Production values for online media have increased rapidly over the past decade or so. Where online entertainment was once seen as the domain of juvenile Flash cartoons, it’s quickly becoming an industry of highly shareable and well-devised content. The Webby Awards are one form of industry recognition for online media production. Since 1996, the Webbies have been awarded annually for online excellence in digital media. Accredited colleges are making it easier than ever to earn a digital media degree by accommodating students going to school on the Internet.

While going to school on the Internet to learn the ways of the Internet seems like a simple enough concept, the product of the degrees is extremely complex. Still in its nascent stages, Internet media is often written off as a joke or the product of a bored teenager. However, the Webby awards, as odd as it seems, are beginning to draw attention to stars and creators that are producing truly groundbreaking work.

The May 2012 version of the Webby Awards was populated by renowned personalities in entertainment, politics and music. The Washington Post reports that Webby Awards were taken home by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who won the Lifetime Achievement Award; Bjork, for Artist of the Year; and NBC anchor Brian Williams, who won an Events and Live Webcasts award. In total, 140 awards were handed out during the ceremony, including Best Breakout (Instagram) and Best Social Media Site (Pinterest).

The Webby Awards focus on software applications separates it from many other entertainment awards ceremonies. A FoxNews.com piece covering the 2012 Webby Awards reported winners for different software app categories. Besides Best Breakout and Best Social Media Site, awards handed out for web software development include Best News App, awarded to Flipboard, and Best Music App, awarded to Spotify. Flightboard, an app that brings an airport’s departure and arrival board directly to your device, won Best Travel App.

Pursuing an online education for digital media production is a suitable choice because so much of the work requires Internet access and software. Accredited colleges and universities in America have been ramping up these programs, improving online access to an accredited education in digital media skills. For example, American University’s School of Communication operates an online certificate course in digital media skills. The program, which lasts a year and requires 15 credit hours of instruction, covers classes in video for social media, dynamic content and web development.

Developing entertaining content for distribution online requires a great deal of creativity as well as a strong knowledge of programming basics. Career opportunities are always going to be stronger for those professionals who not only learn about web programming and software tools, but how to use those tools to develop engaging apps and viral entertainment. The Internet is proving to be not just a testing ground among digital media professionals but also an important platform for the best and brightest in digital entertainment.