However, Scott notes that not all of these social-networking tools are useful to everyone — the most important thing, she says, is to find what sites are worthwhile for you or your business. “By taking a class in social media, you’re going to learn how to use those tools, and they may not be right for you.”

For individuals in between jobs, there’s “A Job Seeker’s Guide to Social Media” ($50; $40/members). The idea behind this single-session course is that if you use Twitter or Facebook to post your résumé and land a job, you’re also showing that you’re ready to apply those skills in the workplace. In addition, the September 28 class teaches how to use LinkedIn, maximize online networking opportunities, and create a professional image.

Scott is optimistic about these new classes and their broad reach. “I don’t think there’s any one traditional social media user or Internet user,” she says. “Like a lot of our classes, we typically get a lot of young professionals, but I think these apply to a lot of people, especially people who are in transition, someone who’s ready to take the next step in their career or business. They’re ready for something more.”

Other continuing-education programs are following similar paths. Taking the lead in central Massachusetts is Clark University’s College of Professional and Continuing Education (COPACE), which will offer “21st Century New Media Culture” to undergraduates and “Introduction to New Media Technology” to graduates starting this fall.

The latter course covers audio and video podcasting, as well as social networking and blogging, and leads students toward a “theoretical and practical understanding” of the changing communication and business worlds. Social media, according to Max Hess, assistant dean and director of graduate programs at COPACE, has become “a very hot subject for the communications program.”

As online networking sites ascend from unapologetic time-suck status to academia, it’s easy to get caught up in exciting technological developments and the promise of Internet democratization. The Web boasts many new media and business opportunities, but it’s still a competitive market. If you’re serious about building an online-based career with longevity, a Web-writing course taught by a seasoned instructor could help strengthen your foundation.

Suzette Standring, the instructor for “Writing Columns for Publications, Web sites, and Blogs” ($100) at Lesley University in Cambridge, insists that professional training and a quality product should remain important even as the media evolves at an increasingly frenetic pace.

“You have a very limited space to get a reader’s attention and to tell them something they haven’t heard before or to convey a very compelling message,” says Standring. “Most importantly, how do you stand out now that the explosion of Web sites, blogs, and that kind of media is all around us? One thing that hasn’t changed is the need for focused, concise, and compelling writing.”

Bloggers in Standring’s class will learn professional skills like working with deadlines and editors, as well as “the craft of doing condensed writing well: point of view, voice, structure, and achieving universal resonance.” The non-credit evening course runs from September 15 through October 6.

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