I'm in FNU's FNP program. Yes, you have to identify the clinical sites and preceptors you wish to work with. From my experience and that of my classmates, I can tell you it is something that is much easier if you put a little time into it early. It's basic networking 101, you first must establish relationships with folks you want something from (NPs mainly, but all providers really), then you ask them for that something (to precept you or help you find someone who could precept you). Once you have identified preceptors who are willing to precept you, FNU's credentialling office will take over and verify their qualifications, and your regional faculty member will help you by coordinating the entire process. You don't have to do anything related to paperwork or contracts, etc., just identify the individuals and the facility they work at.
Personally, I started networking with providers about 6-12 months before I was accepted into the program, as I knew I would need their assistance at some point (if not precepting, then hiring). I have been inundated with offers to precept me, many of the offers I had to turn down as they were specialist, or I just cannot have that many hours with non NP preceptors. It really didn't take that much time, at first, I simply introduced myself to providers I came into contact with at work. If you don't have anything else in common with the provider, discuss the NP profession with them. Ask about NPs in their practice/specialty, how they utilize NPs in their practice, etc. Try to have an intelligent conversation with them and make them remember you, it really doesn't take much. Some might offer to have you shadow or meet staff, always a good sign and something to take them up on. Then once they consider you a colleague and have at least a modicum of emotional investment in you, you can ask them if they know of someone who would be able to precept you, this step is probably best left until your in your program. Within six months, I didn't have to go out of my way to network, I've met several providers who have become friends, I'm invited to their social gatherings, etc. and my network grew exponentially.
FNU also provides assistance in several ways, they have a database of past facilities and past preceptors who have taken FNU students, and they have a (much smaller) list of those who have not worked out in the past to avoid. They also have a very active and extensive alumni network that is generally very willing to either precept or help you identify preceptors, it's a very good resource for students who are going to FNU. I personally, tried to not rely on these resources and only have them as backups in case I needed them.
I do know of several cohorts who had some difficulties, the most common issues were by far the student who had not prepared for their clinicals and all they wanted to do was send out form letters asking folks to precept them. Form letters in this case is equal to junk mail, and we all know how well we receive and respond to junk mail so expecting busy providers to put you at the top of their list via junk mail is a very risky approach. I can think of two other cases where cohorts had difficulty, in both cases it was related to their required anteparnum contacts (yes, FNU has a whole list of the number of patient contacts needed in each population for FNP students). Both students lived in very rural areas, and were unable to secure the services of the only OB in their area. In one case, she found a CNM who worked in the next nearest town, about three hours away, and coordinated a couple two day trips to her town/office to get in the appropriate visits. In the other case, her regional faculty member helped her find a very busy clinic that would be able to get her visits in a city a few hours away in one week. So both students had to travel some, but were able to stay on schedule for their graduation. These were the worst cases I have heard of from my personal contacts. Although FNU does not advertise that they will help you with your clinical placement, rest assured they are not there to fail you, they will do whatever they can to help once they know you have done everything in your power and exhausted your resources, but you must show them you are not just being lazy and wanting them to do your work for you.
As for seriousness of an online degree, I have not found that to be an issue in regards to FNU. I believe perception of the degree is more based on reputation of the institution than the delivery mechanism of the didactic lessons. From my limited experience, I have never heard anything negative about FNU, their alumni, or the quality of the education provided. If anything, I think it is more rigorous than most B&M courses I've taken. If you want the easiest way out, don't pick FNU! Exams are proctored, and they expect you to put in the time to know your ****. Clinicals are monitored closely, and compared to other online universities where friends have gone, they are more picky about your preceptors and monitor them more closely. In fact the biggest complaint I hear from preceptors is how much paperwork and extra time they have to do to appease the FNU regional faculty compared to those from other universities they have had students from.
In conclusion, if I had it to do over again, I would select FNU in a heartbeat, it was the right choice for me, and I have no fears of having difficulty finding a position because of it's reputation, in fact, I believe it's reputation (or that of it's alumni) will greatly help me come time to interview. I do believe that different programs are targeted towards different audiences, and you should research how FNU's mission matches up with your mission/goals.
Sorry for the long response and hope that helps.