Why are you searching for a 120 hour online TEFL course? I'd guess it's because someone told you that you need it or maybe you heard that those courses were more reputable.

But are they? What is so special about a 120 hour online TEFL course? What happens in those 120 hours?

"The accreditation of a TEFL certificate doesn't matter because no one cares about a 120 hour certificate. Governments and schools just want to see a minimal effort on your part to do something unrelated to your bachelor's degree." - Timemachine2

Well I'd say first that in the case of online TEFL/TESOL courses those hours aren't actually hours. 

What do you mean? I mean that just because it says it's a 120, 140 or even a 160 hours doesn't mean that it will take you that long. 

There are 2 types of online courses

Type 1 is synchronous. This means that the online course takes place at a certain time. Like in-class courses classes tend to be scheduled. I have never heard of this kind of online course with TEFL.

Type 2 is asynchronous. That means that there are no such class times and schedules. If you see "learn at your own pace" courses online then that means these courses are asynchronous. Most online TEFL courses will be this way. 

I have never heard of an online TEFL course doing differently.

So why do they call it a 120 hour course?

The original 120 hour TEFL course

Why is everyone saying that 120 hours is more reputable? This is because more "official" courses like CELTA take place in a classroom. These are typically full-time 4 week programs that run 8 hours a day. 

They are actually close to 120 hours in length.

What about online? Do they schedule classes online where you meet for class? I am not sure about CELTA's online program, but not for all of the online TEFL courses that I have heard about.

All of the online TEFL courses that I am aware of are open courses. You can work on them when you want. This is one of the benefits of online courses. There are no scheduled classes. 

How does an online TEFL course work?

Typically you start by reading and then answer questions based on what you have read. There can be assignments or lesson planning practice. Depending on the course there may also be video or audio as well as text. You may have to maintain a certain grade to progress through the course.

What's so special about a 120 hour course?

Nothing really. Online they typically don't take anywhere close to 120 so called hours.

I completed a 120 hour course on Groupon in less than 8 hours. I didn't actually read everything and if I did it might have taken me double the time. I was curious about Groupon courses and wanted to see what I'd get for $39.

But I am not alone. I found this thread on Reddit about how long online TESOL courses actually take. With a little more research I found out that many courses were like that.

What about reputable courses like the university of Toronto's online TEFL course? Wow, it's from a university so it must be different? That's what I thought too, but after reading a few reviews it doesn't sound that much different than other online TEFL courses.

"When they said 120 hours they actually mean 120 lessons some of which actually take an hour and some that take 10-15 minutes." - Throwaway10

What they said on Quora, "Typically, one hour of course time is based on student averages, and does not solely equate with the time spent in front of the computer." - Christie Vantol

There are no actual meeting times.

It's just for show and marketing they don't mean anything

Again there are no hours so why else would they be telling you that you need 120 hours. Well, I look at it like this... In-class courses like CELTA are more reputable and official, so I think the online courses want to LOOK more official by saying their course is a 120 hours.

And maybe it has something to do with money too since there are 20, 60, 80, 120, etc. hour courses. They can charge more money for 120 hour course than they can a 20 hour course.

From a TEFL provider's website

"If you’re thinking, “But can I get a job with an online TEFL course?”, the answer lies in the 120 hours. This is the all-important number you need to know. As long as you have a certificate of a TEFL course which is 120 hours, employers will not be worried about where you did those hours, as long as you’ve done them."

That wasn't my experience.

From my point of view it's the TEFL course providers that are telling you that you need a 120 hour course. But they are basically just middle men to teaching abroad. They are trying to get you there so to speak, but they won't be there when you get there.

Remember there are no official rules for TEFL. There is no one accreditation.

And many TEFL course providers tell lies and half-truths to get you to buy.

So what about employers?

That's the reason why you're thinking of taking a course right?

It depends on the employer. Some employers don't care, don't know or maybe just believe the lie too. They might have heard that 120 hours is more reputable too.

But speaking from my experience teaching in Asia... I can say that most employers don't actually care about "hours", the name brand or whether it's a TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certificate.

I took a hybrid course that was 2 days in a classroom and the rest take home. At the end of 2 days they gave me what they said was a 60 hour certificate. It took no more than 14 hours in a classroom to actually get it. 

The certificate didn't actually say the hours on it either. The rest of the course was take home work with an exam at the end. Had I finished that I would have received a 120 hour certificate. But it was so boring (teaching theory & reading from a large boring book) I just left for Taiwan to find work. 

Over the years I have applied to hundreds of jobs and only one ever asked me about how many hours the course was.

The qualifications most employers really prefer

Sure there are ones out there that do, but they are in the minority. And remember to work in high-end schools you'll need experience - which aside from the basic requirements is really the best qualification to have most of the time.

Conclusion

As far as I am aware of a 120 hour online TEFL course is a lie because there is no such thing in reality. You won't spend 120 hours watching a class online. Maybe there's one that could take you that long, but the following folks said their 120, 150 and 160 hour online TEFL courses took them an average of maybe 20 hours or less.