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Get TEFL certified online or onsite?

In this article, we will look at the core differences in taking your English teaching certification online or in the classroom.

Let’s begin with the bricks and mortar option of onsite training:

Onsite (in-house, residential) courses are sometimes preferred because they provide face-to-face components and you will have the opportunity to practice your teaching abilities in a classroom setting, and often teaching actual students of English (although this isn’t always the case.)

These courses are almost always full-time commitments – typically for 4 weeks – and it will be your responsibility to arrange a flight to your onsite TEFL training location of choice. Such courses are offered throughout the world, so English teachers-to-be tend to choose a location where they then plan to settle for a while to kick-off their teaching career.

The main benefits of taking one of these courses are the hands-on teaching practice, the social element, the ability to get to know your future home before jumping in at the deep end and the fact that it should be relatively easy for you to find a job in the city after course completion (yes, courses always take place in a city and never, as sometimes advertised, on a beach).

The drawbacks of these courses are that essentially, you will be taking a month off without pay and the costs of the course can quickly add up: flights, accommodation, course fees in excess of $1,500 USD and sometimes hidden course costs in the form of administration charges. Plus, be prepared to spend more on socializing in your first month as you come to grips with a new currency in your new expat lifestyle.

One additional negative to consider here is that no one residential class group is the same. You might get lucky and find yourself in a TEFL classroom with other like-minded people, or you could discover on day one – after forking out a fortune to enroll – that you simply don’t get on with the other people on the course you will be studying with intensively for the next 4 weeks.

However, another positive with this course option is that programs are often run by well-meaning support staff who will be there – in person – should you have any major existential crises.

Now onto the online, distance learning TEFL certification course option:

Online teaching English course study options are growing increasingly popular with people who want to skip the time and financial constraints of the more traditional residential course option and who often feel that a self-guided course offers them much more flexibility.

The major benefit of taking your English teaching certification online is that you can choose when you want to study, and you can (within reason) study at your own pace.

Online TEFL courses retail at a fraction of onsite ones – often no more than $300 USD – and avoid the residential course scenario of studying and trying to cope with how to assimilate into a new culture abroad at the same time.

The main drawback of these courses is that even if you have a personal online tutor, it will never be a substitute for in-person, face-to-face support.

So which course type is more internationally recognized?

The simple answer: they both are.

Employers will rarely ask whether your TEFL was acquired online or onsite (no matter what any residential course owner will tell you) and both hold equal weight in the English teaching job community.

What is important to note here is that no TEFL course – online or onsite – will fully prepare you for the world of work as an English teacher overseas. Do you really think you can learn everything about TEFL on a 4-week onsite or 120-hour online course? Of course you can’t. Both course options provide a solid foundation but the real training begins once you start your actual teaching job. So while it is necessary to get TEFL certified, these courses shouldn’t be seen as providing a means to an end.

In conclusion, we recommend that you weigh up both options. Perhaps you need a helping hand to walk you physically through the learner experience, or perhaps you feel confident enough that you can do it on your own and save yourself an unnecessary dent to your bank account in the process.


Written by Mia Williams for Trusted TEFL Reviews.


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