Online vs On-site TEFL Courses, A review

Nov 10, 2014

Many prospective ESL teachers wonder whether they should sign up for an online or an onsite TEFL. Here is a brief review of the advantage of each. 

Advantages of the on-site (in-class) TEFL course

  • 1. Thorough training

Every on-site TEFL course will provide “Observed Teacher Practice” where you will be teaching real students in a classroom setting while your TEFL trainer observes your progress. This is an invaluable experience for anyone looking to become a confident teacher. In addition, you’ll have many simulated classroom settings where you get to observe your co-TEFL teachers or practice dealing with difficult students. On-site courses are better at preparing teachers for the classroom than online courses, and its graduates tend to be more effective teachers when they first start out teaching. Not all students are the same, and there are many regional differences when it comes to the disposition of your learners and the types of grammatical mistakes that are unique to a particular country. Doing an on-site course allows you to tackle these issues head-on and avoid being blindsided by cultural differences in the classroom. 

  • 2. Job Opportunities & Networking

On-site training courses generally offer comprehensive placement assistance. They’ll be able to answer questions about a particular region or employer and will advise you on how to negotiate your contract. What’s more, you will be able to interview at schools in persons, or even give a demo class which gives you a tremendous advantage over a teacher who is applying from overseas. In addition, many English training centers acknowledge the extensive teaching experience gained through an on-site TEFL course, and for some schools an on-site certificate is equal to one year of full time teaching experience! In addition to the many employment opportunities, your TEFL co-learners will be like-minded people looking for a teaching job. Having a network of English-speaking friends that you can explore the country with is comforting and makes for a better experience abroad. Also, you’ll get to compare jobs once you’ve graduated and one of your former classmates might land you your dream job a few years down the road.

  • 3. No Culture Shock

You can gradually adjust to the culture of the country you want to live in without having to worry about teaching classes or grading papers. On-site TEFL centers typically provide a lot of local orientation and additional services to help you adapt to the local culture at your own pace. In addition, by already being in the country you want to teach in, you’ll be able to easily look for long-term housing and negotiate the rent.

Benefits of Online TEFL Courses

  • 1. Convenience

Online courses allow you to study when and where you want to. You can study a couple hours a day if you are still in school or already working a full time job, or opt for an intensive course and finish your degree in less than ten days! When selecting an online course, keep in mind that the 120-hour TEFL certificate is the norm and most governments and schools have this as a minimum requirement (in addition to a Bachelor’s Degree).

  • 2. Cost

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that online TEFL courses are cheaper than their on-site counterparts. Not only does the course itself cost less, you won’t have to pay for flights, accommodation, food, visas etc. If you’re strapped for cash and all your prospective employer requires is a TEFL degree, going for an online one is probably your best choice.

  • 3. Flexibility

What if you come to find out you don’t enjoy teaching after completing the course? Completing a degree online is useful if you’re not sure what you want to do or where you want to go, but want to get your feet wet. That way, if you realize early on teaching isn’t for you, you can drop it with no big loss.


If you want to get TEFL certified, both the online and on-site course will give you the theoretical knowledge needed to teach abroad. If you already have experience teaching students, getting an online certificate can be the way to go. On the other hand, if you’re afraid you might get nervous in front of your new class, getting some real-life teaching practice through an on-site program is probably a good idea. Whatever you decide, remember that the most important decision is to get your certification process started as soon as possible and start teaching English abroad! 

Learn more:

TEFL, TESOL, CELTA, what’s the difference?

TEFL Courses in Shanghai

Discounted Online TEFL Courses

By Ginger, Account Manager at Teaching Nomad

About our company: Teaching Nomad is an American owned and operated education recruitment company based in Shanghai, China. Our goal and purpose is to help great teachers find great teaching jobs. Year round, we have hundreds of teaching job vacancies. Whether your goal is to be an ESL teacher or teach in an international school, we have a teaching job for you. You can browse jobs online at www.teachingnomad.com/job-search for the latest job openings. Teaching Nomad is here to make teaching in China easier, so please feel free to reach out and contact us with any questions or inquiries!


Recover your password

Send us your email and we will send you instructions to reset your password

If you remember your password