Jess, the certification question is the million dollar (trillion dollar) one. So far, the answer is “Depends on the employer.”
Programmers can get hired on non-collegiate certification now. Lawyers can’t, because the degree is required, completely separate from any proof of competence. This is a battle that will be fought a field at a time, and it will be fought against hardest in fields where a competence test would actually be suitable for employment, but where artificial scarcity has been induced by certification (like lawyers, or librarian.)
As for replicating networking, we don’t even do this in community colleges. The ability to network in the way you describe is not a feature of the online/offline split, but the elite/non-elite split.