Wondering if online TEFL courses are good or bad? Or maybe you're wondering how good are they? Well, it depends. It depends on you and it depends on the course.

Here's a quick list of the good:

  • Convenience
  • Lower cost
  • Work at your own pace

A quick list of the bad:

  • Quality varies from course to course
  • No classroom
  • No teacher

Before we get into the good let's talk more of the bad...

Some people like the cynics on Reddit think online TEFL courses suck. Some say certificates from those online courses aren't worth the paper they are printed on.

It's a little cliche.

But there is some truth to it.

And why do they say those things? 

Some people are traditional learners, CELTA snobs, pro in-class courses or some may have had a bad experience with an online one.

From my point of view the main problem with most online TEFL courses is the method of delivery.

They are boring. 

They are boring because they are mostly text based.

People read 20-28% of the text on a page

The problem with text is that it is not memorable. People don't read text or to put it more accurately most people only read a small percentage of the text on any given page.

I remember when I first started off teaching. I would scan the web and look for stuff that worked: activities and ideas for classes. But I would waste a lot of time doing that and I had very little success. 

It was that struggle that led to the creation of ESLinsider and the how-to videos.

Now video is a different ball game.

HALF OF YOUR BRAIN IS DEVOTED TO VISION

Monkey see, monkey do. If you don't have a visual then learning how to teach English is going to be way harder. 

http://www.seyens.com/humans-are-visual-creatures/

 

Visuals are faster & more memorable

According to Dr. Lynell Burmark:

“…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about seven bits of information (plus or minus 2) […]. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”

Most online TEFL/TESOL courses are text-based. That's why you probably won't remember it or much of it.

It's not just "online" courses either. It's words and really the only things that I remembered from the in-class course that I took were the activities that we did. I didn't remember the lectures. I didn't remember the teaching theory.

Like he said they went in one ear and out the other.

You don't want to sound like her...

"...it kind of made me nervous to teach there. All I have is an online TEFL that I forget most of." - thedan633

Most cheap courses on Groupon are going to be text based.

Or her...

"I finished the entire program in 3 days and retained like 5% of the information." - woobv

Read more research on online TEFL courses.

Why the things you think that matter now won't matter at all

You may be concerned whether or not your course will be accepted, or if it's legit or reputable. But those things don't matter much. Getting a job is just the beginning. You can get your foot in the door with an online TEFL or without one somewhere, but after you are in what are you going to do?

So does video automatically make a course better?

Not necessarily.

It depends on what the videos are. If they are of a person lecturing in front of a camera then probably not much, but if they are instructional videos showing you how to do something in a real classroom then, YES!

"Real" is an important caveat. Many on-site courses offer training that is not in a "real" classroom. These are mock classrooms that are unlike the classrooms that you will be teaching in.

"Some of the acting is a bit dodgy in the observation units, but for me this made it funnier and more entertaining. I could still get the point of what they were saying, but it was often a little over the top." - Stacey Kuyf

But wait isn't video just passive?

Kind of, but it's a better way to absorb instructionals. How many how-to videos have you watched on Youtube? Who reads the manual? Also another point of the course is to supplement the video with interactive media and questions.

Even if you are in a classroom course you will be just passively watching for the most part. This isn't much different from watching a video. 

With a video you can control the pace, you can press rewind and that is one of the benefits of online TEFL courses. If you are on-site you can't do that.

Cheating is common

Another problem with online courses is that cheating can be common. Do you know those blue search related queries on the bottom of Google search result pages?

Well, those are based on the searches that users are doing. Here are some that I found:

  • tefl express course answers
  • tefl express answers
  • tefl online test answers
  • ittt online course final test answers

Those are a few brand name searches for courses by iTTT, TEFL Express, and TEFL Online (Bridge TEFL). Perhaps the searcher's intent in the later could be "online TEFL". 

They are looking for answers to the course, but the answers were there in the course. But as stated before people only read 20-28% of the text on the page.

Which of the following examples do you like best? 

Here are several examples of how information can be delivered online. They are all similar in that they will tell you how to prepare a lesson with the PPP style, however they are different in how they deliver it.

Example 1

This is a kind of an extreme example, but I see some people write like this online sometimes. You probably wouldn't find a course that does this, but you never know...

Step 1. Warm up. In this step you want to draw your kids in. Here we use a fun activity called "Teacher Says" that gets the students motivated and focused. Here are some warm-up activities and icebreakers. Step 2. Presentation In this step you want to present the material to the students. It can be vocabulary, sentences, numbers, or Q&A. You can teach them the meaning of the word by using body language, pictures, synonyms, opposites, and kinds of. You can have the students repeat the content (vocab or sentences) after you 2-3 times. Step. 3 Practice In this step you want to practice the material. This is a good time to do that using a game or activity. The most common kinds of games to use in this part of the lesson are vocabulary and activities for sentences. Step 4. Production Here you show the students how to use the language. You show them how to apply the language to their lives. Step 5. Review In this part of the lesson we use a TPR activity to review the material. Ending on a fun note can be a good idea to.

Isn't that horrible? How far did you get before you quit?

Example 2

I'll try to do a better job with this one.

Step 1. Warm up

In this step you want to draw your kids in. Here we use a fun activity called "Teacher Says" that gets the students motivated and focused. Here are some warm-up activities and icebreakers.

Step 2. Presentation

In this step you want to present the material to the students. It can be vocabulary, sentences, numbers, or Q&A. You can teach them the meaning of the word by using body language, pictures, synonyms, opposites, and kinds of.

You can have the students repeat the content (vocab or sentences) after you 2-3 times.

Step. 3 Practice

In this step you want to practice the material. This is a good time to do that using a game or activity. The most common kinds of games to use in this part of the lesson are vocabulary and activities for sentences.

Step 4. Production

Here you show the students how to use the language. You show them how to apply the language to their lives.

Step 5. Review

In this part of the lesson we use a TPR activity to review the material. Ending on a fun note can be a good idea to.

Example 3

O.k. Here is the final example.

 

Step 1. Warm up

In this step you want to draw your kids in. Here we use a fun activity called "Teacher Says" that gets the students motivated and focused. Here are some warm-up activities and icebreakers.

Step 2. Presentation

In this step you want to present the material to the students. It can be vocabulary, sentences, numbers, or Q&A. You can teach them the meaning of the word by using body language, pictures, synonyms, opposites, and kinds of.

You can have the students repeat the content (vocab or sentences) after you 2-3 times.

Step. 3 Practice

In this step you want to practice the material. This is a good time to do that using a game or activity. The most common kinds of games to use in this part of the lesson are vocabulary and activities for sentences.

Step 4. Production

Here you show the students how to use the language. You show them how to apply the language to their lives.

Step 5. Review

In this part of the lesson we use a TPR activity to review the material. Ending on a fun note can be a good idea to.

Which of those 3 examples did you like the best?

I think most of you would choose option 3.

Conclusion

Have you ever heard the saying, "Tell me and I'll forget. Show me and I'll remember. Involve me and I'll learn." So if I tell you how to get to that store you might not remember. But if I draw you a map, you will get there. And if I walk you there that would be even easier.

Translated that means reading and lecturing is boring and you are more likely to forget it. But if someone shows you how (video or in person) to do something then you'll remember. 

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