Veteran science and environmental writer Tom Yulsman has teamed up with the Poynter Institute’s online News University and with Internews on a highly practical and much-needed “Covering Climate Change” online course for reporters.

The soon-to-be-released course is aimed at giving “non-expert reporters and citizen journalists a firm grounding” in climate change science and policy, NewsU says in some still-draft language introducing the course. “You won’t necessarily walk away as an expert environmental journalist,” it says, although a perusal of the work-in-progress product suggests even more experienced reporters can use it for a practical refresher. It’s also likely to be very useful for academics teaching science and/or environmental journalism.

The backers say reporters should soon be able to access the free course (online registration needed through NewsU) and can expect to spend “about six hours” working their way through the lessons. Users can take the multi-part sections – the Science, the Policies, Exploring Coverage, Reporting the Story, Writing the Story, and Resources – in whatever order they prefer. They need not take the course in one sitting, but can return to it over and over. A series of “quick polls” tests their knowledge along the way.

The folks at Poynter and Internews apparently had hoped to launch the online course prior to the start of the December international climate change meetings in Copenhagen. That may or may not happen, but the course itself will be helpful well beyond those talks for reporters wanting to improve their coverage, and Yulsman, a University of Colorado associate professor and co-director of its Center for Environmental Journalism, manages throughout to keep a sharp focus on the most responsible climate change science.