Which Online TEFL Course Should I take? Criteria To Consider Before Choosing

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Which online TEFL course should I take? I don't have all the answers. I know it's tough deciding sometimes. I have only taken two TEFL/TESOL courses: one online and one in class.

You have a dazzling amount of options. I don't even know how many, but lets say over 50. That's too many so how can you decide?

So I put this little guide together so that it might help you. It's based on my experience.

What criteria should you use to choose a course?

You're new to TEFL so you are probably wondering a lot! I see that there are 2 basic reasons to take a TEFL course.

  1. Find a job
  2. To learn how to teach

I think a lot of newcomers and courses themselves place an emphasis on number 1. At this point you are more concerned about getting started teaching (by finding a job) and getting there.

So based on that criteria a course that is "reputable", "accredited" or that claims to be "internationally recognized" sounds appealing. 

However, those words which are commonly used by TEFL course providers are ambiguous.

I took a course that claimed to be reputable, internationally recognized and accredited. However when I got to Taiwan I learned that those things didn't really matter.

One I didn't need a TEFL/TESOL certificate to get a visa. My degree and experience (lack of it at the time) was more valuable.

Two I didn't learn or retain much of anything that actually helped me to teach the kids that I was teaching in Taiwan.

So what I learned from that was that number 2 - the actual teaching and not the job was way more valuable. And I think all of the courses out there will tell you that their training is good and that it will prepare you to teach abroad.

And it may.

But it might not do that very well. The best training will focus on training you to teach the students that you are going to be teaching. 

Do you know who you are going to be teaching?

There are problems with online courses because many are not any good or engaging.

The best way for me to learn was by watching other teachers. It wasn't by reading or searching online. So I made a lot of instructional videos shot in the classrooms where I was working and then later I started to make courses especially focused on teaching the students who I taught.

Now here are some factors to consider that may help you choose an online TEFL course.

If you want the cheapest and easiest

Go to Groupon. They have the cheapest courses online. But if you want quality then you are in the wrong place. These courses are cheap for a reason. 

These are not especially engaging courses. There typically is no feedback. These are mostly text based courses where you will read and answer questions.

The problem is that you aren't likely to remember much of what you learn.

If you want the most expensive

Take the University of Toronto course.

If you want to remember what you learn

You need a course that is visually appealing (media rich) that will include a lot of video of your target students (more on that later). Long term access helps here too.

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

If you want the most reputable course

Take the CELTA. It's accredited by the University of Cambridge. CELTA does offer a blended course, however it's not totally online. You will have to take some of it in class.

If you want long term access

You have fewer options as some popular online courses have access that only lasts 2-3 months (i-to-i, myTEFL). There is a "company" that offers 12 months access, but any TEFL course that uses the words "college" or "university" when they have nothing to do with being a university is scammy. 

Long term access offers more flexibility and also helps if you want to review material when you start teaching. If you take a course that only offers 2-3 months access then by the time you actually start teaching you won't be able to review it.

ESLinsider's Advanced course offers unlimited long term access.

If you want to teach adults 

Then take a CELTA or maybe any other course unless they say it's for "young learners". But as far as I can tell most courses including the two I took focused more on adults.

Now many will say that what's in a course like CELTA or any other course will carry over to teaching children, but that is only partially true. Some stuff will not apply.

If you are going to teach children

Then take a course targeted at teaching children or "young learners". ESLinsider's courses focus more on teaching children (especially in East Asia).

If you want simple and practical

Then I recommend ESLinsider. It was created by someone who started off probably like you with an unrelated degree (in art). Theory and studying grammar definitions went in one ear and out the other.

As mentioned before I learned best by watching other teachers.

If you want popular

Then you could take i-to-i, Bridge TEFL, or maybe myTEFL.

Or search for:

  • online tefl course reviews

And keep this in mind.

If you are a savvy rebel

Don't take one. DIY.

If you want real classroom instruction

You don't get that online. Take an in-class course and remember that it is usually mock or pretend classroom instruction.

If you are still confused

Research and then divide your choices into 3 piles of paper. Choose what looks like the best one for each pile based on the criteria you used to choose it in the first place. Then take your last 3 and choose one. 

If you want to teach in ____ (insert country)

Choose a course that helps you to do that. Some courses out there blog and offer free resources. 

ESLinsider focuses more on teaching in East Asia.

If you want to test one out

Find one that offers a trial or a free starter course. Search for:

  • free online TEFL course
  • sample online TEFL course

If you want job assistance

Find one that offers that. But be warned that any TEFL course provider out there can only offer a small percentage of jobs compared to what you can find on your own. I took a course that offered "guaranteed jobs", but they had very few jobs where I wanted to teach.

I ended up going there to find work.

Related articles:

Things You Probably Didn't Know About Teaching English In Asia, But Should Know


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