Members of many professions seek continuing education courses to sharpen or update their skills. But in a profession like editing, where contract or freelance work is very common, and where employers have drastically cut training budgets, attending conferences or in-person seminars is not always possible. What’s an education-hungry professional editor to do?

Turn to eLearning, of course.

Editing is an applied skill; the learning must go beyond presentation of concepts and facts. Learners must practice, get feedback, and apply that feedback to new editing assignments. Thus asynchronous eLearning and offline exercises, while essential, could be only a partial solution. Live lectures and discussions held in a virtual classroom, as well as individualized instructor feedback on editing projects, complete the eLearning picture. It’s the only way to improve, whether that practice occurs in class or on the job.

This case study presents a blended solution—the product of a veteran institution dedicated to educating journalism and media professionals, The Poynter Institute, and a professional organization for copy editors, ACES—that can assist others in developing similar solutions for a variety of professions.

Poynter’s NewsU

The Poynter Institute, in St. Petersburg, Florida, was long renowned for its in-person training seminars for journalism and media professionals. A gorgeous location right on Tampa Bay; top-notch instructors, both permanent faculty and guest instructors flown in for the seminars; sumptuous meals; networking opportunities … then came the early 2000s. As the age of legacy media—newspapers and television—gave way to the digital era, media organizations no longer had training budgets that supported sending staff to week-long seminars in Florida. Poynter had to change gears; it began to offer seminars within newsrooms, and it created training models that combined online or independent study with short on-site seminars.

And Poynter moved into eLearning in a big way.

News University, or NewsU, was born in 2005. The eLearning division of The Poynter Institute, NewsU is a pioneer among professional development organizations, notable for the depth and breadth of its offerings. NewsU produces dozens of webinars each year as well as offering replays of previous webinars; it offers hundreds of asynchronous eLearning courses, many available free of charge, and several certificate programs. And, increasingly, NewsU and Poynter pool their considerable expertise to offer what they call OGSs, or online group seminars.