When is the best time to take an online TEFL course? This is a question that I don’t actually see people ask often or consider. Most people take courses whether they are online or onsite BEFORE they start.
But is this actually the best time?
Well, it improves your resume as it gives you a qualification, but as far as the training goes I don’t think it is for a couple of reasons.
The first reason why is because you haven’t started teaching yet and you have nothing to work with or compare it to. At this point teaching is still an abstract concept.
The second reason why is that there’s going to be a gap in between the time when you complete the course and when you start your job. So that is not going to help your memory of the course material.
But won’t my job be difficult if I don’t know what to do on the first day?
Sure, but I think it’s going to be a bit difficult either way. Ideally you should take a course before you start and then after again for review. Research shows that repetition and spaced intervals between studying leads to better memory and retention.
I don’t think your first week or so will be that easy regardless so yes, taking it before should help, but I think it will be much more helpful if you start after you start your job for the reasons mentioned above.
In my experience teaching in Asia: China, Korea, and Taiwan I would say that most schools there will accept online TEFL courses, however it does depend on the school.
The schools that don’t accept online courses are often more prestigious or in places like Europe or the middle east. Most first time teachers do not get into these schools anyways unless they have experience.
So despite what you might have heard having an in-class course is not going to make a big or any difference in your chances of getting a job or making more money. Having TEFL experience matters more.
The course is just a start.
Are online TEFL courses any good? Well, that is going to depend on the course as all online courses are not created equally. What you take away from a course or what you learn is going to depend on the course and you.
Is an online TEFL course for you?
Are you a self-directed learner?
Are you self disciplined?
Are you independent or introverted?
Do you want to control the pace?
Are you planning to teach abroad for just 1-2 years?
If your answers are mostly yes to those questions then an online TEFL course may be better for you compared to an onsite TEFL course.
Now let’s talk about the training.
Here’s why most online TEFL courses are not good enough
How do online TEFL courses work? Well, it depends on the course, but for a lower quality one you read passages and then take quizzes or answer multiple choice questions. Now you can learn by reading, but if you have no visual element to it you’re going to have an awfully hard time remembering what you are studying.
Studies show that people tend to only read 20-28% of a page. So if you only read that much then how much do you think you will remember?
If you don’t remember what you studied in a course then how well do you think you will teach?
You need a visual to learn how to teach. For me the best way to learn how to teach was by watching other teachers. Now you can do that in a classroom or you can do it online with video.
A higher quality course is going to use a lot of instructional videos because studies show that people learn better with video compared to text.
It’s also more interesting.
You may have read that online courses are useless or worthless, but the people who say those things typically fall into a few groups:
They never took an online course and are just repeating what others say
If you read r/tefl on Reddit you will soon find out that many people there are pro-CELTA. CELTA is supposed to be a good course, but it’s not for everyone especially those who are not in it for the long run, don’t teach adults, don’t want to cram, or pay $2000.
On the other end of the spectrum on Reddit are those that recommend taking the cheapest online TEFL you can get so you can “check the box”.
These people are only focused on appearances and getting the job, but getting a job is just the beginning.
A cheap course is cheap for a reason. You tend to get what you pay for. As mentioned above you probably won’t get instructional videos, feedback or a quality course.
Going with a low quality/cheap course will likely continue the circle of people saying online courses are worthless. So yeah they are worthless if you take the wrong course just to get a job (“check the box”) and you don’t learn.
I think the biggest factor for a successful experience with an online course is to have a visual. You should watch other teachers teach the same or similar students as you are going to teach. If you teach kids then you need to watch other teachers teach kids.
If you teach adults then some stuff will transfer to kids, but not all and vice versa.
I’d like to point out that unlike many other courses ESLinsider actually has a lot of “reviews” if you want to call them that on its how-to videos on Youtube. And those videos are used in ESLinsider’s courses.
Take a look.
Here’s a comment from one of the videos:
“I’m a new teacher and these videos really saved my hide (they still do) and my students like these activities a lot. I would like to thank you…” – Luiz Felipe
A comment on the video above.
Why I don’t use 3rd party review sites
The short answer is: I don’t like middlemen.
If you are searching for reviews on ESLinsider’s courses then I’ll assume that you are also checking out other companies too and you have probably been to some 3rd party review sites like:
They make money by referral links and from advertising from the courses on their site.
You have to create an account there before people can leave reviews on your course.
I did initially create an account with either the goabroad or the gooverseas site (can’t remember which one as they look the same to me) a few years ago, but changed my mind and had it deleted for a few different reasons.
If I wanted a better position on their site and to be found there then I had to pay money.
Those sites are not “unbiased” like some say.
So instead of paying them money and helping their site grow I decided to put the review software on my own site instead.
I have taken some atypical stances not trying to fit in with what I don’t believe in. For example, accreditation and TEFL course “hours“. When it comes to online courses those hours mean nothing.
I completed a so called “120 hour” online TEFL course on Groupon in 8 hours, not cause I needed it, but because I wanted to see what I would get.
Until about 2016-17 I did name my courses with “hours”, but it never sat well with my conscience and then as the course developed more I changed it…
George has left a few reviews his first one was left 4 years ago.
120 hour course->Advanced->TEKA
I don’t follow “best business practices” in some sense and I do criticize the TEFL course industry (some of my so-called competitors), because this is ESLinsider not blue pill TEFL.
I try to keep it simple and practical minus the hype and lies.
It’s not popular maybe because I didn’t do what other people did, but on the plus side I think you’ll find it to be more personable.
And one of my favorite quotes by Seth Godin was…
Regardless of how you measure ‘best’ (elegance, deluxeness, impact, profitability, ROI, meaningfulness, memorability), it’s almost never present in the thing that is the most popular.
All the reviews that are written on my site are written by people who have taken courses there. I also kept some testimonials (2012-2016) which started long before I set up the reviews on my site in 2016.
As of right now there are 30 (5 star) reviews on ESLinsider and 1 with just a 4 star rating, but no written review. I ask people if they can leave a review when they finish the course, however they aren’t obligated to.
There I do say that I may delete a review if they don’t use their name and email used in the course.
I say that to prevent possible trolls or evil competitors from writing a malicious fake review like some of the people below did.
Does ESLinsider have any bad reviews?
Well, to be honest there are a few that were written by people who used troll accounts.
They didn’t take a course with ESLinsider although one of them claimed to.
One troll claimed that I was selling diplomas, perhaps he saw this drawing I did and believed it.
But if you search Google for the keywords “ESLinsider diploma” you won’t find any place where you can buy a diploma on my site.
If you search:
You’ll see some negative pages that were written by the people below.
“Trusted” TEFL reviews?
There’s this other newer site out there that claims to be “trusted” who wrote a fake review of my site and attacked me on Quora, TEFL.net, etc. His sites are called “trusted” TEFL reviews and TEFL online pro (the winner of some fake award on that “trusted” site).
He formally had a similar review site scam called ITTP and now it’s TEFL online pro and “Trusted” TEFL reviews.
A troll competitor whose affiliate marketing I pointed out in a review really hated me and created the site “Eslinsiderreviews.com” and called ESLinsider a “spam machine” and that I “smeared” competitors.
I wouldn’t say that I “smeared” any competitor. “Best business practice” is to not talk about your “competitors”.
But I think “best practices” are stupid.
And I just got tired of turning my cheek while these weak trolls try to destroy my work.
I just told the truth.
Am I biased?
Yeah, everyone is.
But there is a difference between a bias and a lie. Every review that you will read was written by a biased human.
There is no such thing as an “unbiased” review.
I just tell it as I see it because I feel like someone needs to tell the truth.
He also said something about a “free course scam”. I used to have a free course from about 2012 to 2016, but that was discontinued and that was mentioned in a blog post called, “Free TEFL is dead”.
He also said I did affiliate marketing referring to an old article and interview with Alex Case. You can see the link in that article is not an affiliate link and you can go ask Alex Case that.
He also criticized my “qualifications” or lack of them. True, I am not a “licensed teacher”, but I did graduate from Northern Arizona University.
I have done 2 different TEFL/TESOL courses, but I don’t put that info in my blog because I think it’s irrelevant because they are just superficial qualifications.
You are not a resume.
Any critical reviews?
Like not from trolls???
Yeah, 1,000 dislikes on the videos in the pic above which is like 11% of the people who watched my videos and pushed either the like or dislike button.
And here’s a critical email I got once about the course:
“I understand the level of difficulty between the courses. However, in the 20 hour course, when answering the questions, the answer could be easily seen in the text that was meant to be studied.
I would suggest more of a challenge where studying the context is mandatory to correctly answering the question. Not just searching for the match to the question.
That is my personal opinion. Other then that, the material was well put. Thank you.” –
My thoughts on that are why should I make it intentionally more difficult to learn? I try to make it easy not hard. Some teachers make you want to work for no good reason.
I intentionally broke up all of the text into mostly small bits because that’s a better way to learn AND I put the answer right there as I didn’t think hiding the answer would help.
“Open book open note ALL THE TIME. There is zero value in memorizing anything ever again. Anything worth memorizing is worth looking up.” – Seth Godin
“Not Well-Known, Yet Has Invaluable Information and Advice From a Great Teacher…
At first I was hesitant to take Ian’s Advanced Course, since there didn’t seem to be much information about it online. However, I can now say with full confidence that Ian has put together a masterclass catalog of teaching materials, each presented in a clear and logical way, with a great website to re-find anything if needed. The course pages seem to be frequently updated and Ian is incredibly quick to respond to submitted assignments or messages.
Direct communication with Ian is a huge plus. There are a few assignments to submit (Lesson Plans, mainly) and Ian gave me very detailed and meaningful feedback on every one. – Kyle P.