Getting Into the Rhythm of an Online Course

The hard part about online learning is setting aside time to do the work, not the work itself.

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After a few hiccups, I’m getting into the swing of my online course.

Forgive me for boasting, but I think I'm getting the hang of online learning.

I turned in my first personal finance-related case study three days ago – on time! – and earned 50 points out of 50 on the assignment. The achievement came on the heels of a pretty impressive showing on my first test and decent performance on my discussion board post, if I do say so myself.

And to think, just weeks ago I was worried I'd be failing this class, monopolizing the accounting department's tutor and breaking into cold sweats when faced with problem sets.

Despite my initial fears, it seems I'm perfectly capable of getting an A on my assignments – at least when I remember to turn them in.

[Avoid these mistakes made by online students.]

Many experts say online learning is more challenging than its face-to-face counterpart. But as I settle into the rhythm of my online class, I'm learning that it's not necessarily the course work, but adapting to the different style of learning, that's an obstacle.

From a content perspective, my course hasn't been that hard. My first test was open-book and took me about 25 minutes of the allotted 60. I haven't had to plug numbers into complicated calculations; I just have to know which formula to use in a given situation.

To earn high marks on my discussion board post and case study, it seemed I only needed to know how to conduct Internet searches and write fluently, skills I use every day.

The course has been a far cry from my undergrad experience, when earning an A on an assignment often involved tracking down a sympathetic school librarian and shedding a few tears.

In my case, and I imagine in the case of many online learners, time management skills are far more difficult to master than the course content.

[Discover time management tips for online students.]

Thankfully, I have picked up a few good habits that have helped me do better as the course has gone along. It took a while, but I finally wrote down my course deadlines – a move recommended by education experts.

I also forwarded my class email to my Gmail account, so I don't have to worry about logging in every day to see messages from my professor. That's not an expert tip – that's one from me, and I am very proud of myself.

Brag as I may, I'm still about seven chapters behind in my reading and days away from taking a test I should have taken a week and a half ago. I haven't even begun to think about my own personal finance plan – the capstone project for the course – or about the second case study due around the same time as the final project.

Yesterday, I fell asleep in a conference room at work while reading.

At the rate I'm going it's going to take some serious weekend time, and perhaps a separate budget for Red Bull, to catch up with the rest of class.

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