creative writing, astronomy, literature and international business.

American School, one of the oldest nonprofit distance education institutions, offers diploma programs and individual courses for homeschooled students. A four-year, 18-unit online college preparatory program costs $3,600, or $900 a year. Individual unit courses, which typically take a full school year to complete, are $250.

Masterton said the American School would continue to offer paper-based courses for those who prefer that approach.

"We know that many students will be excited to earn their diplomas online," he said, "but, at the same time, we know that many students prefer to learn through more traditional means such as reading a book and mailing us their exams."

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.