What makes a good online TEFL certificate?

It comes down to the same three things that make or break any learning experience: the teacher, the course and the students. Let’s start by looking at the teacher.

The Teacher

Aristotle said “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” Terry Pratchett, said “No useful skill or talent whatsoever? Have you thought of going into teaching?” How can you make sure the tutor on your course is more ‘Greek Philosopher’ than ‘English Fantasy Novelist’?

Find your tutors’ qualifications. Look for a Trinity Diploma in TESOL or a Cambridge DELTA. Both contain practical teaching components, which make them more valuable than an MA (Masters) in TESOL. Tutors also get bonus points for training experience, teaching experience and having worked in a multitude of locations. Without the qualifications, the rest is meaningless.


The Course                        

Next the “what”, “how” and “why” of the course.

Check what the course covers. Look at the syllabus. Compare this to the syllabi for the most widely accepted teaching certificates (Trinity’s CertTESOL and Cambridge’s CELTA).

Check how the course is run. Look for variety in interactivity, assessment and types of input.

Check the “why” of the course. Is your course provider out to make a quick buck or is there a mission behind their enterprise?


The Student

Finally, the most important person in the learning process is you, the student. If you’re motivated and excited to learn, you’ll get a lot out of a mediocre course. If you’re looking for a bit of paper to land you a job, you’ll get little out of a great course. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.


All educational experiences affect the teachers we go onto become. To paraphrase Phil Collins (yes, that Phil Collins) “In learning you teach and in teaching you learn.”

Good luck choosing the right TEFL course for you.

Can I have your attention please?

Last week, one of my colleagues, turned to me and asked “Hey! Do you have ADHD?”

I didn’t quite know how to respond. I was switching between watching thirty second segments of a TED talk, chatting with someone on Skype, sending a text message and now I was about to get embroiled in an argument on why I didn’t need to be prescribed Ritalin.

Sound familiar?

If it does, don’t worry. With social networking, instant messaging and internet marketing, the modern world has conditioned us to have shorter attention spans than ever before. Sir Ken Robinson calls it, “the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the Earth.” These distractions don’t end when students walk through the doors of our schools.

While we’re asking students to focus on English, they’re being distracted by a hundred other things. As teachers, we’re competing for our students’ attention with smart phones, iPads and advertising hoardings.

So what are we going to do about it? Confiscate tablets at the front desk? Block mobile reception in schools?

I believe we need to change our mindsets. Our primary responsibility as teachers is to engage our learners in the classroom. Yes; learning, instruction, phonology, grammar and feedback are all important, but if we can’t engage our students from the moment they enter the classroom, we’re doomed to coming off second best in a battle for students’ attention.

And when our students aren’t paying attention, let’s not point the finger and ask who has ADHD. Let’s look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we should be changing in order to make this class so engaging and so personalized that our students will be frustrated by incoming phone calls and text messages, not us.