There are numerous benefits to taking online courses. Among them are the ability to plan your schooling around your other obligations related to home and work while also advancing your career, if not preparing yourself to enter a new field completely.

Online classes also eliminate the need to commute to a campus, thereby saving you both time and money. Not to mention, if the roads become nasty due to snow and ice or massive amounts of rain, it's not an issue for you because you can do your work from home.

All of these positive aspects aside, there are some mistakes that all too many students make when choosing to complete their degrees online instead of taking courses in a traditional college classroom. Here are a few of the most common, as well as ways to avoid them so you don't wind up making them, too.

Not choosing an accredited institution

Because online classes are, well, online, this means that anyone can create a website and offer instruction on any number of topics. Many even provide some sort of certification or "degree" upon completion.

However, not all of these educational organizations or institutions are accredited, meaning that your education isn't necessarily going to be formally recognized by organizations and agencies within your field. In cases like this, you've essentially wasted your time and money because the information you learned isn't accepted as being valid and/or up to par.

To keep from making this mistake, the U.S. Department of Education offers the ability to do an online search via its Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. Just type in the name of the course provider to instantly learn whether it is accredited or not.

If it is, this site will tell you when accreditation for that provider was first granted and when it will be reviewed next, as well as the specific programs it offers that are accredited. Alternatively, if it isn't there, you likely want to choose a different online course provider.

Not realizing how challenging online courses can be

There's a common misconception that online courses are an absolute breeze. All you have to do is sit in front of a computer, read some stuff, do your homework, take a few multiple-choice question tests, and—like magic—you'll earn your degree. Um, yeah. It's not quite that easy.

Anyone who has taken online courses will tell you that learning via this method can sometimes be rather challenging. In fact, Best College Reviews shares that, in some cases, online classes are even harder than traditional classes.

This is partly due to the requirement that you have to be completely self-disciplined when taking online classes, which leads us to the next point…

Not being structured enough

When you're enrolled in a traditional college program, it's fairly easy to be structured since a good number of students in this type of scenario live on campus, automatically submersing them into a study-focused environment. Plus, there's something about having to walk into a physical classroom that lights a fire within to make sure all assigned work is completed on time.

Well, you lose both of these aspects when taking online courses. Therefore, some students have a tendency to become a little too lax when it comes to their schoolwork, increasing their risk of missing important deadlines.

One way to combat this all too common issue is to set up a detailed schedule for completing your coursework. Mark down the time you'll use to take care of your reading, homework, and any projects that are assigned.

Additionally, leave yourself ample time in case something comes up and you have to adjust your calendar. You never know when you or a family member will get sick or a function will come up that will demand a portion of your time.

Not acquiring the tools you need to succeed beforehand

Take classes on campus and you have access to everything you need to succeed right there. This includes rooms full of computers, high-speed Internet, and all of the programs required to complete the assigned homework, projects, and tests.

Yet, if you don't have these types of things at home, it can make it harder to succeed – not impossible, but definitely more difficult.

So, avoiding this mistake involves acquiring the tools you need before your online classes even begin. Don't sweat it, either, because this doesn't necessarily require you to go out and spend a lot of cash.

For instance, if you tend to have slow Internet service, research locations in the area that offer a faster connection. Even if it's a short drive away, the ability to do your work more quickly can be worth the tradeoff.

Not connecting with classmates and professors

Just because you aren't furthering your education by physically sitting next to other students and having a human body at the front of the room teaching the lesson doesn't mean that you have to go through the schooling process alone.

In fact, you shouldn't because connecting with online classmates and professors is a great way to make the degree-earning process more fun. It also gives you someone to talk to if you have questions or want to bounce ideas off of them.

Most educational institutions have their own online platforms where you can easily correspond with other students and instructors. Sign in, introduce yourself, start a conversation, and let others know that you'd like to connect. This is great for networking purposes as well.

It's often said that it's much better to learn from others' mistakes than to make them yourself. When it comes to the mistakes that many students make when taking online courses, this couldn't apply more, making your time spent learning an even greater success.