Classes are great- they give you the deadlines and some basic knowledge, but like any other skill, it must be practiced to be fully developed. Programming can mesh well with online learning- the physical requirements (equipment) are pretty easily available. A class is great, it is only a complement to actually doing something, and that requires commitment from the student.
However, I think "programming" is just way too generic a designator. Knowing how to program is mostly about knowing syntax- it doesn't really show you how to actually do anything terribly useful- that's what the rest of your education is for. An online programming course is awesome, but only taken as part of a whole- the math, science, language, etc. education are also vital aspects to actually getting things done.
I am a computer. I am dumber than any human and smarter than any administrator.