What makes learning with Professional Writing Academy different?

If you’re new to online study or have only experienced face-to-face courses or Zoom learning, you may find our online courses a bit different. Our longer online courses offer a 3D learning experience using methods that mirror the creative process. This is different from the didactic model where an expert lectures a passive audience. 

It’s about learning through doing, testing ideas with practical exercises and sharing work with your peers. You work in a small group of writers, supported by a tutor and moderator, regularly reading and feeding back on the work of others. (We use the social constructivist model of teaching and learning.) This tends to build a close-knit and productive community of disciplined and focused practitioners. 

Because the learning journey may be different to what you expect, we’ve written some notes to help answer questions students often ask.

How is our online learning different?

An online course is a distinct experience and is not designed to replicate face-to-face learning. We know from our decades of experience of teaching that online courses offer many advantages and often faster progression than face-to-face study.

But not all online courses are the same. This isn’t learning by watching pre-recorded video lessons or joining Zoom sessions. While those can play a useful part in a learning journey, they don’t make for good teaching in themselves and can tend to make students a passive consumer rather than an active learner.

On our online courses you join a supportive online learning community, working on practical tasks to tight deadlines in a small group supported by a tutor and moderator. You work through the assignments together, week by week, with plenty of opportunity to ask questions, contribute to vibrant class discussions and engage in meaningful back and forth to discuss ideas, try out concepts, and share your work with participants from all over the world. This builds the trust and person-to-person connection that’s so essential in developing a fulfilling writing practice.

We have extensive experience in teaching online, having set up the world’s first fully online postgraduate writing course. We’ve tried out, tested and tweaked our methods for more than 12 years in recreational, academic and professional training; we know what you need to do in order develop effective skills and an independent practice suited to a rapidly changing world – and that’s what we deliver through our online courses.


What is a writing workshop?

Here, writing isn’t solitary. Our courses are all about getting support from professional writers and tutors as well as a close bunch of peers. Our goal is to help you build up a network of contacts and make life-long connections to aid you whatever you choose to do next in your writing career. 

The primary focus of our writing workshops is to dedicate time to your writing, focusing on feedback and improvements to get your writing to the next level. The content and outcome of the workshops differs depending on which course you choose. 


Do you work with partners? 

Yes, a selection of our courses are delivered in collaboration with partners such as Granta, Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, Jericho Writers, John Yorke Story and New Writing North.


What payment options are available?

You can secure your place on any of our courses with a down payment, then pay the balance in regular monthly instalments. Just choose the down payment option when you book, and we’ll be in touch to arrange your payment plan. If you have any questions about paying in instalments, please get in touch


How does the application process work?

For our advanced level courses, we ask you to submit an application to make sure you’re at the right stage to make the most out of the course. 

Once we receive your application, we’ll review it and get back to you within a few days to let you know the outcome. If we don’t think you’re quite ready for the course you’ve applied for, we may suggest you do another course first or give you some suggestions about where to go next with your writing.


How do I access the course?

Once we’ve confirmed your place on the course, you’ll receive a welcome email from our team with all the information you need. Our welcome packs include everything you need to know about where to go to access the course, all the way to what you can expect once you’ve completed the course.

We host our courses on our VLE (virtual learning environment) which acts as our digital campus. A few days before your course begins, you’ll receive an invite to log in and create your profile on the VLE. 


Can I do more than one course at a time?

We usually recommend you do one course at a time to make the most out of the experience. Most of our courses run a few times a year, so there will normally be opportunities to join a future group once you’ve completed your first course. 

But it really depends on you as a learner and how much time you have to devote to learning. We’re happy to advise on an individual basis – just drop us a line. 


When do I log on?

On most of our courses that’s up to you! There’s no need to log in at a set time to take part – sessions open to a timetable and you have until the end of each session to work through the materials in the online classroom. 

So you can read the tutor notes and listen to the podcasts, watch the videos, analyse extracts, react to prompts and work through mini-exercises at any time of day or night that’s best for you. You can also contribute to discussions on our forums 24/7, so the online classroom feels like a rich and lively shared experience. 

Most people on the course fit learning around their work and caring responsibilities, which is why we teach in this non-synchronous way. It also suits those studying in another language, and offers advantages in terms of accessibility and different learning styles. We ask that you submit your final exercise in each session by the deadline, then read and critique the work of some of your peers.

If there are live Zoom sessions in your course, your moderator will let you know the timing. If you can’t make it, you can send in questions in advance and catch up with the recording afterwards. Past sessions and any recordings remain available throughout the course – and in the alumni area afterwards – so you can revisit any of the learning, revise exercises and chart your progress at any point.


Who are the tutors?

Everyone who teaches on our courses works in the industry and is published in their field. They are also experienced online teachers, award-winning writers and masters of their craft.


What does my tutor do?

Your tutor guides you through the course materials session by session, giving feedback at key intervals, whether as written feedback, podcast recordings, more formal written reports, or as live Q&As on Zoom.

The course materials are regularly revised and developed in light of student responses – both in forum conversations, in work produced on the course, and from our formal survey at the end of each course.


Why can’t I work ahead?

Each course is designed as a slow-burn process because we find that participants progress best when they work to incremental goals. So, we deliberately open sessions one-by-one to keep you focused on one session at a time.

Many people are keen to rush ahead, but it’s important to lay good structural and craft foundations – and the individual session goals are there to make sure you do just this. 

In order to develop it’s important to identify your strengths and weaknesses, and hone your judgement of your ideas and skills. This happens more effectively if you follow the course sequentially and allow yourself gradually to build upon the skills developed in each session.


Why do we have to critique each other?

Peer critiquing is a pedagogically sound method. We know that when students actively engage in critiquing they embed the learning more quickly and soundly – by actively putting those skills into practice. This is why we base our approach to teaching and learning around peer critiquing.

Critiquing others develops focus, self-confidence, good judgement and self-sufficient practitioners who can switch between their ‘creative’ and ‘editorial’ brains. Put simply, it helps you turn a sharper lens on your ideas and develop a keen eye for what works, and what does not. 

It also helps to build a close-knit group you can trust to give you honest and insightful critiques, and support you through common hurdles, from lack of time to writer’s block. And while you can’t take your tutor with you after the course, you can take this group of supportive peers. Many of our alumni are still ‘meeting’ virtually to share their work many years after they completed their original course.


What if no one critiques me?

Many people have busy work and home lives and may not be able to post ahead of a deadline. Wait until the deadline for critiquing is up and, if you still haven’t received feedback, then do approach someone whose work you find interesting and offer to exchange critiques. 

This is also a good way to build the group dynamic: the more people talk to each other, the merrier the class. Do also reach out to your course moderator.


Why should I read other people’s feedback?

It’s extremely valuable to read feedback for fellow participants. The points raised will inevitably be relevant to your own work: if not now, then in the future. And since all feedback is available to everyone and is archived on the site, it’s easy to look back whenever you need to find tips that you can apply to your own work.


How can beginners teach each other?

We know it sounds counter-intuitive, but our decades of experience as well as academic research shows that if we offer the right materials and ask the right questions to a group of learners, the discussions lead you to the learning point within hours or days – even if the whole group is made up of beginners. Where this doesn’t happen (and it’s rare), the tutor will drop in to offer a steer. 

This teaching method is really effective in producing learning that sticks. If the tutor or another expert steps in to give you the ‘right’ answer at the start of the learning process, it tends to close down debate, fixes people in the role of ‘beginner’ and is less likely to hone your ideas and practice.


Is there more feedback in your face-to-face teaching?

In our face-to-face workshops, tutors tend to facilitate group feedback rather than offering their opinions on each individual’s work. Detailed tutor feedback at every stage is more often part of a one-to-one mentoring model.

Our online courses give you detailed personalised feedback (from fellow participants) on your work in every session. All this feedback is archived on the site, so you can refer to it at any time as you progress through the course.


Can I have more tutor feedback?

We’ve built in the amount of feedback you need to progress through your training and achieve its aims and outcomes. And, perhaps more importantly, to equip you with the skills to continue developing once you leave us.

Within academic circles there is continuing debate about tutor feedback – there’s a fine line between making learners dependent on their tutor and giving them the confidence and competence they need to effectively engage in an independent practice. 

If you’d like to work one-to-one with a tutor after the course finishes, you might consider our mentoring scheme, where we pair you with someone working in your field or genre. Do get in touch if you’d like to discuss this option: [email protected]


What does CPD accredited mean?

The CPD Certification Service is the world’s leading and largest independent CPD accreditation organisation. It reaches globally recognised CPD standards and benchmarks for active learning that develops professional skills, competence and career aspirations.

All students who complete one of our CPD certified courses will receive a Certificate of Completion evidencing their learning hours. 


Can I get a bursary/scholarship for a course?

Yes, we work with partners to provide bursary opportunities for a selection of our courses. 

We are currently offering two fully-funded bursaries for our Fiction Foundations course. You can apply to the Penny Batchelor ADCI bursaries here.

We also partner with writing development agency New Writing North to help develop creative writing talent in the North of England with programmes to inspire and engage writers and readers.

If you are based in the North of Tyne, access more information on the bursary here.

What happens after the course?

After your course finishes, we’ll enrol you in our online alumni community – a friendly group of writers supporting each other as they continue to explore and develop their work. 

Access to the alumni area is included in your course fee. You’ll be able to keep accessing all your course materials (there’s no time limit on this) and working with your group in a private online area. You can also join our regular meet-ups and live guest Q&As on Zoom with authors, editors, publishers, agents and other industry professionals.


Still have questions? Find out more about our courses, partnering with us, or just get to know us better, email us at [email protected].

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