Review by teacher Kacey Andreotta for TEFL Heaven Mexico

In-country TEFL courses vs online…you get what you pay for! By Elena (Mexico)

If you are thinking about getting certified in teaching English abroad you certainly have come across something called ”TEFL course” and by doing some research you will have noticed that there are two main options: online and on-site TEFL courses.If you are still wondering which one to take and what the differences and the advantages of each one are, you have found the right article! Read on to find out more….

Before going into the subject, I just want to mention that TEFL courses aren’t the same because they are offered by different providers. This means the structure of the course varies, although they follow set standards. This is valid for both types. First of all, the main difference between the two types of courses is how they are conducted: ON-SITE courses require you to be in a classroom with other trainees and a trainer. This is an intensive course, one month long, with specific hours you have to follow. It takes place abroad in a non -speaking English (as first language) country.

On the other hand, an ONLINE course requires you to be in front of your laptop, at the comfort of your own home, without the need to go in a classroom. It is a self-study course during which you have to do readings, assignments, watch videos, and a final exam at the end. You can choose your own hours during the day. In two or three months you can get certified. 

Having explained the above, let’s talk about their advantages and hence differences. The main concern when choosing regards the COST. On-site TEFL courses are approx. 1, 500 USD whilst online courses are generally around 400 USD. Some of them can go up to 1, 000 USD when taken through a university. Looking at the numbers there is a massive difference, and people tend to opt for the latter...

Let’s consider though what you are getting for each one, so you can see how the price is justified. On-site courses have their advantages, a guarantee the course is legitimate. The course is held in a legit training centre, which can be recognised by other employers when you look for a job. You will get your certification (in paper) at the end of the month during the graduation day. For example in Mexico, the last day of the course, trainees receive the TEFL certification paper, a recommendation letter, and will also receive (later on) a certification from the department of education that recognises them as  an English teacher in that country... that’s three important pieces of paper to start your career with! Also it is accredited! This means the course you take is recognised by a bigger institution. For instance, the TEFL course you take in Mexico is recognised by the Department of Education (SEP).

You will also receive real teaching experience. This is extremely helpful for those who have no teaching experience at all. One of the on-site TEFL requirements is a minimum number of 6 hours of teaching in real classes (it can be more if you want it). Let’s consider the advantages of these: you put into practice what you study (in fact the course is really practical), it helps you understand better what teaching in a real classroom is, you develop your teaching skills from day one and can start improving them through the feedback of a professional, you can understand what age ranges you would like to teach. It’s also an advantage as you can put this into your resume and talk about it in your job interview. Let’s face it, experience is always valued and preferred. 

Still not convinced? Here is a tip: a lot of online teaching platforms require you to upload a video of you teaching a real class! During your practice ask someone to make a video and take pictures, and voila! You are ready for teaching online... and again it’s the perfect evidence for a potential employer! You experience the course with other people. This makes learning more interactive and fun, trainees can work together, help each other, exchange ideas! Plus, you get to make friends for life! You also work with a trainer who will guide you along the way and can answer any questions you have. Teaching practices too are supervised, so you will receive feedback on what to improve and start your life abroad easily! Once you move to the country where you take the TEFL course, you will start understand and experience the new culture, and adapt to it, and it will be much easier to find a job. 

The TEFL course also comes with a placement service, which means they will help you find a job! At this moment in time, after your course, you need connections. And the placement service will be the best tool at your disposal.. play the game, take advantage of it! It’s very difficult to find a job in another country/continent from your own, especially with no connections! Trainees get placed maximum a month after the end of their TEFL course, some get placed even during the TEFL course as the placement team will start looking for jobs immediately! And consider this: your month of training is also an “interview”. If you do well and  put your time and effort into it, this will definitely noticed by the people around you: there you go, you have a reference! You get out what you put in! The whole experience!

 This advantage is less teaching related, but worth mentioning. You will have the opportunity to experience a new country and a way of living for a month or longer, enjoy it with like minded people. This is an experience you will remember forever!

In summary, online TEFL courses are more expensive because of the services they provide. Although it’s an investment as you have to spend money on accommodation, flight, the course, make some adjustments regarding your job etc., the whole experience is worth what you are paying for. By the way, even if you have experience in education, you will learn something new! There are people who are already teachers, and take the course to move to a new country. They are always surprised by the new strategies and methods they learn and can implement into their careers!

Let’s have a look at the advantages of online courses now: ok there is flexibility in terms of hours and place. You can decide your own hours of studying, and can do it from home (hence just paying for the price of the course) instead of a one month intense course on-site where you are more restricted. You learn more about the TEFL course and teaching in general (by refreshing your grammar for example).You have time to think before committing to a full experience abroad. 

In summary, online TEFL courses are just an introduction to teaching, and do not offer as much as an on-site course, as you can see. There are other important facts you have to be careful about when taking an online course. You should  make sure: the course is recognised. Look for standards, such as a minimum of 100 hours, which is the usual recognised. The course is accredited: ask the provider the institution that recognises their specific course. Look for a course with a tutor, so it won’t just be a self-study program, you can also get feedback from someone else.

 As you noticed, there are big differences between the two types, the most important I would say is the help you get to find a job, which will make your life easier especially if this is your very first teaching job you are looking for. This leads us to the next question then: is an online TEFL course worthwhile? My answer is this: is you are serious about this career, whether that’s temporary or permanent, they are not!

At the end of the day if you want to teach English abroad, you have to move to that specific country and an on-site course makes you do just that. Even if your experience is temporary, and you know that after a year you want of go back home, an on-site course will make everything easier, go faster and I would add that it allows you to get more experience.

 In order to test it, I even asked my boss, the person that runs the school I work for, if they would hire someone with an online TEFL course. We are talking about a language centre in Mexico. His response was that they would look where they got the certification from, and if the person has previous teaching experience or their overall experience. In general, they would not hire them though! They will always prefer someone with an on-site TEFL certification. In conclusion, an online TEFL certification will never be as strong as an on-site one. If you are still considering whether to take an online or an on-site TEFL course, keep in mind you get what you pay for!

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