Introduction to Online TEFL Certification
Before choosing an online TEFL program, it is important to know the difference between TEFL, TESOL, and TESL, which can be confusing as they are often used interchangeably. All terms apply to teaching English to those whose first language is not English. Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) certification is generally used to teach non-native English speakers in countries where English is the primary language, while Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a certification obtained by those who will most likely be teaching in countries where English is not the primary language. Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is used to refer to both programs.
Not all programs are created equal, and there is no one governing body that awards TEFL certification. Rather, TEFL programs can award ''certification'' to successful graduates. To ensure recognition and acceptance of earned credentials, you can begin by looking for U.S. programs that are accredited and listed on the U.S. Department of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training), is one such accreditation to look for when choosing a program stateside. But assuming you are interested in TEFL because you desire to work abroad, an internationally accredited program denotes that the courses you take meet international industry standards. Here's a glance at two such accrediting bodies:
- Online TEFL and TESOL Standards Agency (OTTSA)
- Teaching Training Council
Earning Your Certification in TEFL
The length and price of online TEFL programs vary greatly. Prices can range from a couple hundred dollars to more than $1,000 per program. Although some programs offer 40- to 60-hour foundational certificates, international standards generally dictate that certification holders complete at least a 100-hour TEFL certification program. A thorough program will teach English as a foreign language theory, research, and practice necessary to develop the pedagogical knowledge and skills to successfully teach English abroad to culturally diverse populations.
For many programs, a high school diploma and English language proficiency are the only educational background requirements for enrollment. It's worth noting that although some teach English abroad jobs have a certification only requirement, there are others that specify a bachelor's degree (sometimes not field specific) as a minimum requisite for employment.
As with any educational program, the specific components will vary, but overall there are general commonalities to TEFL certification programs. Aside from coursework in grammar, reading, and writing, you can look forward to instruction in:
Listening and Speaking
This level of coursework explores the rudiments of introducing the concepts of listening, pronunciation, and speaking in a non-native tongue. Students may likely learn about the language learning process and different approaches to facilitate second-language learning.
Using past and present curricula models, this coursework instructs students on creating syllabi and detailed lesson plans that fit various cultural and usage needs from business conversation to academic level English. Students may likely learn how to evaluate the usefulness of specialized class materials and how to best use online and print materials to facilitate learning.
Classroom management coursework is not the same as teaching practicums, which provide supervised teaching experience for the student-teacher. Classroom management coursework helps develop the skills needed to tailor the academic environment to meet the needs and learning styles of students while also emphasizing classroom behavior expectations and management. Exploring the best approaches to feedback, assessments, and correcting student errors are generally part of this type coursework.
General Overview of Online TEFL Programs
The flexibility of online TEFL programs provides open and rolling enrollment options. Whereas some programs allow you to sign up and begin immediately, other online programs have specific start dates available throughout the year. Generally, open enrollment programs are self-paced, while programs with specific start dates may have required due dates for online class discussion boards and exams. Whichever you choose, a 120- to 150-hour program can be completed in less than four months.
For programs that aren't instructor led, there may be live tutor options available. Even if your country of choice doesn't require teaching practicums, it's an option made available or required by multiple programs. These supervised practicums are offered at an approved facility. Some programs often provide transferable graduate-level coursework. It's worth noting that while some certifications are offered online via colleges and universities, traditional financial aid may not be available for TEFL certifications.
If you desire to teach English abroad, earning a TEFL certification is a worthy starting point with flexible online learning opportunities available year-round. Transferable graduate level credits, accommodating teaching practicums, and internationally recognized curricula are some of the benefits of this certification, which can be earned in as little as three months.