Online TEFL Course VS In the Classroom

Before you read this post you may want to read “what’s involved in a TEFL Course”.

I recently took part in 2 TEFL courses, one of which was based completely in the classroom, and the other online. I wanted to compare the difference between the two, as there were many advertised online, as well as some conflicting advice dotted all about the internet on which type of course was better or actually needed. Below is a comparison of the two based on my own experiences, which hopefully should make the process easier for anyone else thinking of taking a TEFL course.

Pro’s of taking an “in the classroom” based course

One of the most important benefactors of taking a course based completely in the classroom, was for me, the fact that you actually got some hands on experience taking a class like you would if you were actually teaching. This is something which I can not emphasise enough, as particularly with someone who has no prior teaching experience; it allows you to get any first time nerves out the way, without any repercussions you may have in an actual job. Also, you go through the whole process of planning the lesson, right through to actually executing it, teaching students, and finding out first hand what works and what doesn’t. Your course tutor and your fellow classmates can then give you feedback on how they think you did, how you can improve, and also letting you know what worked well. Each day that you are in the course, you also go through the process as if you were the student learning English too, as you course tutor takes you through a typical class for every level of English. This then also offers you a first hand example of how a class should be taken, and also allows you to see how certain techniques work particularly well. For me, unless you have specifically taught English or another language before, this is a really a process you shouldn’t go without, and for that reason I found the “in the classroom” based course to be particularly positive. Other added benefits however are the friends you make in the class itself, and also the fact that it is a more enjoyable atmosphere to learn in, a apposed to staring at a computer all on your own.

Cons of taking an “in the classroom based course

The one main con of taking a course such as this is by far and away the price that most of them cost. To take a 4 week CELTA course, which is the most recognised of the courses, can cost in the region of £900 – £1200 (approx $1411 – $1881, or 1084 – 1442 Euros at the current exchange rate).  For any budget traveller that is a huge amount of money, yet it is travellers they are aimed at as they are the ones who are willing to relocate at the drop of a hat. There is also the downside of people having to take time off work in order to complete the course, which is unrealistic for a lot of people. The company I went with, TEFL Scotland, offer courses much cheaper, anything from £60 – 375, which is much more affordable, but with that you get much less days in the classroom as you would with a CELTA course. This makes it easier to fit in with your lifestyle, but then provides you with much less experience to show to employers. Either way, if you can afford to take an in the classroom based course I would highly recommend it, regardless of which company or certifier you choose to go with.

Pros of taking an online course

The online course has obvious advantages in that you can do it from home, at your own pace, and it usually a lot cheaper as there are fewer resources provided by your course provider. In my opinion, I think the online course can act as a great buffer, or addition to another course, especially when it comes to increasing your confidence in general.

Cons of taking an online course

Before I started my online course, I knew that it would not be able to cover areas like the classroom based course did, however what I did think was that it would be a good way to learn all the grammar, teaching terminology, and go over the planning aspect of everything in more detail. Unfortunately this was not the case, and I was left very disappointed with the online course, after what was an insightful and fun experience in the classroom. For a start, there were many technical faults with the programme I was using online. This may have been just bad luck on my part, but so many times it clicked through an answer I had not picked, did things like make every available answer in multi choice come up wrong, or just completely crash. This happened several times, on different computers, on various occasions, with different internet supplies. What was more disappointing however was when I contacted my course provider by email about this, I did not receive a response on any of the 3 occasions I sent them an email. In the end I decided not to continue with the course, and I have yet to hear from them almost 2 weeks on from when I left my last message. This does not mean to say you will have the same problem with your course provider, as they are all different, but unless a system is full proof – which nothing ever is, then you may end up feeling completely frustrated like I did, so be sure to check what kind of system they use for the online course, what feedback they have received, and how many years it has been running. Also, when there were questions I had relating to grammar for instance, you would have to wait a few days for a response, as apposed to in a classroom where your tutor would be able to answer you immediately. Also, sometimes it’s a lot harder to explain something in an email, than just to show someone in your class or explain to your teacher, something which you do not have the benefit of on an online course. I found a lot of time, that if I had a simple question needing answered, I would have to wait several days for someone to get back to me, which meant delaying the course for that period untill you got an answer. Aside from that, I found the online course to be nowhere near as engaging as the classroom based course, and there was nothing in it that provided you with any teaching experience, which is after all, what employers are looking for!

If I had to pick between the two, it’s probably obvious by now that I would go for the classroom based course. For a start, it’s a much more engaging way to learn, and therefore you will pick up things a lot better. Aside from that however, you actually get teaching experience, and you experience a class and a variety of teaching techniques and activities first hand. The online course may be a good way to build confidence in you knowledge of grammar and so on, assuming you are not plagued with technical faults like I did on my course. Nothing however beats that real experience, and also the fact you can bounce questions of your tutor quickly, and receive feedback based on your actual teaching ability.

10 Responses to “Online TEFL Course VS In the Classroom”

  1. Ruby says:

    Hey, thanks for the post! I’ve been considering taking up a TEFL course but doing it fulltime (in-class) is a tad too expensive. I have however, found a combined 120 hr course with i-to-i ( which includes a 2 day (20hr wkend) in-class and the rest online. Looks appealing… Any thoughts? Plus, i-to-i seems to be highly recommended. I thought since you’ve done it and have the experience of both, I’d like to hear what your thoughts are 🙂 Cheers!

  2. shawn says:

    Which one took more time?

  3. Jay says:

    Hi Jane – posted a link on one of my blogs Just loved the puppy picture! Like the 4 articles on TEFL. I just started an online 60 hour TEFL with Bridge, and attended an intro session for a 100 hour Classroom session. Going to finish the on-line before I commit to the Classroom session.

  4. Troy says:

    Thanks for posting this review.

    Finding a school with a solid reputation can be difficult enough but even more difficult when it is accessed through the internet with computer programs implementing the education. In fact, any school which cannot execute the promised online eduction should have a money back guarantee. If the promised teacher doesn’t show up to teach a class, the student shouldn’t pay the teacher.

    Some people may not need to pay for the in class experience because they can be paid for it. There are many in the world who want private English teachers and they will pay for a teacher with or without a TEFL certificate. I currently teach without the certificate in schools and in private classes but would like to have the TEFL training to broaden my opportunities and improve my teaching skills.

    Iif I can pay $300 for a solid TEFL education implemented through the internet and then practice with my current students then why should I pay three or four times more for the same material to be handed to me in a different way? If I had the money, sure it would be simpler and more fun to go to a school but hopefully I could study on my own and receive the same respectable certificate. We’ll see.

    – Troy

    You wrote, “but unless a system is full proof – which nothing ever is”
    You meant to write fool proof.

  5. Joel says:

    Is there any difference in the certificate you receive between on-line and in class courses?

    • jane says:

      Employers much prefer people who have done in the classroom style classes. In fact, they often specifiy on the job ad that you need to have done x amount of hours in the classroom before they will consider you.

  6. Bob D'G says:

    Jane, Is there an advantage seeking if you choose a TEFL course over a CELTA course? pros and cons for senior citizens teaching? thanx, Bob

    • Jane says:

      Hi Bob, CELTA is generally a more recognised course around the world if you are looking for more well paid jobs. However, it also costs a lot more than most TEFL courses! 🙂


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