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Home study – how to find an online TEFL course

As more and more people turn to their laptops for income, study and just downright distraction during the lockdown, many are focusing their attention on qualifications that they can obtain online, a great way to usefully occupy yourself if you have nothing else to do and increase your employability.

TEFL courses can be taught and certification obtained on a wholly remote and online basis.  Unsurprisingly, many organisations and not just those who provide online TEFL courses, are pushing hard to sell their products as classrooms sit empty and income plummets.  So, if you are thinking about studying for a TEFL certificate, how can you be sure that your chosen provider is genuine and that you are not selecting an inferior course which will disadvantage you later on when it comes to competing for the best jobs?

Anyone who starts searching the internet for a good TEFL course is going to be quickly swamped by the choice on offer and the use of different acronyms.  Here is our guide to help source the best online TEFL course for some lockdown learning.

  • Before you start looking for a course, take some time to understand the differences between the terms, TEFL, TESOL, ESOL and CELTA
  • Don’t believe websites which state that you can teach without proper training and certification.  You will severely limit your job choices without the appropriate qualification and you will be glad you put the time and effort in when you are standing nervously in front of your first class
  • Don’t pick the cheapest course on offer.  There are some swingeing discounts on offer at the moment as training providers try to fill empty classroom seats with distance learning students.  Pick the course you want and the right one for you even if it does cost a bit more money
  • Understand what TEFL accreditation means before you start hunting for an online course.  There are lots of companies who talk about ‘certification’ and ‘accreditation’ but what they are, in fact, offering is a substandard course which is either too low quality to be of value or an out and out scam
  • As you will go onto discover, TEFL accreditation is just a generic term that is largely meaningless or rather, it can be made to mean whatever an individual organisation or company wants it to mean.  No one organisation provides accreditation which covers (or not) the different TEFL courses on offer.  A new student needs to understand what they need to look for in order to choose a legitimate course which will actually lead to a usable qualification
  • There are some organisations like the British Council and the World TEFL Accrediting Commission (WTEFLAC) which will provide accreditation for some courses and many students feel more comfortable choosing a course which is recognised by such bodies. But equally, there are lots of perfectly valid and reputable high-quality courses available online which do not have any independent verification from a third-party organisation
  • Choose a course which complies with the 100-hour rule.  There is a universally and informally accepted standard in the TEFL industry that 100 hours of coursework is the minimum amount to guarantee a successful outcome so you should not choose a course which offers less
  • Learning online does not diminish the ‘100-hour’ rule so don’t be tempted by the weekend courses…’ Learn to teach TEFL in a weekend’ or ‘Obtain your TEFL certificate in 20 hours’ as these courses will be a total waste of time and money
  • There is no governing body or regulations controlling who can set up and provide TEFL courses, anyone can set one up and claim it is ‘accredited’ so when you have found a course that you like the look of then do your homework thoroughly
  • Having a degree will open up TEFL opportunities to you in certain countries that are not available to people who don’t have a degree but it will still not alter the requirement to have a solid TEFL qualification with a minimum of 100 hours coursework
  • So, there are lots of courses with 100+ hours at a huge variety of prices.  Don’t assume that a more expensive course is somehow better and is going to result in a more superior qualification as this does not necessarily follow.  Try and pick a middle of the range course cost and expect to spend somewhere in the range of £200-£500.  If a course is significantly cheaper then it could be because it is a ‘taster’ or introductory course.  If it is a lot more expensive then there could be other features added to it.  There is no way of really telling by cost, you need to drill down into the course detail to compare courses from different providers
  • If you were planning on attending a classroom-based course but Coronavirus has changed your plans then remember to tot up what you might have paid in travel and/or accommodation costs – these are all savings you will make by studying at home
  • Still struggling to choose a provider?  Go with a University or College provided course, a course linked to that particular institution will have credibility and authenticity.  Be wary though of the use of the words, ‘Oxford’ and ‘Cambridge’ which are two of the most abused terms employed by course providers trying to piggyback on the reputations of these two famous institutions
  • Don’t be lured by guaranteed job placements; they can be made up or exaggerated and do not pertain to the quality of the course on offer

Remember, your prospective employer is going to look closely at the quality of the TEFL certification you have obtained because there is no one universal standard or final exam.  So, you will rather stand or fall by that certificate and the course provider you choose.  You will be competing against other candidates who have done a minimum course of 100 plus hours and who may also have other qualifications which they can throw into the mix such as additional study or a relevant degree.

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