Five Reasons to Think Twice about Online TEFL Courses
Type four little letters into Google – T-E-F-L – and you’ll end up with limitless pages of results, websites promising the world through a 120-hour, online TEFL course, at the low, low price of just $1099.99. They throw around official sounding words like ‘certified’ and ‘recognised’, assuring the hopeful teacher that they’ll come out the other end with inside-out teaching expertise.
For many people making a move into the TEFL industry, doing an online course seems like the cheapest and most convenient way to get a foot in the door. And, with the steady demand, some academies will happily hold the proverbial door open for anyone who ticks all the right boxes; native speaker – tick, availability – tick, a general interest – tick.
With that in mind, many people wonder why they should even bother with an actual, recognisable course, when an online one offers up so much convenience. Despite the obvious – the kinds of schools that accept these certificates on face value, are probably not the types of schools you want to be working for – there are a number of reasons why online TEFL courses are stamped with a big, fat ‘avoid’:
1. Dubious regulations
There is no kind of worldwide regulatory body controlling the quality, nor content, of these courses. Literally anyone with a laptop and a broadband connection can write a course, name their company something official-sounding, and take all your hard-earned cash.
While face-to-face accredited courses, like the CELTA or Trinity, are regulated by large universities and institutions, and included on government qualification frameworks worldwide, these online courses aren’t actually recognised by, well, anyone.
Incredibly, some of the top search results for online TEFL bring up pages claiming that their substandard courses are “the CELTA alternative” and “provide students with the exactly the same internationally recognised, validated TEFL Certification.”
Don’t believe everything you read – if you’re really serious about studying to teach English, read job ad requirements, trawl TEFL forums, and don’t fall for a dodgy course written by some guy working out of his mum’s garage.
2. It’s totally uninspiring
While in a classroom you’re surrounded by like-minded teachers and students, an online TEFL course is likely to grant you nothing but a stack of dry PDF files to work your way through. Be it a hundred pages or a thousand, it will probably leave you braindead.
In an accredited course classroom, however, you’ll be able to discuss course content, and receive feedback from both students and tutors. And, you’ll meet real-life industry professionals, invaluable contacts when you begin your new career.
3. You get no experience outside of the computer screen
One of the biggest benefits of face-to-face TEFL courses, such as the CELTA or Trinity, is the real-life, in class teaching practice it gives you. Sure, you may learn the meaning of ‘past participle’ and ‘gerund’ via an online lesson, but that’ll mean nothing when you’re in a classroom; 20 rowdy kids running rings around you, while you try to recall the chapter on ‘discipline’.
4. They’re ridiculously overpriced
Would you pay thousands of dollars for an instructional book? Probably not. But it beggars belief why some are so willing to fork out so much for an online course, especially when they could take a real one for the same amount.
Some of the top search results charge up to a thousand British pounds for 120-hour courses, purportedly ‘guaranteed’ to land you a top job, with a wealth of teaching knowledge on top. You’d be better of forging and printing your own ‘certificate’, it’d bear just as much weight as an online one.
5. You won’t land a good job
The in-house propaganda will tell you that you’re guaranteed a job in some far-off, exotic location by the end of your course – it’s usually half the reason people sign up. Fresh ‘graduates’ of online courses, however, are often hit hard by reality when their ‘qualification’ gets them nowhere.
These days, the best-paying, most secure and reputable academies will require a CELTA or Trinity certificate and/or university degree. Sure, there are some academies who’ll hire teachers certified or not – but the pay will be low, the job security non-existent, and the hours longer than the online course has taught you to handle.
When you should take an online course
Like just about anything in life, there are always exceptions to the rule. Online TEFL-related courses can actually be super helpful if you’re in one of two situations; a) you’re about to take a CELTA or Trinity course or b) you’re already accredited, but need a bit of a refresher.
There are some good CELTA and Trinity-preparatory courses out there that can introduce students to the basic ideas and methodologies behind the syllabus. Jumping into the four-week, intensive course can be extremely daunting – there’s a ridiculous amount of specific terminology and acronyms – so an introductory course could give you a leg-up on day one.
Likewise, if you’re already an accredited teacher but have been out of the industry for a while, Trinity and CELTA refresher courses are also a good way to apply a bit of oil on the joints, and get your braining ticking TEFL again.