TEFL Online Vs. In Class Courses

Education has undergone many evolutions and transformations during the technological age. But I think the most notable change is the advent of online courses. Now it is possible for students to take classes from destinations remote to the classroom or college. Many more people find it convenient take courses at home during their spare time. At times and for certain courses, online sites are very convenient and just as effective as an in class class might be. However, in class language classes are far and away a much better way to learn a language than attempting to learn from an online course.

Given the need for visual and audio cues and examples, a strictly online course would be far less effective than an in class course for ESL, TEFL, and TOEFL students to learn language because of the constant need for stimulus and the equally constant threat of distraction. Many non-native speakers, particularly beginners, learn far more from the visual and auditory cues from the teacher and classmates because they are able to parrot pronunciation or pick- up clues from a picture or video. Pictures, actions, and sound capture their attention. With online courses, the student must wade through pages of exercises and notes that are not in their native language with little or no visual/auditory aide. If it is easy for a student studying a subject in his/her native language to become distracted by things going on around them at home, imagine how much more likely it is for a student who is studying a foreign language without help or visual cues: ?One of the reasons it is harder is that online students face more distractions than do students in a classroom. ?You have to script it very carefully,? says Eli Noam, professor of economics and finance at Columbia. He knows he´s competing with wine, crying children and prime-time TV. Business School.?(Svetcov, 2) Further, if a student is close to pronouncing the word correctly, a teacher or fellow student can prompt him along by making sounds or miming actions. An in class course is more likely to have more visual aides with the added advantage of the instructor to help explain or adapt the visual aide to a particular student. Aside from the added visual to help with learning the language, in class courses also offer a host of other activities to make the learning more interesting and fun. Role-play is a common activity for language courses that an online student would not benefit from. An in class course might also have activities like board games and memory games, mime or charades, and class trips to local places to try out the language.

The social aspect of the in class classroom is irreplaceable especially for learners of language who need the social interaction with teachers and other students. Interaction with other people is a valuable advantage for on-site courses as opposed to on-line courses because emotional bonds are formed that help create interest in the subject and promote learning: ?People tend to lose interest if there´s nobody on the other side who cares if I´m here or not," remarks´s Phillips."That´s where we´re getting dropouts."(Svetcov, 2) Being able to ask your teacher questions and get immediate and accurate responses makes completing exercises and other homework assignments easier. In class courses also offer the advantage of a teacher?s aide who can speak the native language of the class and offer some help if the student is completely confused and unable to complete a task. The teacher?s aide is also another source for information and help in English. Finally, the additional students help make the class more fun and a better learning experience. Having other students in class offers a variety of experiences and brings diversity to the class. Having more diversity allows the teacher to be more creative with lessons and activities. The verbal exchanges often help initiate learning and the growth of new ideas: ?Sociocognitive theorists describe learning as an interactive group process in which learners actively construct knowledge and then build upon that knowledge through the exchange of ideas with others.? (Richardson and Swan, 81) Other students also make it easy to practice speaking the language with another student of the same ability. In classes, it is possible to work in groups or in pairs with students of your level. In this way students gain confidence and language skills grow faster.

There are obvious advantages to taking some online courses. It is more convenient, many times it is cheaper, and a student can work at his or her own pace. But some subjects are obviously bettered suited to an in class classroom atmosphere and learning a language is one of those subjects.


Richardson, Jennifer C. Ph.D. and Karen Swan, Ph.D. ?Examining Social Presence in Online Courses in Relation to Students´ Perceived Learning and Satisfaction.? JALN Volume 7, Issue 1 ? February 2003.

Svetcov, Danielle. ?The Virtual Classroom Vs. The Real One.?; 09.11.00

Author: Paul Wilson

Date of post: 2007-04-17