Follow education reporter Devon Haynie as she enrolls in an online course for the first time.

Why I'm Taking an Online Course

Follow education reporter Devon Haynie as she enrolls in an online course for the first time.

Follow education reporter Devon Haynie as she enrolls in an online course for the first time.
By + More

My personal finances have more or less mirrored the national economy.

In 2007, I was at the top of the world, confident I'd land my next big gig after a fellowship in South Africa. In 2008, my hopes of landing a dream job burst like the housing bubble and I spent much of 2009, 2010 and 2011 climbing out of a self-imposed debt crisis.

I've watched my bank account slowly recover since then. But I'm hardly the Suze Orman poster child.

The young professional I'd like to be is not intimidated by taxes, or talking to a financial planner about investments, or negotiating a loan. She can read The Wall Street Journal and make intelligent comments about how changes in the markets will influence her financial future. And she has a detailed monthly budget on Microsoft Excel that she at least occasionally abides by.

[Learn whether online ed is right for you.]

In an effort to become this person – or at least a bit more like her – I've signed up for a semesterlong personal finance course at one of the top online bachelor's programs ranked by U.S. News. By the end of the course, so says my syllabus, I'll be well-informed about insurance, taxes, retirements, estate planning and investments.

I will need a calculator and "basic business math skills," which makes me uneasy. I'm the kind of liberal arts person who fulfilled her college's hard sciences requirements with classes like "psychology" and "ethics, ecology and the wilderness."

I'll have four tests, weekly readings and a final project in which I'll need to propose a detailed 10-year financial plan. I'm hoping the exercise will leave me more confident about my fiscal future – though given the turmoil facing the journalism industry, I can only be so optimistic.

I'll be taking this course for credit and earning a grade I promise to share. In this case, I'm hoping for a B-plus.

[Avoid the mistakes online students make.]

Along the way I'll also be navigating the world of online education. Though I cover it as a reporter, it's entirely new to me as a student. I'll tell you about interacting with my classmates on discussion boards and what it's like communicating with my professor through the Internet.

I'll talk frankly about the challenges of finding the right class and mastering the technology needed to log in and start learning.

And at the end of the class I'll let you know if I'll ever take an online course again.

Trying to fund your online education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for Online Education center.