avoiding online school pitfalls

How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Online College

Updated By Staff Writer on January 15, 2021

Over 6 million students a year take online college courses. And this trend continues to grow. It makes sense if you stop to think about it. Online courses have a lot of really appealing aspects such as:

  1. Scheduling flexibility
  2. Convenience
  3. Accessibility
  4. Accelerated courses
  5. Appeals to all age groups

But before jumping in, make sure you're aware of some of the potential pitfalls of online college courses—and how to overcome them.

Time Management

The Problem

80-95% of college students procrastinate.

Flexibility is a huge benefit of online courses, but it can be easy to procrastinate when time management is all on you.

The Solution

87% of students could achieve better grades with better organization and time management skills.

  • Plan and schedule 3 hours per week for every credit hour
  • Figure out the best way to keep track of assignments/due dates (on your phone, an old school calendar, to-do list app, etc.)
  • Keep a regular routine
  • Avoid multitasking (it makes you less productive)


The Problem

Online courses have a 10% to 20% higher failed retention rate than traditional classroom environments.

A major hurdle for online students is the motivation to make it through the course and to complete every assignment.

The Solution

  • Set realistic goals by breaking down projects into steps
  • Visualize your objective (What end goal do you hope to achieve?)
  • Reward yourself when you accomplish smaller goals
  • Computer Literacy

The Problem

80% of adults failed a digital knowledge test.

Understanding technology is essential for online student success. Online learning management systems (LMS) and other essential programs may be unfamiliar or confusing for some students.

The Solution

  • Take advantage of free computer literacy training, one-on-one support, or seminars organized by your college.
  • Pay attention to how your instructor asks you to label and submit files and follow each requirement.
  • Search out resources/tutorials on your own to bridge any literacy gaps


The Problem

29% of students are “not engaged” and 24% are “actively disengaged.”

With less face-to-face interaction, it may be harder to have the same sense of community, connection, and engagement with your classmates and professor.

The Solution

  • Make sure the professor knows who you are.
  • Get to know your classmates.
  • If the class has a forum or discussion board, use them early and often.

Study Area

The Problem

49% of students admit to being distracted by technology for “off-task” use, which reduces exam performance.

You can study anywhere, but where you study can make a big difference. A distracting environment can affect your attention and ability to learn and perform.

The Solution

  • Find a location free from distractions and interruptions where you can focus
  • Understand that environment that works for you;some people can focus in a loud bustling cafe, while others need the silence of a library.
  • Make your study location part of your schedule and routine.
  • Turn off your TV and phone when it's time to study.

Keep an eye out for these common challenges when pursuing an online college education so you can get the most out of your college experience. At Independence University, we offer one-on-one support to help you navigate any pitfalls and succeed.