Taking an Online TEFL program or an On-Site TEFL Program?

Taking an Online TEFL program or an On-Site TEFL Program?

So lately I've been thinking about developing an online Teaching English as a Foreign Language Program at the university I work at, as these types of programs are as popular now as they ever have been. The problem for me in doing this, is that while I think there is value and obvious pros to online learning, I believe that classroom learning, especially when taking a teacher-training course, has greater value to students (I should note that I have taken an online TEFL program and an on-site course in Canada).

In this blog I'm going to look at some of the pros / cons of online courses through distance education and let you make your decision about which is better.

Online Courses / Distance Learning


-Convenient. You set you own hours to study and you can do this from home or any place that has the internet. These courses are great for people that have tight schedules due to work or family responsibilities.

-Cost efficient. Students do not have to commute to classes and usually these types of classes do not require students to buy textbooks.

-Cheaper, specifically with online TEFL courses. Since online classes usually do not have to cover instructor fees, room booking fees, etc. online courses can be taken for much less than an on-site course.

-These classes are usually highly student centered. In fact you'll find many online courses where students basically teach each other through blog entries or online class discussions.

-Diverse classmates. As these courses do not require students to be in one spot, you may find yourself in a class with students from all over the world. Through reading other students' work, you can learn about culture and education systems of other countries.

-If you are motivated, you can complete online courses faster than classroom-based course. Though there may be a recommended timeline for these courses, it is possible to work ahead.


-Limited social interaction. Since all of your communication is through e-mail, chat room or discussion groups, students miss the opportunity to form professional / personal relationships with classmates. After my on-site course, I was able to help two of my classmates, who took the class with me, to find jobs at the school I was working at.

-Similarly, online courses offer no face-to-face interaction with instructors. Receiving extra help or professional advice and mentoring can take time and may not happen at all in distance learning. Moreover, in face-to-face classes instructors have opportunities to share their personal experiences/beliefs with their students. 

-In order to improve your teaching, like many skills, it requires practice. Online courses will provide a lot of teaching theory and methodology, however these courses do not offer students the opportunity to practice teaching to their peers or in a practicum setting.

-Students need to be tech-savvy. While most younger learners have no issues with the technological know-how of distance learning, many older learners may.

-Education scams. Though law enforcement is trying to crack down on diploma mills and other online degree scams, they’re still out there, preying on students. Red flags include a guaranteed degree, guaranteed scholarships, lack of accreditation, super-short programs (we’re talking a couple weeks or even days), and virtually nonexistent admission requirements. On top of this, there is no guarantee that schools you apply to work at will accept your online credentials. In Canada for example, many schools will not hire you to teach English, unless you have taken a course that is recognized by TESL Canada.

-Lack of Motivation. As mentioned in the Pros, online classes have a lot of flexibility to them as learners can choose when and where they want to study. For procrastinators, this can be a nightmare scenario. Some students require stricter timelines and deadlines to excel in classes.

I think those are probably some pretty common pros and cons of distance learning. Where I think the biggest advantage of on-site classes comes in, is in practice teaching and in-class social interaction. As a new teacher, or even someone who has taught for many years, confidence is very important. Most on-site TEFL courses provide teachers the chance to put what they are learning into practice. In the on-site program I took (and the one we offer at the university I work at) we were given many opportunities to get in front of the class and make presentations. We were asked to present warm-ups(icebreakers), grammar points, micro-lessons, full lessons, group presentations, etc. There is no question that these opportunities made me more prepared to teach my own class. If you can find an on-site course that offers a practicum component, this is also great for new teachers in helping them get ready to take over their own classroom some day.




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