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Is it Better to Study TEFL Online or In-Person?

Posted 26/10/2020
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In 2020, a lot has changed in the way we think about learning new skills. Studying TEFL online has been possible for a long time, but COVID has changed the way many people think about it.

For years, many people have been suspicious of online teaching qualifications.

These days, online teaching is basically a necessity. But can online lessons really ever be as good as classroom-based learning? This is a deceptively complex question. In reality, what’s right for one student isn’t necessarily the best approach for another.

And as we’ll see, choosing between online and offline learning doesn’t even need to be an either-or scenario anymore.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to figure out which TEFL delivery method is best for you.

Are Online TEFL Qualifications Legitimate?

There’s no cut and dry answer for this. Certainly, there are many online TEFL courses which aren’t totally reputable. There are also a lot of them which are out and out scams. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell the good from the bad with these courses.

This is because there’s no universal accreditation program for TEFL courses. As such, basically anyone can create TEFL lessons online and charge money for them.

So how do you find a genuine place to study TEFL online?

Generally, your best bet is to speak to someone who’s already done a particular course. Where this isn’t possible, there are still plenty of things to look out for:

  • Price – The cheapest online TEFL courses start from as low as about £50. Keep in mind that the standard TEFL course length is 120 hours. Simply put, there is no way that that much genuine teaching could be delivered for this price.
  • Accreditation – When considering studying TEFL online, you should also be conscious of what qualification you’ll receive at the end of the course. The British Council provides a set of minimum standards for TEFL qualifications. Most reputable schools require a CELTA qualification, which is an exam administered by Cambridge University.
  • Institutions – It’s also important to consider who is actually providing a TEFL qualification. For example, is the course provider associate with a known institution, like a major university? If not, do they also provide in-person learning, or can you find independent reviews from past students?

Study TEFL online

Legitimate online TEFL courses do exist, but it’s important to know what you’re looking for.

In short, while there are plenty of ways to study TEFL online legitimately, there are also a number of courses which are a waste of time at best.

How Much Do TEFL Courses Cost?

Typically, in-person TEFL courses cost upwards of £1,000. Remember, these generally consist of 120 hours of classroom-based teaching. They should also include 6 hours of supervised teaching practice.

When you break this down into hourly costs, £1,000 isn’t actually very much.

The right price to pay for online TEFL courses is harder to pin down. Web-based courses can use video calls, pre-recorded lessons, or a mixture of both to deliver teaching. This means that courses can be delivered to suit a number of budgets.

Genuine online TEFL certifications can be found from around £250 upwards. However, the key thing to look out for is the best balance between cost and the amount of ‘live’ teaching you’ll receive. That is, assuming that the other criteria we spoke about above are met.

Can You Fit a TEFL Course into Your Schedule?

This is a big consideration for new TEFL students. Many people want to learn to teach English to escape the rat race. However, short TEFL courses are generally not worthwhile. The trouble is, fitting 120 hours of lessons into your schedule is tough.

This is especially true with in-person learning.

One option is to study full time for four weeks. This is a good way to learn, but it isn’t always practical. Alternatively, you could commit to spending every weekend learning TEFL for a few months.

Both of these are fantastic options if they’re possible for you.

Online TEFL courses are often easier to fit into your schedule.

It can be a challenge to fit a TEFL course around a busy schedule.

However, if not, online TEFL courses offer a lot more flexibility, as you can learn at your own pace.

Pros and Cons of Studying TEFL Online or In-Person

As you’ve probably gathered, both kinds of TEFL qualifications have their upsides and downsides. Because of this, which is right for you depends on your circumstance and your goals.

In-Person TEFL Courses

There are a lot of clear benefits of classroom-based TEFL courses. For one thing, it’s much easier to take in new information in a face-to-face lesson, where you can ask the teacher questions.

For another, foreign employers are more likely to accept TEFL certifications which have been achieved in a physical classroom.

However, as noted, in-person TEFL courses are generally more expensive and less flexible than their online counterparts.

Online TEFL Courses

By the same token, online TEFL courses are much more accessible for learners on a tight budget, or people who have busy schedules. These are also good if you don’t live in a big city with a local TEFL school.

There’s also the obvious benefit of online lessons being much more COVID-secure.

However, in addition to the drawbacks we’ve already seen, online courses create a number of unique challenges. For example, there is a lot more onus on the student to carry out independent learning. 

This is especially true for courses which make use of pre-recorded materials. Because of this, online courses have much lower completion rates. Essentially, many learners find it difficult to motivate themselves without a teacher and classmates.

Hybrid TEFL Classes – The Best of Both Worlds

So if neither in-person nor online TEFL qualifications are perfect, is there a third option? Hybrid TEFL courses are an increasingly popular option for combining the benefits of classroom and web-based learning.

This style of teaching offers a mixture of in-person and online lessons. This allows teachers to offer flexible and affordable learning, which still engages students and gives them the chance to receive face-to-face feedback and teaching practice.

Hybrid TEFL courses also provide the same legitimacy and trust as fully classroom-based certifications, meaning that you can be sure your qualification will provide a lifetime of value.