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5 Ways to Stay Accountable In Online Classes

Have you ever signed up for an online class, but never got around to doing a thing with it? You’re in the right place. We’re gonna talk about online class accountability today.

Taking an online, self-paced course is awesome because you can do it at, you know, your own pace. But let’s be honest: sometimes our pace turns out to be…never.  If you’ve ever registered for an online class and not actually taken it, then we have something in common.

Somewhere out there lives an entire village of untaken, unopened class lessons on everything from: How to Excel at Selfies When Your Arms Are Super Short to How to Make a Million in 30 Days Selling Miniature Soap Sculptures of Jon Hamm on a Motorcycle.

jon hamm

Won’t you please take your online class for this poor fella’s sake?

I don’t want you to buy a class and not take it. I want you to benefit from your soap sculpting class. I take a LOT of online classes and over the years I’ve figured out how to stay accountable, so that I actually get something out of them.

Here are a few tips:

1. Enroll with a Friend:  Ask a friend or colleague with similar interests to take the class with you. Start the course at the same time and make a schedule together, so that you’re both progressing through the lessons at about the same pace. Then hold each other accountable by planning to discuss it on a regular basis. You can do this in person over brunch or by email. Or try a quick daily check-in message (“DONE!”) with no need for a reply to one another.

Have a lot of friends? Ask a bunch of them to enroll in the class and make it a work project or a book club-like event.

Hooray for Accountability Partners (and Keith Haring)!

Hooray for AccountabilityBuddies (and Keith Haring)!

2. Go Public: We’re more likely to stick to our commitments when other people know about our goals. Tell people in your life that you’re taking the class and what you hope to achieve. Make it known.

You can also use social media to hold you accountable. Sometimes just the act of posting your goals and progress to an audience is enough to keep you plugging away. If you want to raise the stakes a little, try an online site like SticKK where you can get a community of people to hold you accountable to your commitments and cheer you on. You can even put money down on yourself – fail to reach your goal and you forfeit the money (to charity – yay!).

3. Create Content:  Bloggers, this one is for you. As a spin off to #2, if you already have an audience, think of the class you’re taking as content fodder. It can be tough to find new things to write about every week. Use the structure of the class to create new content. You can write weekly posts to correspond with each lesson and share your progress. Or your can write a wrap-up post when you finish the class to share what you’ve learned. Announce to your readers early on that you’re in class. Knowing your readers are waiting for your thoughts on the topic will help keep you in school.

4. Schedule It: Before you get started, look at your calendar and life. Is this the right time to start or should you wait a couple of months to dive in? Where can you block out time each week to do the lessons?

Plan to start the course when you feel like it’s realistic for you, but then stick to it by blocking out time in your calendar to do the work. Make a commitment to start each lesson on a specific date and mark down any live calls or webinars. Do this in advance – so your schedule reflects your commitment.


I can never get enough of these chickens. They really speak to my soul, you know? (source)

5. Set Intentions and Goals:  Be clear about why you’re taking the class. We’re all so busy and have a trillion things pulling at our attention. Reflect on why you really hit “buy now!”, so you know why you’re willing to pass up New Girl reruns to do the homework.

Here’s a question to help you figure out your intention for the class: What do you hope to be able to do differently because of this course? Try to be specific.

Once you know why you’re in class, set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based) to help you get there.

Here’s an example: I will complete the 15 lessons in the Sculpting Hunky Stars From Soap course over the next four months so that I can improve my Jon Hamm soap miniatures and start charging double for them. To do this I will spend 20-30 minutes per day, after work but before dinner, doing the practice lessons and whittling tiny abs out of Ivory bars.  

Now that’s a SMART goal.

So that’s it folks – a few ideas for how not to fall off the online-class wagon!  What about you? Do you have any tricks or tips for staying accountable and engaged in online classes? Share them in the comments so we can all benefit from your knowledge!

  1. dawnrubick #

    Thank you! This is extremely helpful and so right on the mark. 🙂

    April 27, 2014
  2. intuitivebridge #


    April 27, 2014
  3. lucysmom8 #

    Brilliant! 😃

    April 28, 2014
  4. In addition, you could do what I did and take your reactive dog to his (and your) first agility trial, do the parts of the online course you think you’ll need, and then, once you get there, discover how much you needed them (and everything else, too) when your dog becomes a terrified, quivering mess to a degree that has previously only happened on the Fourth of July.

    P.S. This story had a happy ending, partly thanks to what I’d learned so far. 🙂

    April 28, 2014
    • Yikes! That would definitely work too. Sorry to hear you guys had a stressful time, but glad to hear the class is helping you move forward together!

      April 28, 2014
      • Thank you! My dog had SUCH a tough time at first, but we got through it. I would never have gotten into agility if he wasn’t totally crazy about it, and it was wonderful that his passion for it won out over his fear in the end. He was a brave, brave dog.

        April 28, 2014

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