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Online versus onsite courses When researching what Teaching English
When researching what Teaching English as a Foreign Language Course to do I was amazed at the volume of onsite and online courses available. Living in Saudi Arabia the option of doing an onsite course was just not available to me so I decided to embark on the joys of online study. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to studying online, particularly in a country where the internet is fairly new and unpredictable, and I will try to shed a little light on this.
First step was to decide which course to do. There are a number of online resources that claim to help you make the best choice, such as WhichCourse.com (1), or a simple internet search will bring up more websites dedicated to TEFL than you could ever imagine. Most websites dedicated to TEFL and teacher training will provide a list of their online and onsite courses with course content and other necessary information to assist with the big decision. The decision on which course to do will be based on a number of factors including access to the course, as was the case with me, cost and course content.
The reasons why people choose online learning can vary and there are definite advantages to doing a course online. In my case, as mentioned, access to a course was the main factor in my decision to do an online course. Most onsite courses occur in English-speaking countries, although there are course available in exotic international locations such as Phuket, Thailand or Rome, Italy (2). An online course also enables you to work at your own pace and complete the work as time permits, even if it is 2am on a Sunday night. Most onsite courses require a commitment of 4 consecutive weeks, which is just not possible for many people, and the cost tends to be greater than an online course.
There are a number of disadvantages to completing a course online as well and I have to admit that, given the choice, I would have preferred to have done the course onsite. One of the big disadvantages I found was that there is no opportunity to work with other learners and learn from other people in a group, including learning from the teaching experiences of the TEFL teacher trainer, which I feel assists in retaining information and also provides opportunities to share ideas and experiences. Also the lack of immediate access to a teacher is also a disadvantage. Whilst any good online course will provide access to an online tutor who works hard to provide feedback as soon as possible, it is certainly not the same as having someone to provide immediate feedback and discussion on what's being learned and practice particular difficulties that you might be having. Last, but certainly not least, I believe that doing an online course requires a lot more motivation and commitment to complete than an onsite course. Working at your own pace can be good, but not if that pace is slower than the pace required to complete the course, and of course a reliable internet service provider is an advantage.
In summary, there are situations and circumstances in which completing and online course is the only option. I definitely feel that I have benefited from completing the course, my online tutor was very helpful when I needed it and the course content was comprehensive. However, if the opportunity to do the course onsite is a viable option then I would say that this would provide opportunities, practice and skills that are just available through an online course.