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  • Writer's pictureTom Garside

What's the difference between face to face and online teacher training courses?


English Language Teacher Training has developed in many ways over the last few years. There is now a wider range of course options than ever before, and with that variety come a lot of different ways of studying for your initial certificate in TESOL. Choosing the right initial training course can feel like opening a box of chocolates, and not knowing what is inside the same chocolate coatings.


The main differences between the various teacher training courses available online are the global recognition, course timings and whether there is a practical teaching component included. In order to gain the internationally recognised Ofqual Level 5 badge, a teacher training course must include at least 6 hours of observed teaching practice. If the course you are looking at does not offer this as part of the course content, then it is likely that the certificate will not be widely recognised in different countries. Always check the requirements of the teaching position you are looking at before deciding on the right course for you.

Among the most widely recognised and highly regarded initial English Teaching qualifications by employers and visa authorities are the Trinity CertTESOL and Cambridge CELTA. They both include the requisite minimum of 6 hours of observed and assessed teaching as compulsory.


However, the ways that these courses are delivered online differ depending on the training centre delivering them. Some courses require daily attendance of input sessions, seminars and group online activity, whereas others are delivered through self-timed study, and follow a much more flexible timeframe for trainees. It’s worth checking whether the course you are looking at requires a minimum weekly live online attendance at certain times, or whether the live online hours are organised around trainee availability, to support the online content delivered at your own pace.


A final consideration for online training courses is course length. A 4 or 5-week CELTA or CertTESOL course may be held online, but will still be delivered at the same level of intensity as the face-to-face course modes of the same length. This means that although the course is delivered online, it is unlikely that you will have much time to focus on anything else during your time on the course.


The main difference in content between online and face-to-face courses is the range of input on teaching and learning methodology which forms part of the online mode. Most accredited online courses focus on the usual; face-to-face teaching skills, but also contain input on online delivery, and how to be an effective online teacher of English. This is something which is not traditionally a big part of face-to-face teacher training courses, so is an added bonus. If the course requires online teaching practice too, then it is a valuable opportunity to get experience in online teaching, which is often not possible on face-to-face courses.


Perhaps the biggest factor in most trainees’ decision to go online is cost. Face-to-face courses require you to attend training in person, which comes with added transport and accommodation costs, not to mention time away from work and family for the duration of the training. With more developed online training methods being implemented by the more creative providers, it is now more than possible to receive the same (if not better) level of training at a fraction of the cost and hassle of traditional face-to-face training.


Whichever course you go for, and whichever career path you choose in TEFL, just make sure that it is the right fit for you, considering the time you realistically have to devote to training activity, the hours when you are available to be online, and any hidden costs that you may need to pay to attend the course in person.


Tom Garside is Director of Language Point Teacher Education. Language Point delivers the internationally recognised RQF level 5 Trinity CertTESOL over 12 weeks, part-time in an entirely online mode of study, and level 6 Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, a contextually-informed teacher development qualification with specific courses which focus on online language education or online methodology.

If you are interested to know more about these qualifications, or you want take your teaching to a new level with our teacher development courses, contact us or see our course dates and fees for details.

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