The pros and cons of online TESOL training

Online TESOL training is growing in popularity, and I get many inquiries about what is the ‘best’ training program. In the article An online or onsite TESOL course…which is best?, Mich King lists a variety benefits of the online vs. onside program offered by INTESOL, a training organization in Europe (see table below).

While I am not against online education (and think King offers some great support for online education), I do believe it needs to be seen for its strengths AND limitations.  Since I direct an onsite training program, I thought I’d attempt provide a fuller picture for those considering teacher training by outlining the advantages to doing an onsite TESOL course.

Advantages to an online TESOL Course (M. King) Some things to consider

Advantages to an onsite TESOL course

You have the chance to gain a recognised professional qualification at a lower cost. ‘Recognised’ is not a given – even if the sponsoring company advertises this.  Reputable employers are often looking for training programs that providereal-life classroom experience – not just book knowledge. You develop a personal, not virtual, relationship with people who then become future colleagues and sources for references.
You can work at home in your own time without having to give up work, or take time off. Are you a self-motivated, disciplined person?  While the flexibility of working at home sounds great, it’s a disaster if you don’t have the personal initiative to finish a course. Being present classes holds you accountable and provides a set work schedule and deadlines.  Some people work better with this structure.
You have the option to work whilst studying. You can even start your first teaching job during your course! This is not an exclusive option for online courses only.  Also, working while studying = NO LIFE.  Are you ok with this reality? (You may have to be if money is tight!) Many onsite courses also allow for this option as they accommodate people who work full-time with evening and weekend classes.
You save money and time by not having to find accommodation or travel to a College every day. Very valid.  Money/time aren’t always as flexible as we’d like them to be!!!  If this money & time are non-negotiable, an online degree is better than nothing. Keep in mind that onsite degrees (depending on the host institution) are usually more reputable for now (I could see this changing as on-line education gets more established and regulated).  If it is truly a matter of money, it’s also important to consider if you’re getting a degree that will qualify you to get the kind of job you’re looking for.
If you want some observed teaching practice you can spend a week doing this when you finish your course, at a time that is convenient for you. This is not documented by the program itself – sometimes employers request institutional documentation of classroom hours and observation on your own time may not count.  In addition, if you don’t have contacts with ESL teachers, it may be hard to find. Quality onsite programs should provide you with in-class observations and experience.  On the ground, instructors usually have contacts in local communities where students in training can observe.
You can take as long as you like to complete an online TESOL or TEFL Certificate, allowing you to fit the course around your life, rather than your life around the course. If you’re a disciplined, hard worker, this is truly a great option.  If you tend to start things and never finish them, don’t let this line of thinking suck you in!  You’ll be better off putting in the focus and work in an environment that holds you accountable. A set schedule can be a benefit, if you are the type of person who works best with parameters set by other people.
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