Are online TEFL courses valid? Are they worth it? Are they good or bad? Will they be accepted? If you are asking yourself questions like these then you should read this little story:

A 10 year old boy named Griffin Sanders went out for a drive with his 74 year old grandmother and little 4 year old brother in Colorado. As they got onto the highway and reached a speed of about 60MPH his grandmother had a heart attack and passed out at the wheel.

He tried to awaken his grandmother, but couldn’t. He got control of the wheel and then drove the car through oncoming traffic and safely to the side of the road saving himself, his brother, grandmother and all the other drivers on the rode.

When the police arrived on the scene they asked him, “how did you do this?” He said, “Mario Kart”.

The point of that story is that you can learn online. The rigid point of view by some people against online courses that you will learn more about later is that you can't learn from one. But before I go into that let's go back to the question:

Are online TEFL courses worth it?

First we'll look at the problems with online courses and then we'll look at the benefits.

What are the problems with online TEFL/TESOL courses?

First off remember that all online courses are not the same, however here is a potential list of problems.

  • Online courses are not for traditional learners. The traditional classroom environment is absent. Students must be self-driven to succeed. 
  • Some are just text based which makes the information go in one ear and out the other.
  • Some schools won't accept them.
  • It's not regulated and the quality can vary considerably. There is no one accreditation for TEFL. Creating an online course is easier than an on-site course.
  • Feedback may be absent. It depends on the course.
  • Observation is absent. 
  • Cheating may be easier. 

Again these are some potential problems. All courses are not the same, but lets take a closer look at some of these problems.

Will 6 hours of classroom observation in a classroom based course make you or break you?

A lot of the people who make comments against online TEFL courses are proponents of CELTA. Some are snobs and others are pro in-class or just doubt the validity of online courses. Most in-class courses do not offer any more than 6 hours of in-class training.

In-class training is good, yet it's only 6 hours. That may be good training, but that's just the equivalent of a day of work teaching in Korea.

I have taken online courses and on-site courses. While many on-site courses make a big deal about in-class training, an important note is that this in-class training is often done with "pseudo" students.

The students are other people who are taking a TEFL course like you. They are NOT like the students who you will actually be teaching.

The schools that don't accept online courses usually have other preferred qualifications

In my experience teaching in Asia only a few schools won't accept online TEFL courses. I'd say that number is less than 5% of all the jobs out there.

In Busan, Korea the EPIK program requires those who don't have related degrees or experience to have taken an TEFL course with 60 in-class hours.

Why aren't they accepted?

Usually this is because they lack an in-class teaching assessment of 6 hours. The schools that don't accept them are usually some of the more "prestigious" or high-end schools. Although these positions are usually reserved for seasoned teachers with experience and not first time teachers regardless of whatever TEFL/TESOL/CELTA course they took.

These kinds of schools have preferences such as:

  • Experience - extensive experience especially in the country is usually the best qualification.
  • Licensed teachers -  a school may want you to be a licensed teacher in your home country.
  • Master's degrees - a few of the more prestigious schools such as some universities may require you to have a master's degree.

In-class courses and the above qualifications are more common in the Middle East and parts of Europe. Other than that they are accepted in most of Asia.

Online courses aren't for traditional learners

If you enjoy the comforts of the classroom: a teacher and fellow students, then an online course might not be for you. Online learning is best for self-driven and motivated students.

If you think that you will need a lot of support or motivation then take an on-site course.

Online courses that use mostly text are NOT memorable

In fact they are boring...

They are not memorable in the sense that you will not remember what you learn. Some courses use only text to deliver information which can be really boring.

I took one of those cheap Groupon courses and there was no video, audio or interesting graphics. The only images that they used were generic stock photos that were hardly related to the topics being studied.

What are the benefits of an online TEFL course?

I can't speak for all online courses as they are not all the same, but I can speak for ESLinsider's courses which have the following benefits.

  1. Cost. They are cheaper. You'll save money.
  2. Frequency. You can retake it (depending on the course). An in-class course is a one time deal.
  3. Convenience. You can often take them when you want, you don't have to wait and you can start now and take them at your own pace.
  4. They're GREEN! It's all online. Aside from electricity there is no waste or environmental foot print. You won't spend money on gas or transportation. Trees aren't chopped down for paper or books that just end up in the trash.

    I got several big books from the in-class course that I took and like her they weren't useful and they just ended up getting thrown out. I also spent money on gas getting to a city nearby that had a course.

Learn more about the benefits of online TEFL courses.

Problems with CELTA

"Too much material is thrown at the candidate in too little time. That is my biggest concern with a course like the CELTA. Not enough time to digest and really think about what is thrown at you in a month long course." - Hollerich on Reddit

How to take a course

"Learning is cyclic. Take a first pass, review what you know, pause and do something else, take a second pass, pause again." - James Marcus Bach


So as far as finding a job goes it can depend on the school and the course. But online courses are here to stay, they're the wave of the future, and in many ways online TEFL courses can be better.

"It depends on where you want to teach. In the Spanish cities that I’ve taught in most places don’t even ask where you got your certificate, let alone ask to see it. I’ve never known anyone to have a problem with their online certificate. What schools are most interested in is experience." - Jeer on ESLbase

I totally agree with the above statement and I taught in Asia. It's less likely that an online course would be rejected because of its name or brand or whatever. You can read more on that here.

Read Reviews of ESLinsider's Online TEFL Courses