Mar 19th, 2018

How to Fail an Online Course

If you really want to fail an online course, I found some great suggestions and share them below. It is more simple than you think…you, too, can fail an online course.

Online courses are marketed, in part, based on their flexibility and working with your demanding life schedule.  How can someone mess that up?

Tip 1: Fail to Schedule

“Fail to plan or plan to fail”, as the old saying goes.  If human history has taught us anything, it is that planning and scheduling generally produces better performance than flying by the seat of the pants.

Those who prefer not to schedule cling to the following sayings, “If you put it off to the last minute, then it only takes a minute to do”.  “Get behind early, then it will give you more time to catch up”.  While these sayings may be more closely related to the concept of procrastination, they are related to scheduling.

Most of us set aside time to eat, time to sleep, and some to exercise.  If you are taking an online course, you need to schedule in the course and study time.

Tip 2: Fail to Study

This is related to Tip 1.  I am seeing this more and more in the college students that I teach in traditional face to face settings.  They somehow expect to pass the course by simply attending class.  They don’t expect to study outside of class…just show up.

With online classes you don’t have the luxury to “just show up”.  With no set meeting times, more self-discipline is required.  Many online courses have mandatory online discussion boards for posts.  These posts must be made by certain times.  However, there is no instructor looking at you face to face, challenging you to study.   Don’t study if you want to excel in, “How to fail an online course”.

Tip 3: Since it’s Online, it Must be Easier

Wrong.  A classic online course requires, perhaps, more work than a traditional face to face class.  The reason is that accreditors want the school to justify awarding credit when a school does not have a student in a seat for 40+ hours in a semester.  This seat time is made up for by additional reading, papers, etc.

Tip 4: Fail to Organize

Again, this is related to Tip 1.  An online course will require the purchase of books, the turn in of written assignments at specific intervals, and sometimes required online viewing of lectures.  Again, without a face to face instructor reminding students of these events, they can easily “slip through the cracks”.    Failing to organize goes a long way in, “How to fail an online course”.

Tip 5: Try to be Superman or Superwoman

I recently heard Ravi Zacharias say that we want everything.  We want, “freedom, and rigidity, work and leisure, country living and city living, free love and commitment”, etc.  The truth is we can’t have it all.  If a student if going to take an online class, then there has to be sacrifice of something.

Look at all of the ways your day is spent and cut something out. If you don’t,  you are well on your way to, “How to fail an online course”.

The Bottom Line

These seem to be simple and straightforward, but putting the tips into practice is not as easy as it seems.  It requires self-discipline.  A characteristic in seemingly short supply in the 21st Century.


These tips were gleaned from a very funny blog out of the University of Colorado.  To read more see:

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