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If you have been searching the web or Reddit for the best online TEFL course then you might have found some comments on Reddit (r/tefl) telling you to take the cheapest TEFL course you can get or a CELTA. 

Why is that?

R/tefl is very pro-CELTA and generally anti-online TEFL and anti pretty much any other course besides CELTA or Trinity TESOL.

If you look through any post there related to online TEFL then someone there will say something like "take the cheapest course you can get or a CELTA".


Why do they think that way?

Is there any truth to this advice?

It's a seemingly pragmatic way of looking at TEFL certification. The idea is that to many schools it won't matter if the certificate is a cheapo Groupon course or the university of Toronto's $1000 course run by a recruiter.

It's true, but I'd like to add some more details: a CELTA, the $1200 U of T course, the $39 Groupon course or a fake certificate will look the same to many schools.

But why are you doing this?

Is it just to get a piece of paper that makes it look like you know something?

If so then you are thinking short term.

Ever hear of the marshmallow experiment?

That's one marshmallow not two.

In TEFL one marshmallow is the job and the other marshmallow is having a better year abroad.

Do you think a cheap cert. is a short cut to those things?

It might be a short cut to a job, but it's not a short cut to learning how to teach.

The problem with the mentality "CELTA or the cheapest you can get"

What's wrong with this?

1. It assumes all online courses are the same.

But are they? I understand that many courses look similar on the outside. And I think there are lots of copycats out there, but all the same is a bit dogmatic and just kind of what people do sometimes when they have a bad experience with something.

For example, one person has a bad experience teaching in a hagwon in Korea and then says, "hagwons suck". Well, was it all hagwons or just that one hagwon you worked in? It probably started with an idea that they read that hagwons or online courses suck, then they had a bad experience and it became all.

People do that with all kinds of things: people, races, etc. They make snap judgements.

2. It's mainly focused on chasing the carrot

The carrot in TEFL is the certificate. People suggest taking the cheapest course not because of what you'll learn, but because of what you'll get - a certificate.

3. It assumes CELTA is the best for everybody

I never took a CELTA course although I have met people who have and certainly read a lot online about it. There are definitely a lot of fans of CELTA, but also some pretty dogmatic types too.

And I've read some things that definitely make it sound like it's not for everyone. 

Also I've read quite a few posts on r/tefl by teachers who took the CELTA, but didn't feel very prepared to teach kids.

Here's another:

"Agree!:) I failed Celta mostly because I thought it was the best for me, when actually children were my target group.." - Ksenija Gulina

The problems with cheap or low quality (because sometimes cheap or not a course can be low quality) courses are:

  1. you have big chunks of text to read (or books in a classroom based course)

  2. boring teaching theory and English grammar study

  3. not practical enough

  4. no feedback

  5. no observation

  6. no human interaction

1. You won't retain much of what you read online if you are like most other people

That's what the data says. 

2. Studying teaching theory and grammar is useless most of the time.

This isn't just a problem with TEFL this is a problem with the education industry. Think about all of those classes you have taken in your lifetime.

How useful were they?

I don't know about you, but geometry, calculus, chemistry, biology, and a whole bunch of other classes were totally useless to me.

3. You need a practical course that shows you what to do.

This is the most important thing in a course. Monkey see, monkey do. That cheap course I took on Groupon had ZERO teacher observation.

Well, you can't watch teachers online right?


This is where a lot of the CELTA fanatics are wrong. They are right that observation is important, but their observation is more about being watched by a critic that makes sure you don't deviate from their method.

You can watch teachers online.

It's called video.

And this is why I made a 100 plus how-to videos all shot in classrooms. It's the easiest way to learn. Reading works for some things, but not others.

4. Get feedback from a human

Most online courses are automated and there is no to little communication with a human. It scales and it's easy, but you are missing out on something called human interaction. No one gets it right the first time or remembers everything.

You need to practice it and feedback helps let you know what to correct and work on.

It can also be encouraging.

So the cheapest you can get or a CELTA?

It's a simplistic and extreme point of view that implies there is only one good course and nothing else compares.

A solution 

Teaching was hard for me, especially the first year and a half, but if I knew then what I know now it would have been a lot easier. And I can teach you those things. You might assume that any course would, but you'd be wrong to assume so.

Most courses are going to teach you a whole lot of stuff that doesn't matter. It's going to go in one ear and out the other. You are going to get a bunch of books or if you are online maybe a wall of text.

And then you'll have to answer questions and you'll be racing through that course just like a rat in maze except you won't be chasing the cheese you'll be chasing the certificate.

I took a TESOL course before I taught abroad and that hardly prepared me to teach kids. What I learned in the years to come was that the easiest way to learn wasn't by reading or studying theory it was by watching other teachers.

In the beginning I would waste a lot of time searching online for teaching tips and activities that worked, but I struck out all the time. However, over the years I gradually picked them up and you can too.

So whether you take my course or not remember this: watch other teachers, but keep in mind who you are watching and what their level may be.

Are you already teaching?

Want to have more fun teaching? Want to feel more confident teaching? Want to be able to deal with difficult students?


"I downloaded the first assignment for one of the cheaper courses, and was welcomed with a pretty dense and boring academic article. While educational philosophy is nice, I was looking for practical skills that can immediately be utilized in the classroom...

I have utilized some of his methods and games and have already seen some improvement in the kids' speaking skills and some massive improvement in their behavior."

Dwayne M. 

Or check the box with a cheap course.