Now are you thinking of taking an online TEFL course? One of the problems with online education is that many courses are not engaging. They are boring.

One of the reasons why these courses are boring is that they are predominately just text based with knowledge check types of questions. There's a lot of textual content and very little context.

The problem with text is that people don’t typically read much online and they don’t remember much of what they read because it’s boring.

"All I have is an online TEFL that I forget most of." - thedan633

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

Think about it.

How often do you read a whole article online from beginning to end? If you are like most people then you only skim and scan for answers to the questions or whatever it is you are looking for.


People typically only read 20-28% of a page online

According to some studies people only read 20-28% of the words on a page. So if you only read that much then how much do you think you will remember?

If you are new to teaching and you haven’t done it yet then many of the concepts that you would learn in an online course will remain abstract unless you can see them in action.

The best way to remember what you learn is through visuals and not with just words that are spoken or read.


If I say the word “monkey” what comes to mind?

Do you imagine the letters m-o-n-k-e-y? Probably not. You probably imagine something brown and furry that looks like a monkey.

Remember monkey see, monkey do?

They remembered 70% of 10,000 images

Here’s another example…

There was a famous study done by Lionel Standing in 1973. He took individuals and showed them 10,000 pictures for 5 seconds each for 5 days. 5 days later he wanted to see how many people could remember.

He showed the people images they had seen and ones they hadn’t. People remembered 70% of the images they had seen.

One of the basic findings of this study was that…

In terms of memory images were superior to words spoken or read.

Certainly there are times when text can be helpful. Text is not without value. However, in my experience it’s way easier to learn how to teach English by watching other experienced teachers.

If you didn’t know some people criticize online TEFL courses and think that they are worthless. Why is that? Well, there are different reasons, but one of those arguments is that there is no observation and you are not in a classroom.

Now online you can’t sit in the back of a classroom and watch other teachers, but you can watch instructional how-to videos that basically mimic doing that.

And if the students in the videos are similar to the students that you will be teaching then you will be better off compared to if your students are actually pretend students like yourself which is very common in classroom based TEFL courses.

Now does that mean that all videos are going to be good?

No, of course not.

It depends. Essentially you want to watch other good teachers teach the same or similar students that you are going to teach. So short and sweet instructional videos will be much better than long boring lecture videos.

For example, if you are going to be teaching kids in Asia then don't watch adults teach other adults.

Reading online vs. reading a book

In regards to reading at least one study 2013 in Norway shows that students who read on paper remembered more of what they read. 

So if you are thinking cheapo online course vs. reading a book then based on that study I'd say the book wins. But reading a book vs. instructional videos? Well, would you rather read the instruction manual or have someone show you how to do it?

I think there is a reason why Youtube is so popular.

Your brain can process images and video faster

According to a study by MIT your brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.

Images and visuals are faster. The reptilian part of your brain can process images in an instant. As a baby you could process visuals with your eyes long before you could process language.

Language is learned and it’s not fast it’s slow. So while it’s possible to read and learn online it will probably be slower, less fun, and you’ll remember less.

Some studies claim that video is 60,000 times faster than text

Language is learned. You came into this world without a knowledge of language and language is dictated by your environment. But all humans have the capacity from a very early age to see and process images without language and that ability is universal.

Vision is man's greatest sense.

Here's information about a study that claims we can process visuals 60,000 times faster.

The benefits of video

  • You control the pace
  • You can rewind and/or watch them again
  • Learn bit-by-bit
  • Context (not found in text)
  • Mimics actually being in a classroom
  • Your brain is 50% visual
  • It's faster, easier and more memorable than reading

Now if you are debating whether to take an online or onsite TEFL course then one thing you won't be able to do is control the pace. With video you can watch them again to reinforce skills.

And unlike an intense course like CELTA you aren't overwhelmed with information.

Most people will agree that observing other teachers is one of the best ways to learn. You can do that in a classroom or you can do that with video.

Aside from some birds humans have the strongest sense of vision out of all living creatures.

As stated above with several different examples, images and video are processed faster and are more memorable.

Visually engaging TEFL courses

ESLinsider’s courses are visually engaging and you’ll learn practical teaching tools for the classroom. You’ll be able to see right into both public and private school classrooms in East Asia.

Online content should also be in bite sized chunks for optimum retention. You should be able to engage and interact with it.

Some things you need for a successful online TEFL experience:

  • Video so you can learn by watching.
  • Interaction so you tune in.
  • Bite-sized chunks of information so you can process it.
  • Feedback on writing (also helps memory)
  • Context which is an environment that is similar to or the same as the one you will be teaching in.

Content is delivered in bite sized chunks so you won’t be overwhelmed with information. I recommend the advanced course. You’ll learn a lot more because you’ll actually remember it.

You’ll be better prepared for your job, you’ll have less stress and since you’ll enjoy teaching more you’ll have a better year teaching abroad. If you are already teaching abroad then you’ll find that teaching becomes easier and more fun.