Are online TEFL/TESOL courses good or bad? Are they worth it? Are they valid? Will they be accepted?
It depends on the course. Some courses may not be worth what they are charging. Some may not be effective in terms of training. Some may be expensive and others cheaper.
It also depends on the employer or school. Will employers accept these? Most employers in Eastern Asia will accept online courses. Only a few will not (see point 4 below).
This article focuses more on whether they are worth it in terms of finding a job. But at the end of this article you can find out how they can be better than in-class courses and if they are worth it from an educational perspective.
1. CELTA offers an online course
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.
If CELTA is offering online training then it can't be so bad.
2. Online courses are the wave of the future
Not that you should necessarily do what everyone else is doing, but most universities offer online courses these days. It's becoming increasingly more common and online courses are not limited to "Debuy" also known as Devry, or the University of Phoenix. Ivy league schools such as Cornell, Harvard, and Columbia now have online courses.
3. How long are you planning on teaching abroad for?
If you are in it for the long run (for a career) then you might want to take a CELTA course. But if you are like most ESL teachers then you are only planning on doing it for a year or two. And if you are only planning on doing it for a short period of time why invest a lot of money in an in-class course?
4. The schools that don't accept online courses usually have other preferred qualifications
In Korea the EPIK program requires those who don't have related degrees or experience to have taken an TEFL course with 20 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 more "prestigious" or high-end. 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 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. Other than that they are accepted in most of Asia.
5. What are the benefits of an online course?
I can't speak for all online courses as they are not the same, but I can speak for ESLinsider's courses which have the following benefits.
- Cost. They are cheaper. You'll save money.
- Frequency. You can retake it (depending on the course). An in-class course is a one time deal.
- 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.
- 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.
"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
"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. It could be rejected because it wasn't enough hours. You can read more on that here.