Comparing Online and On-site TEFL Courses
Determining the best route to take to become TEFL/ESL certified can be a daunting task. A myriad of questions and doubts raced through my head as I researched all the different options. Will it be worth the money? Why is this one valued differently than that one? Which materials are the most up to date? Should I take an onsite or an online course? What is the big difference between the two!? It's a lot.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Tony D. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
However, I have no just completed the online course and have come to a revelation. I now understand the one big difference between an online TEFL course and an onsite course. And I know, one may be preemptively thinking, "How could anyone know the difference between two different types of courses if they've only taken one of the two?" Well, that's a fair question, but I think my words can speak for themselves.
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The online course consisted of 20 units that covered everything from tenses, grammar, vocabulary, speaking, listening, reading, writing, methods, theories, teaching styles and resources. It was a very thorough coach that allowed me to gain not only the technical education of the English language but the "behind the scenes" know-how of teaching a language and managing a class. There is a lot to go over and understand, which can feel overwhelming. Yet, the course structure is not linear and breaks up the units like a pattern on a quilt. Going between technical lessons and application lessons.
Apart from the structure as a whole, each unit has a task sheet that follows the unit material and a unit test. This engrains the knowledge into the course taker's mind without boring them or exhausting them. I now have a full understanding of all the language points I must teach, and I have learned the different methods to structure an ESA lesson plan whether through a straight arrow, boomerang, or patchwork method. And it's through that understanding of lesson structure that I understood the main difference between online and onsite. The online course doesn't ever really offer an engagement or activation phase. It's pretty much entirely rooted in a study phase, with a debatable activation phase by way of the unit tests. There's nothing inherently bad about this, however, it leaves a small void in the student.
What is that hole of difference?
The real difference between an online and onsite class is a vortex of three things: exposure, confidence, and discipline. The online course gives a training teacher all of the necessary information they need to be able to effectively teach the English language to any non-native speakers. What the course does not offer is exposure to real classes. There are no first-hand examples of reluctant students, large classes, classes made up of a multitude of different native languages, overhead projection malfunctions, seating arrangments, or board work.
Though the online course provides two videos, there is another course-type option which contains more videos, this isn't real-life experience. I'd like to quickly point out that the previous sentence was an example of a non-defining clause. The videos are used as a tool of comparison for the student-teacher to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the demonstrating teacher. So, there is a real-world example that is accessible to view and study, but it doesn't give the teacher the feeling of being in that classroom, reading and feeling the reactions of students as they go along with examples of good and bad teaching methods. This brings us to the next element of the vortex, confidence. Without real-life, first-hand experiences it's normal for the student-teacher to lack confidence. Especially if teaching English will be the first time they've ever taught.
Having experience in teaching
Teachers with previous experience in different fields may be more confident with teaching a new subject than first-time teachers. That is normal and that is understandable. However, this is an emotional issue, which is ultimately personal. And that leads to the final layer of it all, discipline. With real discipline one can gain the confidence they need to teach English, even those who are first-time teachers. Lack of confidence is a lack of discipline because the necessary pieces to feel confident are all obtainable outside of a certification course. There are ways to observe an English class without being apart of an onsite course, but more importantly, by applying discipline, one can adequately understand the material to a level of having very little self-doubt. It is within the knowledge of the material, for anyone who feels the true desire to teach, can gain confidence.
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Sources of problems
A lot of self-doubt and insecurity stems from not understanding something very well. By really knowing and feeling comfortable with the material provided in an online course, the new teacher can face their first class as any other first-time experience in life. New experiences are inevitable in life, and we face them every day. A person who knows deep in their heart that they want to teach and feel that burning desire to lead a classroom of people and teach a language while witnessing their progress is sure to succeed. Doing what one truly desires and honors with passion will ultimately result in success. It is not to say that difficulties, doubts, and bad days will not occur along the way. Of course, they will! But that's part of the experience, and that is part of the education outside of the coursework. All it takes is some self-discipline to grow a little bit of confidence before that first class.
Do you want to teach English abroad? Take a TEFL course!
In the end, there is a difference between an online class and an onsite class; and that difference is a layered cake. However, the difference is not something that will hold one back from being a successful English teacher. By lacking real-world experience before teaching their first class, the new teacher should be driven and motivated even more so to develop confidence and become the teacher they know they can be by doing it. Education is not always a course or text; oftentimes it is an experience that teaches us the most, even if that experience is learning how to teach.
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