The ABC of ELT

Why I would never do an online First Teachers Qualification course

When you look around online at information on getting into TEFL you are certain to come across information about online CELTA or TESOL courses.

It’s not surprising that with the general education trend to shift learning online, Teaching English is no different. On top of that, the companies that usually sell these services are the ones who are more likely to have a web presences and so you are more likely to encounter them than a company that only provides face to face courses.

There are of course different types of online courses but as a general rule…I would be very cautious about choosing to do one and with very few exceptions I wouldn’t do one.

(I want to clarify this isn’t about language learning courses or further teacher development which I would, and am, do online.)

Reasons For Doing An Online TEFL Course

There are some very good reasons to do an online TEFL course rather than a face to face course but they aren’t exactly numerous. Let’s take a peak at them.


Online courses are generally cheaper. This is because the overheads are lower (the reading and resources are electronic rather than printed so that saves money, you don’t need a huge premises for all the course members but just a small bedroom somewhere so no rent cost and many more reasons.) and a teacher has a larger potential catchment area for students than a local based

No Local Centre

If there is no local training course where you can take a course then doing an online course is probably the only way you can study whilst staying at home part-time. You might even think this is the only way you could take a training course, but it’s not. You could always go to a centre, stay there for a month and take the course with them in a foreign country. This is a great chance to brush up on a foreign language as well and can possibly open up the possibility of joining the school where you take the course, if you pass.

Lack of Mobility

If you have difficulties travelling or accessing places then doing an online course might be very appealing. Using your computer can open up opportunities to study about teaching and learn useful information before you start teaching.

Want To Teach Online Only

If you aren’t interested in teaching face to face (in which case you are probably turning away good money) then you might want to take a course that focuses on the skills of teaching Online courses rather than face to face (as there are different skills)

Reasons Not To Do An Online Course

Okay now I’ve got the reasons you might want to do an online course out of the way let’s look at the reasons why I still think they are (currently) a terrible idea.

You Don’t Know How Much They Will Cover

One of the common trends in the online courses is multiple options at different levels. The suggestion is that this means you can choose the option that is right for you, in reality this can mean you end up taking the wrong course. The more options and qualifications there are the more confusing it can become, you might think that you have signed up for a full CELTA equivalent course only to discover that although it takes the same length of time it won’t give you the right certificate.

No Classroom Practice

With the exception of blended learning courses (learning both online and face to face) Online courses have no classroom practice. In fact as I write this I have found no sites that offer online class practice either. This means that you don’t get any of the benefits of actual practice in the classroom. In my opinion that is like learning a language by reading all the grammar rules, a list of vocabulary…but never speaking. The classroom practice is perhaps the most valuable part of a training course.

Feel Less Confident When You Enter The Classroom.

Part of the benefit of in class practice is you gain a lot of confidence when you enter the class for the first time. I haven’t met a single teacher who wasn’t at least a bit scared when they first taught a class and no matter how much theory you know practice can be completely different. Getting a few mediocre or bad lessons out of the way and then seeing improvement is vital before you move abroad. After all you may decided that teaching English abroad isn’t what you want to do. It is much better to figure this out before you leave.

Less Likely To Be Hired

Classroom practice is so valuable that every employer I have spoken to has said they wouldn’t hire a teacher who had done an online course with no face to face classroom practice. It’s just too unpredictable and the knowledge of the skills is very different from the implementation of them. When there are two competitors for the same job together, the one with the face to face time will win out.


There can be social aspects to an online course but the gathering of people in a place can have a special effect. Being surrounded by people who can help you and who are going through what you are at the same time can be a real boost and help to deal with the potential stress from a qualification course.

Don’t Risk It

In my opinion the reasons not to far outweigh the reasons for doing an online course. You might think that you can save a few bucks, but what if you don’t get a offical certificate and have to do the course again? You might want to just teach online but it’s easier to transfer face to face skills online and there are plenty of course (some free) that focus on teaching online skills. You might not have a local centre but then it is a chance to go abroad and have another adventure as well as get your foot in the door of a potential job.

Above all there is the risk that in a year or twos time you want to change job and that employer wants a face to face course. In my opinion you’ll get much more for the face to face certificate.

Would you do an online CELTA or similar course?

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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