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I think online education engages students academically as well as brick and mortar schools do. The biggest difference is that with online education, you don't have class participation and lectures. Other than that, it's no different. There are students in brick and mortar schools who are not academically engaged. It's up to the students to decide whether they want to actively participate in their education.
No, an online education does not engage students. Because there is a lack of face to face collaboration or input from their peers, students who graduate from online programs typically have fewer social skills than traditional students, and their ability to network successfully is hampered, leading to an inability to progress in the business world.
I think that online education is a good supplement to traditional learning. It allows students to learn at their own pace, and to refresh on what they learned in class. However, I don't think it adequately engages students, in the same way that classroom education can. In a classroom, teachers can personalize lessons based on her students, she can answer questions and address confusion on the spot, and switch her tactics if the class is losing focus. Online education provides a highly standardized learning experience. While taking online classes, students are easily distracted by their surround environment, and other online activities. Real engagement happens best in the classroom.
If a young person has a busy schedule since many of them today have to work and go to school, then filling in with an on line course here and there is not going to be harmful and could engage the student since there is so much interaction possible. But it should not take the place of classroom interaction and pesonal discussion of major ideas.