However, the field of bioinformatics by its nature may offer the best chance for finding ways to involve distance learners directly in ongoing scientific research, and that would seem to be a worthy goal for the burgeoning online education movement.
Please check out Software Carpentry as well. This is a great intro that covers not just programming and data analysis (R/Python), but a lot of crucial stuff that every bioinformatician should know but usually is not covered in courses, such as
New courses in collaboration with RStudio and Revolution analytics are on the way. Just like a new course on statistics with R (together with a professor from Princeton University), and a course focused on R for SAS users.