Home Education Guidance Ultimate guide to online high schools in South Africa

Ultimate guide to online high schools in South Africa

by Staff Reporter

Ultimate guide to online high schools in South Africa

Did you know you can complete high school online in South Africa? With online learning becoming more popular due to the pandemic, an increasing number of students have chosen to enrol at online high schools.

Online high schools have been around for a few years and offer an easy and convenient way for students to achieve their National Senior Certificate (NSC). It’s safer, more affordable, and saves you time. Students can now attend online classes with experienced teachers in the comfort of their homes!

If you are thinking of enrolling your child at an online high school or if you want to talk to your parents about it, you are probably feeling a mixture of emotions. You may be feeling excited, confused or uncertain. With questions such as how does online school work? How will I communicate with the teachers? Are there opportunities to meet other students? These are great questions that we have researched for you. We have everything you need to know about online high school. Let’s take a look at some of your potential questions.

Table of Contents

What is online high school?

Glad you asked! That’s why we’ve collated this ultimate guide to online high schools in South Africa.

Students attend virtual classrooms based on the timetables provided to them. You access these classrooms by logging in to the relevant learning management system (or LMS). An LMS is a virtual platform where you can view the modules, grades, contact teachers, chat to classmates, access module materials and support services and monitor progress on lessons.

How the lessons are presented to students differs significantly from one online high school to the next. Some private online high schools offer their classes using interactive multimedia presentations. While at other online schools teachers will be present online during each lesson.

Online learning is also known as e-learning, distance learning and correspondence learning. It is an unconventional form of education that uses the internet and computers to deliver distance education. Instead of attending school in a traditional setup, students ‘attend’ virtual classrooms, or lessons, on the internet.

How do online high school classes work?

Students have a daily routine. The online classes are prepared and arranged according to a timeline. Online classes typically run on a more relaxed schedule, with students accessing class materials during different hours and from separate locations. 

Students complete homework independently but still need to meet weekly deadlines – a setup that offers flexibility for students. Some online lessons run in real-time, with students and teachers attending together from different locations. Students view live lectures online and sometimes participate in discussions through videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom or Google Meet.

Do students have to go to class?

Students will typically need to attend classes. Online high school students have a daily schedule and routine like students enrolled in a traditional high school. The online high school assigns each student a unique daily program based on the students’ classes. Teachers hold live classes, and students have a scheduled time for lunch and set breaks throughout the school day. Most teachers also plan weekly office hours to meet with students (and parents) one-on-one.

How do students interact in online high school?

There is a myth about online schooling that there is no interaction between students and teachers or between students and their classmates – this is not true. Teachers allow for frequent communication with the teacher and other students. use of webcams, the microphone and students work in groups.

Students communicate through discussion forums, social media, and – particularly for group work – video calls , phone as well as email . Online students interact with teachers similarly.

What types of assignments can be expected for online classes?

Online class assignments are similar to those you would do in traditional schools, such as research papers, supervised tests and exams. In addition to online-specific tasks, students will need to respond to questions asked by their teachers in a discussion board.

An online class may also require group projects where students communicate virtually and deliver remote presentations.

ultimate guide to online high school

How do online students write tests and exams?

A timetable is provided well in advance for online high school tests and exams. Tests are written on specific days at home under supervision, and sometimes teachers schedule additional tests as and if the need arises. For online exams, an exam timetable is sent out in good time – usually three weeks before the commencement of exams. Tests and quizzes are taken online according to your given curriculum, but most exams are written in-person at dedicated examination centres in your area.

How do you submit your assignments online?

You will complete almost all of your assignments online. Students are provided with a unique login to access daily lessons and homework. When a student logins in to their specific schools LMS they will have access to hand-in dates and where they can hand in their assignments.  Teachers maintain and update all modules on the platforms with links to classes and instructions for all students. In most cases, tests are written on specific days at home under supervision.

How is academic progress monitored?

Online high schools monitor progress through different key performance areas and criteria. Most of them monitor a student’s progress with weekly assignments. Teachers mark and provide feedback to their students on the relevant online platforms for students and parents to view.

When are academic reports issued?

All reporting takes place on the relevant platforms online. Parents and supervisors can access their student’s marks anytime during the year. However, parents will be sent a comprehensive report at the end of each cycle.

How do students get help?

Teachers guide their students through the entire educational process. Before, during, and after class teachers provide help to students one-on-one. Teachers are available through email, phone during their designated office hours during the school day. Most online high school teachers are unavailable during scheduled days off, holidays, and weekends.

Are all the study materials online?

A lot of the material will be available online, however there are some resources that will need to be purchased. Online high schools still make use of textbooks and these will usually have to be bought. 

How much time do students spend on schoolwork a day?

Students spend roughly eight to nine hours a day on school work, including time spent in class and completing homework and assignments.

This estimation will depend on how quickly, slowly or thoroughly a student works. Students will then also need extra time to study for weekly cycle tests that some online schools have.

scholar learning from laptop

How many online lessons are there a week?

The number of lessons per week depends on the subject and the school. In Grade 10-12, there are typically about five lessons per subject every week.

Are online high school term dates the same as the government terms?

Most private online high schools have four terms, and their dates are similar to the government schools. The schools aim to have similar terms but there will be some differences to the schedule.

How much does online high school cost?

Online high school fees and fee structures vary depending on the school but start from around R15,000 to R85,000 per year. School fees can be paid in full annually, paid off every term or in monthly installments.

Stationary, computers, textbooks and internet access are usually not included in the tuition fees paid to the online high schools.

What do you need for online high school?

In your earlier school years, you probably received a list of stationery to buy for the new academic year. We suggest the following online high school supply list depending on your personal needs to prepare you for the start of the year!

A reliable computer and internet access

You’ll need a reliable computer that operates reasonably quick and can handle various programs. This doesn’t mean you have to splurge on the latest and greatest model, but you should be able to work with minimum issues. Your internet should also be reasonably fast and reliable. It’s a good idea to come up with a few backup options for getting online if your primary connection is having issues. This is particularly important over the exam season. 

A 3G dongle or a data bundle on a cell phone is a good backup plan!

Scanner and Printer

A home scanner and printer are sometimes required to scan and submit assignments, tests and exams. Even though you complete most of your homework online, you may want to print items for your records or to access them offline. Printing a program for each module and keeping it within easy reach  is helpful to organise things.

A comfortable chair

Unlike in a traditional high school setting where students tend to move from one classroom to another, you may find yourself sitting in one spot for a while as you engage in online high school learning. With this in mind, you should have a comfortable chair  that can be adjusted to the right level to see your computer easily.

A separate workspace

Create a separate school area with a desk and room for your files, textbooks, and other items to help focus and get to work more quickly than working on the couch or bed.


When you’re listening to a lesson, the people around you probably won’t want to hear it, whether you’re at home or in a library. Getting a set of earphones will help ensure you don’t disturb those around you and drown out outside noise to minimise distractions.

Traditional school supplies

You will be doing most of your homework on the computer, but you’ll still want items such as pens, pencils, highlighters, files and notebook paper on hand. Depending on the classes you take, you may also need to purchase textbooks.

A calendar

Keeping track of daily assignments and ongoing deadlines throughout the term is imperative to your online learning success. An online or old-school paper calendar will help you make sure nothing slips through the cracks.

A backpack

You may think you won’t need a backpack for online school since you won’t be going from classroom to classroom. However, owning a backpack with room for a laptop, books, and other supplies will prove helpful when you head to a study session with a classmate or move to another location for a change of scenery.

learning area

What are the pros and cons of online schools?

There are both advantages and disadvantages to doing high school online. Some advantages include:

Advantages of online high school:

  • Increased flexibility

The most significant advantage to doing high school online is flexibility. You can study when you want to, how you want to, and where you want to. This does not mean that the workload is less for a student studying online, only that you have more flexibility in when, how and where you choose to study.

  • Ease of access

All you need to study high school online is a computer with internet access. All of your study materials, lessons and assignments are sent to you via email or some kind of file transfer system.

  • More affordable

Studying high school online is more affordable when you work out the total costs of transportation, uniforms, extracurricular activity items and more! 

  • Individual attention

Online schooling creates an artificial one-on-one teaching situation. Students can focus on the lesson at hand, without distractions from other students, while having access to somebody (parent or teacher) who can explain, guide and assist if anything is not grasped or clearly understood. 

Disadvantages of online high school:

  • Lack of social interaction

One of the most significant disadvantages of studying online is the lack of social interaction. 

Online high school can hamper social development if teenage students don’t interact with their peers.

  • Online learning requires self-discipline

Everyone learns in their own manner. If a student does not feel they are getting the proper guidance, they may not have enough self-discipline to fully engage in the lessons themselves. It takes high levels of self-discipline to stay motivated to do your work when you’re on your own.

  • Technical issues

Nothing disrupts an online lesson more than audio, video, or connection issues. 

  • Online learning means more screen-time

The internet is geared to distract students with social media and entertainment which are just a click away from learning material. Excessive screen-time can lead to all sorts of physical ailments like poor posture or headaches. 

Do students adjust quickly to online high school?

Yes. Generally, students adjust very quickly to online learning. However, students and parents should expect and prepare for an adjustment period. Online learning requires students to work independently and take responsibility for their education. Students familiar with working independently and taking responsibility for their learning may find the adjustment somewhat easier.

Here’s some tips to make online studying fun!

What is the difference between online high school and homeschooling?

There is one significant difference between the two. In homeschooling, the parents act as full-time instructors, while in online schooling, online teachers manage the student’s studies virtually within a professionally developed structure.

Considerations when choosing high school online

Most importantly, when choosing an online high school, make sure the online high school or online establishment is registered with the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute (SACAI). SACAI monitors education providers who adhere to the Department of Basic Education’s CAPS curriculum.

When choosing an online high school, also consider the following:

  • Teachers must be appropriately qualified in the subjects they teach. 
  • Check if the online high school offers extra assistance to students if they need it.
  • The curriculum must be applicable and comply with the appropriate standards for student learning in South Africa.
  • The modules should encourage the student’s active participation and allow interaction with the teacher and their online classmates in the course. 
  • Some online high schools allow students complete flexibility, whereas others have fixed schedules and deadlines, so always check their requirements.
  • Some high schools have virtual classes only, and some online high schools may require students to be physically present for practical schoolwork and exams.
  • Assessments should be done regularly to provide the students with feedback on their progress. 
  • The technology and platforms used to deliver the course material should be reliable, readily available, and straightforward. 
  • Online high school accreditation – any high school’s policies and programs have to meet specific minimum criteria set out by the Department of Basic Education.

Find the best online high school for you!

Selecting an online high school shouldn’t be too different from choosing a traditional high school. Take a look at some of the best online high schools in South Africa, where you can find an online high school that fits your budget and helps you make your final decision.

We have collected this year’s school calendar to plan for the 2022 school year. Lastly, If you need assistance with funding through High School, check out our funding options! 

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