Greetings Friend @JimInBC!
Online is definitely OK! My own journey has been online only since the very beginning (I work in the Middle East ) - I started with googling for advice during a time of personal difficulty and encountered Ajahn Brahm on YouTube! ( )
Binge watching Ajahn Brahm’s Dhamma talks helped me tremendously. Then I discovered the Friday night meditations on the BSWA channel. I was hooked! Further inquiry led me to Dhamma talks and guided meditations by Ajahn Brahmali, Bhante Sujato, Ajahn Amaro, Ajahn Jayasaro, Ajahn Sona, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu and a host of others - YouTube will soon figure out what you’re interested in!
Other good sources of Dhamma talks I have come across include audio dharma, Dharma seed (wide variety of teachers - searchable) and Dhamma talks (talks by Thanissaro Bhikkhu).
You will definitely want to read the discourses/ writings of Lum por Chah and Lum por Buddhadasa at some stage in your journey!
Lots of good dhamma resources are directly available on the websites of monasteries such as BSWA or Amravati. Some good online Dhamma book repositories include Buddhanet ebooks, and the buddhist library.
PureDhamma.net is a useful (though sometimes a bit unorthodox/ controversial) site to get an understanding of various Pali words/ Dhamma concepts.
My first forum was BSWA’s Dhammaloka - it has an “Ask a monastic” section, if you need some specific advice. Other forums are Dhamma wheel (quite mainstream), dharmaoverground (often radical), PureDhamma (often whacky), new buddhist, Free Sangha or even Reddit!
For introductory courses to Buddhism you can try our very own Ven Khemarato’s Github Buddhist University or Buddha Net.
If you’re looking for a full fledged online community you could try Secular Buddhist Association, Insight Meditation center, Wildmind or the Barre Center. (You might sometimes be required to make donations here!)
If you’re more into the Burmese/ Vipassana flavours then check out PureDhamma.org for the Sayadaw method or look at dhamma.org and pariyatti for the SN Goenka method.
There will be times when you run into doubts and controversies. That’s part of the process of learning, isn’t it? If you get too confused, you can always fall back on the gem in your backyard - Birken! With access to dyed in the wool monastics like Ajahn Sona, what more could you possibly need?
Above all remember the Buddha’s advice -
Please, don’t go by oral transmission, don’t go by lineage, don’t go by testament, don’t go by canonical authority, don’t rely on logic, don’t rely on inference, don’t go by reasoned contemplation, don’t go by the acceptance of a view after consideration, don’t go by the appearance of competence, and don’t think ‘The ascetic is our respected teacher.’ But when you know for yourselves: ‘These things are unskillful, blameworthy, criticized by sensible people, and when you undertake them, they lead to harm and suffering’, then you should give them up.