It is not uncommon for people to take online courses for granted and end up failing them because they could not keep up with the pace or missed several assignments, quizzes and exams. I’ve repeatedly seen students fail online courses because they were out of town during the weekend an assignment was due, had to work extra hours, forgot about an exam, etc. The fact that there is no set schedule for the course can be a challenge for some students.
Many students who take online courses or fully online degrees work full time and some have family obligations as well. While the majority of students are able to fit their online coursework into their schedules, it can be a challenge for others to find a time that they are not exhausted after a full day and that they can study conscientiously or write something meaningful.
The level of difficulty of the course will vary depending on the school, professor, program and course. Often times, general ed courses are not hard as long as you keep up with the course and submit your assignments on time. I would even argue that the challenge in these general courses is not the actual material but staying on top of things. I have also facilitated humanities courses for an Undergraduate Degree Completion Program in which the level of difficulty is much greater. Students are expected to start reading from day 1 and keep up with a very rigorous schedule of weekly readings and writing submissions. In this case these are 7-week intensive courses and I have to say hats off to the students for completing such demanding classes!
Online courses may sound as a great choice because you can “work at your own pace” or not have a set time to “attend” classes and complete your work. However, if you are not organized enough and have good time management skills, time can easily slip by and you’ll find yourself lagging behind. Catching up might also be hard, since it will be completely up to you to set apart even more time to read the lessons and complete missed assignments.
Online courses are an excellent option (and sometimes the only option) for many people, but don’t underestimate them and know that the responsibility of keeping up with it will weigh more heavily on you than in a traditional setting.