Are online TEFL courses worth it? Not if this happens to you

The next thing you know you find yourself standing confused in a classroom, your students are speaking another language, they are not listening to you, the noise is making your head pound and you are thinking to yourself, “they didn’t teach me this in that course”.

That could happen to you as it did me.

Now back to the question.

Are online TEFL courses worth it?

It depends on the course and it depends on what you want to get out of it.

If you just want a certificate then well you can just get the cheapest, but if you want to actually learn something and not end up like me in the introduction above then read on.

Cheap courses are typically cheap for a reason. They lack quality. How so? Well I have taken a few different courses and done a fair bit of research over the years.

Many of those cheap courses are text based courses. Some might say just read a book, but the problem with reading, especially online is the fact no one really reads. According to some studies people only read 20–28% of the text on a page.

When was the last time you read a whole page?

We skim and we scan. So based on that you can deduct that you’re not going to remember much because you didn’t read much and you didn’t have any visuals.

Visuals are key.

Some people think all online TEFL courses suck. The people who think that are often traditionalists, CELTA snobs or people who took or are selling an in-class course.

The argument that they bring up is usually that you can’t learn if you are not in a classroom observing. There is some truth to that. You can learn about what to do by just reading, but it’s harder because you have nothing to visualize.

Are online TEFL courses worth it?

It’s way easier to watch something being done and you can do it in a classroom or by watching video tutorials. It’s the same thing except one is live and the other isn’t.

It’s also a lot faster.

You might get feedback on your teaching in a CELTA course, but in an online course with videos you can watch them again, push pause or rewind. You have more control and…

Video is key.

But many online courses don’t include video. And again just like we can’t generalize about all online courses you can’t generalize about video either.

Some courses use video, but the video could be boring lectures or maybe they are of adult classes (who you aren’t going to teach) or pseudo classes. Again if you take an in-class course all of your in-class hours are often in a pseudo class.

These students are people like you taking a course. They are not like the students who you are actually going to be teaching.

They are not “real” students.

The best online TEFL training is going to teach you how to do your job. Who are you going to teach? If you are going to teach kids then you should practice or observe other teachers teaching kids, NOT by watching other adults like you pretending to be students while a trainer watches.

I took a TESOL course prior to teaching in Taiwan and it was like that. Those mock classes didn’t help me to teach kids English in Taiwan.

So I took up educating myself online and it was really difficult because I didn’t know what I needed and it took a lot of time to find activities and stuff that worked.

It was because I was reading and as mentioned people only read 20–28% of a page.

Maybe I am more of a visual person, but when I watched other teachers in my school I learned faster.

Monkey see, monkey do.

If you want to retain what you learn in an online course you need to take an online course that uses video. What kind of video? They need to be short and instructional how-to videos geared towards teaching the age group you are going to teach.

Most jobs in Asia are for teaching kids 6–13. You can teach kindergarten or adults even, but most jobs are for teaching kids. So if you are like most then you need a course specialized in teaching kids.

You don’t need much theory or to study English grammar (if you’re a native speaker) which you’ll get in a lot of courses. Sure you need to speak properly but you don’t enter a classroom and say, “Today we are going to study the present continuous form of…”

That’s another language that your students don’t know especially if they are children or beginners-intermediates.

What you need

  1. You need to make teaching English fun and educational.
  2. You need to learn how to manage your classroom which is hard.
  3. You need to learn how to create lessons that are engaging.
Published research suggests these courses will lead to better learning outcomes.

Can you get a job with an online TEFL?


Most schools in Asia would accept them. In fact you can get a job in Asia without any course somewhere. Although getting a job is just a start and it won’t be very fun if you don’t know what you are doing.

Any reasons not to take an online course?

  • If you are a traditional learner then it’s probably not for you.
  • If you want a group of people around you then it’s probably not for you.
  • If you have ADD then it’s probably not for you.


You have options:

  1. You can leave this page and go back out into the confusion or…
  2. Eliminate the confusion and get closer to your dream by starting this advanced course that is designed to help you teach English in Asia.
  3. Not convinced? See the actual research on online TEFL courses. Learn more about what makes a good course.
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