Attracting recent college graduates, retired globetrotter wannabes, and everyone in between, the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) field is booming abroad. Language schools around the world have realized they can make bank by teaching native English speakers how to teach the language. Typically, a TEFL certificate – the initial qualification for anyone who wants to teach English abroad – is earned on site in a foreign country, where face-to-face instruction is offered for several weeks along with the opportunity to student-teach. But with the advent of online education, more streamlined TEFL certificate courses are being offered via the web. These online TEFL certificate courses vary in quality and are never as comprehensive as those taught in person, yet because they involve less commitment in time and money, they may still be worthwhile, depending on one’s goals.
So how are the online TEFL courses different from in-person courses?
The average in-person program lasts several weeks, is taught by professionals with advanced degrees and experience, and costs anywhere from $1000 – $000, depending on where it’s located and what’s included (housing, materials, etc.). Usually, they require 100 – 140 hours of instruction and involve some built-in student teaching. For an example of a program in the Czech Republic, look at http://www.praguetefl.com. For an example of a program in Spain, look at http://www.fyne-tefl.info/. Some of the TEFL schools are small private enterprises with only one location, but others are large companies with teaching programs in multiple countries.
The online TEFL certificate courses are almost always offered by large language instruction companies that teach in-person courses as well. They have developed online programs primarily due to demand from Americans who hope to get a minimal certification at home in the United States. Taught by tutors who sometimes have less extensive qualifications than those at the in-person schools, the online TEFL certificate courses are usually self-paced, with people working through the material under the remote guidance of a single guide who provides feedback along the way. The in-person dynamic is lost, there’s minimal opportunity to interact with fellow prospective teachers, and the total amount of instruction time is usually condensed – resulting in a less rounded experience. Additionally, student teaching is rarely possible, eliminating the vital hands-on component. But since the online TEFL certificates are almost universally less rigorous and less comprehensive, they’re also far less expensive – often well below $1000. Some are as cheap as $300.
If the in-person programs are so much better, why would anyone do an online TEFL certificate course?
Prospective teachers of English abroad should consider their goals when deciding on which kind of TEFL certificate course to pursue. For anyone who: a) wants a paid job teaching abroad and b) is totally confident about pursuing that goal, the in-person programs are almost always the way to go. Typically, the students attend to a TEFL program, graduate after a month, and then teach English through that school or use the school’s resources to find a job elsewhere.
But there are some situations when the online TEFL certificate course may actually be a more prudent choice:
– The prospective teacher is not seeking paid employment teaching English and is just planning to volunteer for several weeks months as part of a service project abroad. An online TEFL certificate course can provide volunteer teachers the basics necessary for their work.
– The prospective teacher is more tentatively exploring the concept of teaching English abroad and wants to get a sense of what is entailed before committing more fully. An online TEFL certificate program can be used as a head-check before going abroad and spending thousands at an in-person program. Some people romanticize the idea of teaching English abroad and don’t realize that it’s not for them until after they’ve spent a month a $2000.
– The person already has experience teaching English as a foreign language in the United States but does not have any certification to provide to employers abroad. An online program may be a cost-effective way to boost employment chances with a smaller investment.
Who offers online TEFL programs?
As mentioned above, online TEFL certificates are usually offered by an arm of a multinational language instruction company. Examples of well-established companies include:
i-to-i : http://www.onlinetefl.net