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Should I do my CELTA face-to-face or online?

Updated: Jan 18

Should I do my CELTA face-to-face or online?
Whether you complete your CELTA online or face-to-face the Cambridge certificate at the end of the course is the same

When we started doing CELTA courses that were fully online at the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of teacher trainers were sceptical. Would it really be the same? Could you actually teach someone to teach without being in the same room as them? It didn’t take us long to realise that we could. And not only that, but we realised that the outcomes for our trainee teachers were just as good!

Let’s firstly talk about what’s the same. Pretty much everything! The face-to-face and online versions of the CELTA course both follow the same syllabus, the courses are moderated and assessed by Cambridge Assessment in the same way, the trainers follow the same qualification and standardisation procedures and the certificate you receive from Cambridge is identical for both versions of the course.

So, if so many things are the same, how can you decide? In the end, it comes down to you and how you learn best! An online CELTA course will require more independence. Your tutors won’t be in the same room as you, encouraging you, reminding you of what needs to done. It can be very easy to switch a screen off or to get distracted while you’re doing a course from your bedroom or your living room. You definitely need to be more disciplined to do an online course – especially a course that is as intensive as CELTA.

You also need to be sure that you have the right equipment. Is your internet connection stable and strong? You’re putting yourself at a real disadvantage if you have an unreliable connection. Teaching Practice is a core element of a CELTA and if you’re wifi keeps cutting out, it will interfere with the quality of your lessons, because students won’t know what you’re saying. You also need a computer for online Teaching Practice. While some elements of the online course can be completed by someone using a phone or a tablet, you will not be able to teach effectively from a phone. You need to join online Teaching Practice from a computer so you can, for example, put students into breakout rooms for groupwork and manage this groupwork effectively. We also recommend having a headset with a microphone to ensure the best sound quality possible.

Before embarking on an online CELTA, you also have to make sure that you have the right space for it. Do you have a quiet space to work in? If not, then you should probably come into a school and do the course face-to-face. I once knew a trainee teacher who attempted to do online teaching practice while looking after a baby. As you can imagine, it didn’t go very well! An online CELTA, because it involves so much teaching practice, where you are the teacher, means that it’s not the kind of course where you can casually listen along to a lecture on your phone while you’re on the bus. You need a quiet space to work in.

Finally, while you don’t need to be an IT genius to do the course, you do need basic computer skills, and you also need the capacity to pick things up relatively quickly. For example, at the start of your course, we will show you how to share your screen with students so you can show them text or images. Once we’ve shown you that, you’ll then need to replicate that while doing teaching practice and being assessed the following day. None of the IT skills that you’ll have to use are particularly complex, but you do need to be able to pick them up and use them quickly, so if you’re scared of computers, an online CELTA isn’t for you.

In summary, if you are an independent learner, and if you have a good internet connection and decent computer, and if you have a quiet space to work in and are not afraid of learning new IT skills quickly, then an online CELTA is definitely an option, but is there anything else you need to consider when deciding between an online and a face-to-face CELTA?

Some people say that when you learn to teach online, you can quite easily adapt to teaching in a face-to-face environment, whereas if you learn to teach face-to-face, it’s more challenging to adapt to online teaching, so we can definitely argue that an online CELTA prepares you better for the world of teaching in the twenty-first century.

However, it’s also true that some features of a face-to-face classroom are difficult to replicate online and many people benefit from the human touch that a classroom-based course can bring. You can make real friendships and form support networks on a face-to-face course that you can’t make in an online environment. If you’re having a panicky moment before teaching practice, it’s nice to be in a room with people who can help you in a way that’s difficult when you’re in remote study environment. A face-to-face CELTA definitely suits some learners better than others, and some of that is down to technical competence etc, but a big part of the reason is the human touch!

At the end of the day, a CELTA is a CELTA, and whether it’s online or a face-to-face course, you will learn a lot about teaching English and receive a certificate that will open all kinds of career and travel opportunities. The choice of course format really comes down to you and your personal preferences and circumstances!

Dr Connor O'Donoghue hails from Ireland and he started teaching English as a foreign language in Poland in 2003 and he became a CELTA trainer in 2008. He has taught and trained in Ireland, the UK, France, Italy, Slovenia, Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Kazakhstan and Vietnam. Connor also holds a Masters and a PhD in Education from Trinity College in Dublin. He has previously managed large teacher training centres in Vietnam and in London before founding DC Teacher Training.

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