Tuesday, 29 January 2013

How to choose a TEFL course


Course types

Hopefully you’ve already chosen EBC ☺. If you haven’t, then here’s a very useful check-list for you to use when comparing EBC to other courses. There are quite a few available:

  • Residential
  • Online/distance
  • Blended learning
  • Abbreviated or weekend courses

Residential TEFL courses


Designed for people that can attend a course in a training centre and dedicate themselves to full-time learning over a 4 week period.

Teaching is interactive, there are lots of practical exercises performed under the direct supervision of a tutor and most importantly you get to teach practice classes. Ideally (as in EBC’s case) you should teach to classes of non-English speakers rather than fake classes given to your peers. You should also get to teach to different class levels as well: beginner, intermediate and advanced. The latter so that you see first-hand where the learning challenges lie at each level.

Pros


A residential course is simply the best way to learn. You are in a classroom with a tutor and peers. You can interact with other people facing the same problems as you. You can ask questions and ask for clarification in real-time. You will finish in 4 weeks so the learning cycle is intense and most importantly, fast.

You should get to teach practice classes to non-English speakers. Aside from the invaluable experience of doing this, you will be infinitely more attractive to employers than other people that have only done an online/distance course.

Finally, in EBC’s case, the residential course you will attend is also accredited so you will be in even greater demand for jobs because language schools also prefer accredited qualifications over non-accredited qualifications.

Cons


There are two main cons: cost and time. A residential course is more expensive than an online course. You’ll also have to set aside 4 weeks to take the course.

Summary


A residential course is the best of all options. Top quality courses (like EBC’s) are accredited and include teaching practice classes to non-English speakers at different ability levels.

An accredited TESOL TEFL certificate qualification gained through a residential course that includes real teaching practice is the most attractive to potential employers.

The two cons mentioned can also be pros depending on your ambitions. If you want to travel and visit a new culture whilst learning then the travel and accommodation commitment are not cons, they are pros as they help you achieve your travel ambitions.

Distance online TEFL courses


Exactly as it says, your training is given online. These types of courses grew from the old distance learning courses. Initially started in the 1970’s, distance learning courses functioned using the postal service. Material and assignments are interchanged between student and teacher using the postal service. As we are now in the internet age, the postal service has been replaced by email and web based delivery.

The EBC online courses use web technology. All material is published on the web and administered using MOODLE. Your material, video clips, assignments, communicating with your tutor, feedback, results etc. are all processed online in order to shorten your learning time.

Pros


Online courses are cheap and you study when you feel like it. Most online courses give you a fairly wide time window in which to complete the material. In EBC’s case you get 6 months (180 days) to complete the course. Online courses are ideal for people that cannot afford to take time time away from their job or other daily commitments in order to attend a residential course.

Cons


Online courses are not very interactive in comparison to a residential course. You aren’t in a classroom, there’s no spontaneity, if you have a question you don’t have immediate access to your course tutor. The online course you choose should give you access to a tutor to mark your assignments and give feedback (EBC’s course does), but communication is usually quite impersonal as it is mainly done by email.

The main problem with a purely online/distance learning course is your attractiveness to potential employers at the end of the course. Almost all good employers will demand that teachers that they hire have attended a certificate course with actual teaching practice. To get round the job limitation problem, EBC has an optional teaching practice unit that WILL give you the opportunity to get real classroom practice.

Summary


An online/distance learning course will teach you teaching theory. It is cheap and you study at your own pace. If you choose to take an online/distance course you must always remember that if you like what you have learned, then to get the best jobs, you’ll have to take a residential teaching practice module (like EBC’s) as well.

Any online course that is shorter than 80 hours or does not have tutor support is not worth considering.

Blended learning TEFL courses


Blended learning courses are a half-way house between an online/distance learning course and a residential course.

The course combines the study time flexibility of an online course during which you learn the theoretical aspects of teaching and the real-life exposure to teaching in a classroom environment.

EBC gives you this option. You can combine the online TEFL TESOL certificate course with a two week teaching practice module taught in one of our training centres.

Pros


Blended learning combines most of the advantages of online and residential learning. You will obtain a qualification at the end of the teaching practice that will help you get work as it has real teaching practice.

Cons


The online part still has the problem of a lack of immediate response by a tutor to your questions. The residential part still has the problem of you needing to dedicate time and travel in order to complete the teaching practice module.

Summary


Blended learning is for someone that wants more than a purely online course but usually cannot afford the time or perhaps the cost of a 4 week intensive residential. Blended learning will give you a qualification that will be viewed positively by potential employers as it has real teaching practice.

Abbreviated or Weekend TEFL courses


These courses provide the equivalent of a management summary about teaching English. They are not designed to train you how to teach. They are overview courses.

The course is usually given over a weekend or a few days (usually 1 week). You usually get 16 to 20 hours of tuition so as you can imagine, you aren’t going to learn anything to the level of detail you’ll need to be able to teach. Usually there’s no teaching practice either.

Pros


Very short.

Cons


On a cost per hour basis they are very expensive, usually twice the price of a residential course and often more expensive than a good online course. If you are given a certificate at the end of it, very few employers will accept it as the number of course hours falls well below the generally accepted minimum of 100 hours and there’s no teaching practice.

Summary


If you have a bit of time to spare on a weekend and are looking for something to do, then this type of course may be for you. If you are serious about teaching English and want to get a qualification that is acceptable then do not take one of these courses. If, due to personal circumstances, the abbreviated or weekend course is the only type of course you can do, save your money.

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