Back to school! Brush up on your social media and communications skills

Students are heading back to school today, and if you’re inspired to learn some new skills for work this fall, here are my recommendations.

Local Courses

EEI Communications offers a number of good classes, and I have taken several.  They are not inexpensive, but the instruction is top-rate.  The fall classes include

  • Podcasting I and II
  • Writing for the Web I and II
  • Designing Powerful PowerPoint Presentations

Fairfax County (Virginia) Adult Education offers many affordable classes this fall. Their professional development classes include

  • Successful Business Writing
  • Effective Public Presentation Skills
  • Twitter
  • Grant Writing
  • Social Media Networking and Marketing

Arlington County Adult Education also offers a wide variety of classes and seminars for affordable fees (some starting at only $45).  Among the many communications course offerings are

  • Increase Your Business Exposure Through Social Media
  • Digital Photography: An Introduction
  • Blogs and Wikis, Demystified
  • Business Writing
  • WordPress
  • Social Networking and Social Media

Online Classes online classes are an affordable way to acquire new skills, if that learning approach works for you.  Helpfully, the courses are divided by experience level and you can sample these classes before you buy.  Check out

  • Online Marketing Fundamentals
  • WordPerfect 12 Essential Training
  • Google+ For Business
  • Building Your Brand
  • Social Media Marketing with Facebook and Twitter

Tip #1: Learn about the instructor before registering

Before you plunk down your cash for class, research the instructor first.  This is an important step.  If he or she is teaching a class about Twitter, for example, check out his or her Twitter profile — and his or her LinkedIn recommendations.   If you are impressed, and people are saying good things, then sign up for the class.

Tip #2: Honestly assess if you have the time to both take the class and do the “homework”

With any class, you will get out of it what you put into it.  In other words, you must practice what you learn until you master the skills.  You will not retain what you learn from instruction if you do not practice it during and after the classes, on at least a weekly basis, if not more frequently.  If you feel ready and motivated, go for it!

Tip #3: Weigh the pros and cons of each class type

People learn differently.  How you learn is a big factor in deciding whether you will be self-taught with books and articles; taking classes or seminars with a live instructor; or taking classes online.

The advantages of teaching yourself a skill is that it is often inexpensive and you work at your own pace.  But you may not be motivated to progress and there is no one to ask questions if you get stuck.  This is probably the slowest way to obtain new skills and knowledge, but it depends on your learning style and situation.  I have self-taught myself a number of skills but I usually supplement this learning with classes.

Taking classes online is usually more affordable than live classes, and sometimes you can schedule them whenever it is convenient for you.  This flexibility is ideal for people with time constraints and commitments, such as parents with children.  You may miss the camaraderie and interaction of a live class environment, however.  I find I learn quite a lot from online classes, and I think they are a good deal.

The downside to live classes should be considered. Classes and seminars vary in price from about $40 to more than $1,000.  The instructional quality can be wonderful, absysmal, or just okay — but you won’t know until your first or second class.  So you can lose money and time, if it doesn’t work out.  In my experience, the teacher tends to instruct either to the level of the lowest in the class or the highest. And you never know which that is going to be.  So, if you happen to be on that end, you’ll luck out, otherwise, you can feel like your wasting your time.  Another disadvantage with classes is that teachers are often easily distracted or swayed by tangents presented by one or two students.  The class then veers off-course.  The worst is when you get an instructor who has a narrow view, or limited expertise, or who is clearly an expert at the subject, but just doesn’t know how to bring it down to an instructional level.  In other words, someone who is not that effective an instructor.  But classes can be fun and there is usually a networking element, and often you do learn quite a bit, not only from the instructor, but also from the questions posed by other students.  Also there is a clear advantage in registering for a class as you cannot postpone the instruction, the way you can if you are self-taught or taking online classes.  You show up, or lose your investment.  So if you tend to put things off, work best with structure and deadlines, or you like the social aspect of groups, live classes may be for you.

Coaching, of course, is the most personalized option.  The instruction is tailored to your experience level and needs, and can proceed at your pace, in the convenience of your home or office.  At hourly rates, this is also the most expensive option, typically.  With one-to-one instruction, you have to have good chemistry with your instructor, and of course, the experience is only as good as the coach.  Coaching can feel pretty intense, and the pace of coaching can be overwhelming when learning a new skill, since people tend to want to use the fewest hours possible to acquire the most knowledge.  One advantage of coaching is that it is confidential.  No one but you and your coach knows how far you have to go.  I haven’t hired coaches, but I have provided plenty of coaching.  I think it works well under certain circumstances.


About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a mom, teacher, and blogger. She is also the creator of "Living Well With Autism," an online resource for caregivers of children, teens, and adults with autism and related special needs.

Posted on September 4, 2012, in Events and Workshops and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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