I am an online professor and teach for 6 different universities. I found your topic about advantages and disadvantages of online learning to be interesting. I would like to address the disadvantages you mentioned and give my insight based on my many years of teaching experience.
Uniformity – My students don’t have to necessarily have the same exact computer set up that every other student has. All students can go to their local library for computer access if necessary. Some online courses require the ability to view videos, etc. But for the most part, the standard computer setup handles most of the needs that students have. I try to include several different ways of reaching students based upon their learning needs. If a student prefers to learn through audio files, for example, then that student would probably be wise to have a system that allows that type of access. The good professor will incorporate several types of visual, audio, etc. choices to reach the different learners’ preferences. In fact, I will be teaching a webinar through Sloan-C in October to explain how to do this for new online learners.
Disconnection – You mentioned it is easy to never log in, and never to return email, etc. It is just as easy to sleep in and not feel like driving to class. The advantage the student has here is that if they do sleep in, they won’t miss class and they can log on when they wake up. I agree that no system has a true solution for those with poor behaviors. However, I do think that online offers advantages for both the introvert and extrovert personalities. The introvert has more time to think about what they want to type. The extrovert has the ability to delete the thing they may have needed to rethink.
Authenticity – I received my BS at a school where over 300 students would be in one classroom. It would be very hard to be sure that the student taking those tests were actually who they said they were as well. The good thing that is available now is software like Turnitin that allows the professor to be sure that the work turned in is not plagiarized or “purchased” off of the Internet.
I agree the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. I believe online learning is the future of education and we need to embrace it.