As the number of teachers increases, the TEFL industry becomes more demanding. Although the demand for teachers of English as a Foreign Language is very high, securing a job that offers good work conditions and competitive rates of pay can be challenging. For this reason, it is important to invest in training and professional development.
While it is still possible to get hired as an EFL teacher without any qualifications, there are various reasons why you should consider attending and completing a TEFL course. Whether you choose online or face-to-face, a TEFL course will lay the foundation of your teaching knowledge. It will guide you to develop your classroom management skills, language knowledge, and teaching methods. In short, your initial TEFL training will give you the tools to step into your classroom (online or not) with confidence.
In recent years, more and more aspiring teachers are considering taking online TEFL qualifications, instead of traditional classroom-based courses. It is often difficult to compare the two options and making a choice between the two can become confusing.
Let’s clarify a few points on how online TEFL courses work:
1. Convenience and Flexibility
Most people are now familiar with distance learning. It allows anyone to develop their skills (or learn new ones!) from the comfort of their homes, day or night. Just imagine, despite your busy everyday life, you would be able to attend your TEFL course and obtain your teach English abroad certification in Canada at a pace that suits you!
Needless to say, traditional in-person courses are not as accessible. This is especially true if you work full time or have a busy family life. As well as time spent commuting, the money to get you to and from your course location can have a serious impact on most people’s budget, making it a difficult obstacle to overcome.
As you might have guessed, an online TEFL course is cheaper than a classroom-based one, not only because the commute is non-existent, but also because the provider does not have as many overhead expenses.
If you are interested in working abroad, you might be able to find schools that train you for free as long as you accept to work for them on completion of your course. This will require you to relocate, as their courses are delivered in-person. Avoid online courses that promise ‘free certification’ that come without any employment conditions, as they are likely to be worthless.
The syllabus and the content of either type, of course, are very similar, if not identical. In a TEFL course you will learn how to create effective lesson plans and learning materials, teach language skills and grammar, manage a classroom, and it will also help you develop your language awareness.
What an online course lacks, compared to a face-to-face one, is the human component. Interacting with and learning from other course participants is an invaluable experience. To bridge this gap, many online course providers set up forums where trainees can bounce ideas off each other, exchange teaching tips, and support each other.
Online TEFL courses range from 20 to 250 hours of instruction. A 20-hour option could be tempting, as it is the quickest and cheapest, but it won’t make you stand out from the crowd in the eyes of a potential employer. To give yourself a good chance at getting hired, you should invest time, money, and effort in a 120-hour course. This is the minimum required by most language schools across the globe.
While you search the web for the TEFL course that suits you, check if they are accredited by a governing body. Although most courses are, it is easy to be lured into courses that are not legit and, therefore, useless from an employment perspective.
5. Classroom Practice
Not every online course offers classroom practice, which is usually around 20 hours, but this is a key component and is the most important feature of a face-to-face TEFL course. Note: some employers require their teachers to have a qualification that includes classroom practice. As a trainee teacher, there are multiple advantages to practicing your skills as you develop them. Classroom practice can help you:
- stand in front of a group of students with confidence
- feel the buzz and enjoy your students’ learning progress
- deal with unexpected situations
- give you a real sense of classroom atmosphere
- avoid the shock of your first day in the classroom
- learn the importance of spatial awareness.
The way online classroom practice is organized depends on the provider of the TEFL course you choose.
6. Career Support
While many in-person courses don’t put much emphasis on this service, most online courses have their own career support platform down to a tee. As well as offering advice on writing your CVs or cover letters, they often advertise job vacancies as they are in contact with different schools abroad.
Tip 1: During your application process, it could be useful to suggest one of your tutors as a reference, but remember to ask their permission first!
Tip 2: When you land an interview, search for suitable interview questions (and ideal answers!) and role-play your job interview with a friend, or in front of a mirror.
While providing the same (or similar) course content, online TEFL courses work differently from their face-to-face counterparts. Convenience, flexibility, and cost might influence your choice, but other aspects are far more important to take a TEFL course worth your while. On top of your preference list should be courses that offer 120-hour instruction, 20-hour classroom practice, and post-certificate career support, especially those that hold an external accreditation.