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April 10, 2023 (Updated )

Studying remotely has never been more accessible. With Covid-19 forcing many to work from home or commence remote studies, online learning has absolutely become the new normal. Of course, there will always be arguments for and against this shift towards digitalisation — socioeconomic and accessibility barriers being a big one — but there’s no denying that online learning has given students everywhere a lot more flexibility.

Traditionally, teaching for the NCTJ Diploma — a level five qualification often viewed as the industry benchmark — has taken place in person. However, some innovative course providers are now reimagining the learning experience and giving more people the chance to receive training without having to travel.

In November 2022, News Associates launched their new remote part-time course, accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ). It allows aspiring journalists from all over the country — or even the world — to join their award-winning training from the comfort of their own homes.

Unlike distance learning, every lesson is taught live with a tutor — nothing is pre-recorded. These tutors also use teaching techniques developed during the Covid lockdown of 2020 — when all courses needed to be delivered via Zoom — which has led to News Associates winning the ‘Innovation of the Year’ award at the NCTJ Awards for Excellence.

Journo Resources

What’s The Structure Of A Remote NCTJ Course?

Trainees on News Associates’ remote part-time course study on Zoom every Tuesday and every other Thursday evening, totalling nine hours a fortnight, over a period of 18 months. Classes run from 6:30pm to 9:30pm, with breaks in between. The exams then are spread out across the course and can be sat remotely or in person at one of the News Associates centres in London or Manchester.

You’ll also get access to sessions with guest speakers, their annual conference #JournoFest, and the opportunity for work placements with their in-house publications.

If you’re wondering whether a remote learning course might be right for you, hear directly from seven News Associates trainees about why they chose to study remotely, and how it’s going so far.

What Do You Study On A Remote NCTJ Diploma?

On the News Associates remote course, you’ll study eight modules, all taught by experienced journalism tutors.

Essential Journalism & Ethics: The core skills you need as a reporter, such as identifying stories and interviewing.

Essential Media Law & Regulation: Understand the legal and regulatory boundaries of what you can and can’t report.

Essential Journalism E-Portfolio: A collection of your best work to show future employers.

Public Affairs For Journalists: Covering politics, government, and public services in England and Wales.

Journalism For A Digital Audience: Learning how to focus on your audience and reach a wide range of people.

Data Journalism: Using digital sources and statistics as a way to find and tell stories.

PR & Communications For Journalists: Understand the methods and objectives of other industry professionals.

Find Out More

A Flexible Course With Options For Interaction

Journo Resources’ own trainee journalist Hannah Bradfield is on this very course, so you can take it from us when we say that it comes highly recommended! Being Norwich-based, she was looking for a well-regarded course that would allow her flexibility in location.

“It fit the criteria of what I was looking for because it was flexible location-wise but still had structure and opportunities for interaction — with other trainees and tutors,” she says. Other than that, Bradfield is quick to stress that the course structure was also a big draw for her: “I think with remote learning it is often very beneficial to have some sort of structure to the course so you are able to hold yourself to account and to monitor progress.”

Journo Resources
“Coming from a very essay-based background, it has been a challenge to move from this mindset to tight, journalistic writing, but I have learnt so much in a relatively short space of time.”
Hannah Bradfield, Trainee Journalist

For Buffy Pond, who discovered an affinity for journalism more than a decade after leaving education, the fully remote course was a great chance to still work while indulging her passion — the alternative would have meant leaving her job.

“I wasn’t sure I could face quitting my job to study full-time,” she tells Journo Resources. “Then News Associates answered all my prayers with a fully remote NCTJ course. I can often have a very busy work life so I love the fact that I can log on to my lessons from the office, home, or wherever I happen to be.”

Of course, there are also students for whom travelling to in-person lessons is not an option, such as Spain-based copywriter Ysabel Cacho, freelance writer Mafalda Evans Lopes Guimaraes who lives in Porto, Portugal, or even local trainee Ed Spencer who had “moved out to the sticks” during lockdown.

Journo Resources
Journo Resources

Trainees Buffy Pond (L) and Ysabel Cacho (R)

Phil Campbell enthuses: “The biggest selling point of the remote part-time course was the fact it allowed anyone to be taught by News Associates no matter where in the country (or world) you are! As I don’t live in London or Manchester, the in-person courses weren’t accessible to me but the remote course has meant I can be taught from a place that is convenient for me.

“For anyone who’s thinking about training to be a journalist but has previously been put off due to geographical barriers or time constraints, I’d fully recommend the News Associates remote course as it removes those obstacles entirely.”

Expert Knowledge & Resources

As mentioned, each lesson in News Associates’ part-time remote course is taught live by a tutor. Not only is this more motivating than pre-recorded sessions, but it also allows their experts to answer your queries immediately.

All seven trainees we’ve spoken to only have praise for their course tutors. Campbell describes the News Associates experts as “a team of enthusiastic, committed, and organised people”.

He adds: “The tutors running the course are passionate and knowledgeable and have put together a great series of interactive and academic sessions. They’ve given me the confidence to develop the journalistic skills that I’ll one day need in my career.”

Journo Resources
Journo Resources

Phil Campbell (L) and Mafalda Evans Lopes Guimaraes (R)

For learners wanting more of a guiding hand, trainees were keen to stress that there is ample time for one-to-one support. Emanuela Gioia explains: “The course is well structured, lessons are carefully organised, and the tutors’ care, empathy, and constant encouragement are a real gem. So far, the course has helped me step out of my comfort zone and enjoy the journey without fear or hesitation.”

Guimaraes echoes this: “The course tutors I have had so far are engaging and have endless knowledge and experience in their fields. I would absolutely recommend this course to anyone who is keen to learn the ins and outs of journalism from the experts.”

The sessions are built for study online from the get-go — so rather than just watching a recording of an in-person lecture, you’ll get direct support and interactive activities. As Spencer puts it: “It’s great that the tutors have so much industry experience — you get the sense you’re gaining valuable insights you just wouldn’t get elsewhere or with self-led study.”

Journo Resources
"So far, the course has helped me step out of my comfort zone and enjoy the journey without fear or hesitation.”
Emanuela Gioia, Editorial Researcher

Building Contacts In The Journalism Industry

Aside from being able to learn first-hand from journalism experts, the success of the News Associates’ remote part-time course lies in the contacts that students get to make. It’s a great place to establish those initial relationships among a group of peers who are serious about making it work as a journalist.

Bradfield says: “One of the best things about the course is the fact we all come from completely different backgrounds, often outside of journalism, which I think works really well. It means we are all bringing different experiences and skills to the group and learning from each other.”

For Spain-based Cacho, taking the course is not just about building up her skills and portfolio, but also about starting to establish herself within English journalism circles. “Classes are live but remote, which works for my situation. I also get to do practical exercises and work with professionals and other people who want to become journalists,” she says.

Of course, the downside of a fully remote course is the lack of in-person contact with fellow trainees. This is something that extroverts might struggle with and is the reason Spencer seriously considered an in-house course. “But for where I am just now, I absolutely made the right choice,” he says. Trainees have also self-organised with WhatsApp group chats and are also planning meet-ups with others nearby.

So, is it worth it? As Pond sums up: “If you want to become a journalist but still need to pay the rent, then don’t walk to this course — run to it!”

You can find out more about the remote part-time NCTJ course at News Associates here.
Header image courtesy of Bonnie Kittle via Unsplash
News Associates
News Associates

News Associates are proud to be the UK’s number one NCTJ journalism course — and they do things differently. You’ll be treated like a journalist from day one, with an innovative and experienced approach to teaching.

They offer a range of part-time and full-time courses, with locations in London, Manchester, and remote learning.

Find out more about their courses here