What does an online tefl course involve? What is it like? This post takes a close look at the content from ESLinsider's online TEFL courses

If you are thinking about teaching English abroad and taking a course this will give you a pretty good idea about what you are going to learn in it. There are several courses at the moment. Currently there is a basic course, an advanced course and a course focused on classroom management.

Formally there was a 20, 60 and 120 hour course. These courses have been renamed to a "Basic" course and an "Advanced" course. The 60 hour course was discontinued. 

However, the outline of the former 60 hour course is used here as an example. This outline is similar to the other courses as well.

The courses are essentially built from the same foundation, however the 120 hour (Advanced) course contains more content, quizzes and assignments.

"I wish I would have taken this course BEFORE I started teaching here three years ago. The methods and insights given in ESL Insider's 120 hour TEFL course could have saved me a lot of grief and disappointment. Now I am optimistic about starting a new school year armed with better lessons and a realigned perspective. Thank you, ESL Insider!" - Dolly M.

Here is a video that describes what the course content is like

This is a screen recording that describes and shows what the course is like. However, keep in mind that the course has since been updated since this was made.


You can check the course page for the latest updates. This video is a little dated. There is currently a basic and an advanced (formerly 120 hour course) course as well as some interactive content and fun quizzes to see if these courses are for you or not.

This is the "former" 60 hour online course outline/syllabus, which is similar to the Basic and Advanced course outline

These screen shots will give you an idea of what is involved in a TEFL course. This is similar to the 120 hour course, but minus some content, assignments and quizzes.

Topics 1-6 online TEFL course outline

  • Start - This is an introduction to the course. You'll notice that there is a blue link for "Start Here" in this topic. The other topics will be blue as well when you finish correctly the section before it.

  • Teaching methods - In this part of the course you will learn different methods for teaching language. Again as you can see in the screen shot this link is grey. When you complete the introduction it will open and be blue.

  • The teacher as a public speaker - Here you will learn how to speak publicly as a teacher. You will learn about how to best use your body language to teach your students.

  • Learning styles - Here you will learn about 3 different learning styles. These will include common beliefs and misconceptions about them.

  • Lesson planning - Here you will learn how to plan lessons using two different styles of lesson planning that works for both beginners and adults.

  • Presenting language - Learn how to present new language to your students such as vocabulary, phrases, sentences, etc.

Topics 7-13 online TEFL course outline

  • Teaching listening - Learn how to teach listening skills to your students.

  • Teaching writing - Learn how to teach writing skills to your students.

  • Teaching reading - Learn how to teach reading to your students.

  • Teaching speaking - Learn how to teach speaking to your students. This one is especially important as most ESL schools tend to focus more on conversation.

  • Teaching pronunciation + phonics - Learn how to teach pronunciation and phonics to both adults and children. Phonics are not just limited to children. This section includes a midterm review.

  • Grammar - Learn the labels of the language and how to describe language especially to adults and higher level learners.

Topics 14-17 online TEFL course outline

  • Teaching with games, activities and songs - Learn how to keep your classes both entertaining and educational. People learn better when they are having fun and they are interested. This is important for all levels and it is especially important for children.

  • Classroom problems - Learn about common classroom problems and how to deal with them.

  • Classroom management - Learn how to manage your classroom and students. This section is especially important. Managing a classroom and students can be tough especially when you don't know what you are doing!

  • Resume writing + culture shock - Learn how to write your resume for teaching ESL and about culture shock. Having a polished resume that stands out is very important when looking for a job.

  • Final exam - This is a final exam for the whole course.

  • TEFL certificate - This is issued after successful completion of the final exam.

So now you know what the outline of the course is like.

How does this online TEFL course work?

Once you log in you'll be able to start the course. There is no time limit to the course so you can work on it as you like. 

These courses require the student to maintain an 80% or higher throughout the course and an 85% or higher on the exams (midterm review and final). Basically you will be presented a lesson and then have to answer questions and do assignments about it. 

Inside the topics you will find content that is made from text, videos, PDF's and audio. Then there will be multiple choice, true and false, matching and fill in the blank questions that follow. This makes it interactive. Here's a piece from the lesson planning topic.


The "Advanced" 120 hour course includes 3 lesson planning assignments and feedback on those assignments (lesson plans). 

An example of interactive online TEFL course content

Here is a sample of some of the content used in the course.

a video from the course

So after you watch the video you will then answer the questions on the following page. These questions can be Q&A, true or false, fill in the blank, etc.

A question in the course

Video content

This course uses a lot of video. These videos were filmed in public and private schools primarily in South Korea. If you are planning on teaching there or somewhere else in Asia these videos will provide great context to the environment that you will be teaching in. Some of the videos include footage of adult classes, but most of the videos are of young learners aged from about 6-14 years old.


Above is a how-to video that follows the "PPP" method of lesson planning. It was shot in a kindergarten in Busan, Korea. This video breaks down the lesson into 5 parts and uses a lot of activities to keep the students interested, active and learning. People have short attention spans and children have even shorter ones!

Teaching young learners is the largest part of the market in Asia for teaching jobs. You can teach virtually all ages, yet most jobs are for teaching children. Most TEFL/TESOL courses focus more on teaching adults. Most of the content in this course can be applied to both adults and children, but there is more of a focus on teaching children.

"I took the course last winter and I loved it! I looked at over 30 different courses online and at local schools and I kept coming back to this course - and I'm very glad I did! This course was thorough and I felt very prepared as I completed the course. Ian's new book is a great course companion guide for keeping the lessons at the forefront of your mind while teaching ESL.

I look forward to taking the 1000 hour continuing ed course and I will always tell others that this is the must take course for preparing to teach English as a second or foreign language. Impressive and not overpriced as so many out there are." - Sandra's review

You will need to maintain an 80% or higher through the course. If you don't then you will not be able to proceed to the next topic.

So that's a close look at what the courses are like. You can see the course outline for yourself after you register and log in.

Online TEFL course FAQ

How long does it take?

What is the duration of the course? Does a 20 hour course entail 20 hours of work? It could, but it depends on you and the pace you work at.

If you work hard on it it's possible to complete the 20 hour course within a couple of days, the 60 hour course within a week and the 120 hour course within 2 weeks.

How many hours do I need?

Typically more hours equals more thorough training. Some employers may not care much about that as they are not always required. However, in terms of TEFL courses those greater than 100 hours are considered by some to be better and are more widely accepted.

Is it hard?

You can start it right now. It's not meant to be especially difficult. You do have to maintain an 80-85% through the course, but the material is in front of you and you can retake it until you get it right.

Do you have other questions?

If you have any other questions about the course you can leave them in the comments below. You can also find ESLinsider's course FAQ here and another extensive, but more general TEFL course FAQ here.

Does this look interesting to you?

If it does I'll invite you to come and take a closer look. Here are some things that you will get soon after you log in.

  • Advice from teachers in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan on video.
  • How to find your best place teaching abroad.
  • A detailed look at salaries for teachers in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
  • An understanding of the different kinds of schools that you can work in.


  • Is your English good enough to teach abroad?
  • And are these courses for you?

Yes, I want to learn let's do it!