• Online vs. Onsite Courses

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    Becoming certified to teach English as a second language can be done onsite or online. On online course was the most efficient, economical and in many ways the superior way for me. This article explains my background and situation. It also touches on the process I went through to get to this, the final lesson.

    Online is not for everyone. It takes an open and creative mind to step into the world of computers and electronic tutors. An imagination and discipline were keys to my approach. Imagination was profound when I would take time away from class and Google some blogs about teaching English. Dave’s Café was just one of these places where you could find endless discussions on the joys and perils of teaching English in other countries. These stories were the food that fed my imagination. I would imagine what it would be like to be in my favorite foreign country. The customs and different people were romantic and seducing.

    Discipline is found in many different places and techniques. Having worked in the private and government sector for the last 25 years went a long ways to this. The ability to concentrate and focus on an objective was not hard. I have climbed some of the most remote and challenging mountains in Montana and Colorado. I have bottomed, explored, and documented some of the World’s deepest caves so I took this energy and experience and re-directed into learning something new and exciting. Ah, a chance to explore my mind and if I could teach I will have the opportunity to explore the student’s mind. Find out what makes them tick. Find out what motivates them. A human puzzle perhaps the most challenging of all professions, teaching.

    I decided I had all of the essential ingredients for online learning. Am I ready to start? No, not quite yet. Before I start my journey I needed to find out the answer to one simple question. Will the certification or TESOL certificate from an online course be recognized, accepted, and land me a job? I researched this from several viewpoints. Obtaining opinions these days is like anything else. If you ask enough people you will find the answer to your question. I basically heard it would get you a job, but….

    Would’nt schools want to know if you’d have actually taught some classes? Show stopper, warning, red flag. How can you teach online? You can not but you can go to places such as your local University and watch a teacher teach a class. Hooray, I found an alternative, or did I? Is watching the same as teaching a class? No it is not.

    I pondered this problem and dilemma for sometime. I had learnt in the past that when you spend all your time figuring something out you may be heading in the wrong direction. I was perhaps making this too hard. I was making it too difficult. Being able to teach is probably one of the most important skills a teacher can demonstrate. That is undisputable. I am a native English speaker and college educated but can I teach?

    I compare this puzzle to being mesmerized as a youth looking at a very nice, shiny, fancy Mercedes Benz car and them some asked the pivotal question, “does it run”?

    I pondered the question some more and then reviewed and analyzed my work experience. In my previous jobs I have taught many uneducated people technical medical engineering. I have communicated and educated the public on government rules and regulations in a major city in the United States, Missoula, Montana. My performance reviews said I excelled in these areas and was an excellent communicator. I had bonus points for being able to deal with all kinds of people and I excelled with the most difficult ones. Someone once described me on the radio and in the newspaper as “unflappable”.

    Whew. I had cleared that hurdle. Oh, wait a minute, what about a follow up question. Did I like this modified teaching. Soul searching and pondering return. I went back in time and quickly the answered surfaced like a nuclear submarine. Yes, absolutely, I thrived on talking, teaching, and educating the public? Furthermore, I concluded it was as one of the most rewarding and consistent components of all of my previous jobs. Is teaching is similar to my past experience? YES, with all caps!

    Hold on a minute I said. Not so fast. Is teaching a captured audience or bunch of teenagers the same as explaining to a citizen why he has to pay for his sidewalks and storm drain. No, it might be quite different. I concluded that the answer to this question would remain a mystery and I would let destiny and intuition lead me the final answer.

    OK, I have decided fate would take me down the path of life. My next task ways to see what research was saying about online learning.

    WorldWideLearn, one of the world’s premier online directory of education details the top ten e-learning trends. Reading this article opened my eyes to what is happening now and in the future. As the saying goes, the future is looking so bright I must put on my shades.

    Another interesting article on this subject was done in 2001 by Brent G. Wilson. The opening of his article was actually a quote from someone else. This caught my attention:

    Distance education has been described as a disruptive technology—an innovation that, while initially posing no threat to established institutions, over time challenges conventional practices and contributes to new ways of thinking (Archer, Garrison, & Anderson, 1999)

    Wilson agreed with this assessment in his article and I realized that this was what I had been looking for. I was ready to quit my government job and start a new fresh and exciting life of teaching. Online teaching will give me the added advantage of tapping into my mountain adrenaline energy and also open up my creative mind. I can explore and channel my experience, thoughts and follow the path of intuition.

    The key to my online learning was gathering up some of the recommend books listed in the course and supplementing the lessons. I remember this same passion from my past. It was similar to the work I did for my favorite classes in high school and college. Similar to the feelings I had when I took Chinese Kung Fu, White Crane style, at Purdue University twice a day four days a week. If you put in all of this extra energy and time then what comes out is blossom, a wild rose!

    I also managed to teach some classes just before finishing my online TESOL course and that added value and fuel to my Rocky Mountain high propelling me to the heights and speeds that only condors or falcons reach. I had broken the sound barrier and it felt right just like an old glove or my old pair of mountain books.

    In conclusion, you get out of life what you put in to it. If you fuel your life with high energy you will most certainly have highs and lows. I can guarantee you the highs I have experienced so far tell me Everest and K-2 like experiences are just up ahead in my journey as a TESOL teacher. I am looking forward to exploring the minds of new people and other cultures. I can see up ahead with vivid detail the mountains of China and Russia. They are calling like a siren.

    I look forward to the challenge of motivating and unlocking the mysteries of how people learn, understand, and become proficient in English.

    Joe Oliphant

  • Online vs. Onsite

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    The evolution of the internet has led to an increase in online learning opportunities for TESOL students. Information can be stored and transferred between users facilitating a virtual classroom for online users.

    The myriads of teaching sites vary enormously. Receptive sites offer textbook layout with automated exercises and auto correction. Sometimes it’s possible to download sound files to recreate an online language laboratory. There’s no contact whatsoever with a teacher. However, many of these sites are free, making them extremely popular.

    Interactive sites involve a virtual rapport with an online teacher. Lafford (1997) divided these into synchronous – real time communication through a keyboard, microphone and more recently using web cams, and asynchronous – communication via emails.

    So, what do these courses offer? Easy accessibility certainly comes high on the agenda along with a large degree of flexibility in study time. The Japanese based Nova school offer online lessons with a maximum of four students being taught. Students can “drop in” at any time for a lesson, pay up with a credit card and be “in class” minutes later. For busy people, this presents an ideal learning opportunity. Less obvious advantages exist. Thompson (2003) researched student teacher questions online and onsite with Chinese learners. He demonstrated an increase in student questions due to the anonymity offered through the online environment - without the threat of losing face in front of others.

    However, online learning also has its problems. Haliday highlighted the difficulties of teaching speech over the internet. He expressed concern that the distinction between speech and writing is becoming blurred as a consequence of modern technology. He wrote this article in 1999. Since then technological advances have helped enormously. The Nova language school pushes the boat out for it’s extremely modern multi media centre. A virtual online tour shows off 700 teachers, equipped with the latest in teaching software, audio and video technology online.

    The cost of online learning also poses problems .The price of a good computer, could pay for the construction of a village school in Laos. Several authors have expressed concern that advances in technology are an exercise in marketing - we are held hostage to the computer gurus, there will always be the new software and hardware round the corner with a hefty price tag. They also remarked that IT training - a short-term skill due to the aforementioned technological advances - uses up valuable teachers time.

    Former online teachers have complained on EFL forums about low moral and high staff turnover. A reason frequently cited is the lack of continuity with students. One five-year Nova veteran had only taught the same students on two occasions. Other criticisms include a lack of spontaneity and the difficulty in transmitting and receiving non-verbal signals – so important in a learning environment. In addition to this many EFL teachers have chosen their job to facilitate contact with another culture but the social contact with students online is virtually – no pun intended - nonexistent. Forum contributors have also remarked upon student’s dissatisfaction and motivation due to the absence of a solid teacher student relationship.

    So, are we becoming to isolated in an age of technological convenience? Will the virtual classroom replace the real thing?

    The author believes that the demand for online courses will grow with the increasing accessibility to the Internet and, it will remain a valuable teaching resource. However, it will never be able to replace the presence of a teacher - the human touch that is impossible to communicate with a computer, no matter how sophisticated.

    Mike Warren

  • Online Vs Inclass Courses

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    With the advent of the internet the face of the modern world changed forever, opening many opportunities to those who before had none. Education has evolved in this new world, with the introduction and growing popularity of online learning as an option to traditional onsite education.

    “In a time not so long ago, online degrees were questionable, frowned upon, even considered worthless” 1. The stigma however has greatly decreased in the last 20 years.

    Online or onsite which one is right for you?

    To come to an informed decision we must first discover what each style has to offer.

    Traditional onsite learning experience is one based in the classroom, full immersion and in the case of teaching English as a second language involves actual teaching experience, something that cannot be replicated online.

    “The importance of a college education in terms of the opportunities which it opens up for the rest of your life should not be underestimated.” 2 There is immediate feedback to work, and the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals allowing for good networking. The whole experience is a good way to expand personal and social horizons. It is a fully committed experience, which you live 24 hours a day.

    Online learning has come along way since its beginnings it is now done “through a combination of interactive technology and experienced technical savy” 3 Online has the same basic information and goal, but is taught in a different manner. Lessons online are more interactive and theory based and unlike onsite are much more flexible in nature you can do things at your own pace a couple of hours a week, or 10 hours a week whatever suits your lifestyle. Although, this is at the expense of immediate feedback.

    Unlike onsite the experience is much more solitary in manner, but considerable cheaper than the equivalent.

    Each method has its weaknesses and its strengths, deciding which is right for an individual really depends on a number of factors:

    Lifestyle constraints i.e. how much time a person has to commit to learning. For example, an 18-year-old girl straight out of college will probably have more time to study than a 35-year-old woman with a full time job and 2 kids. In these cases, the 18-year-old girl may prefer the onsite learning, as she has no commitments and would benefit from social and networking opportunities that come with this. The 35 year old probably does not have the time to do a fulltime course, and may benefit from flexible learning around her lifestyle.

    Secondly, monetary constraints versus aims. onsite courses are much more expensive than online ones, if you are wanting to learn new skills for a part time course or have no specific aim the online option maybe more desirable than a costly onsite course.

    Alternatively, if you wanted a full time job change the social and networking aspects that the onsite course provides would be beneficial over the online alterative.

    What kind of person are you? A highly motivated and organised person would find the online experience enjoyable; however, a person who needs constant reminding about deadline may struggle with the online format.

    Lastly creditability, although online courses have come along way there is still some stigma attached to them. The educational institute should be fully researched to check its credibility as this might course problems in the future.

    In summary, there is no definitive answer when deciding whether to go for online or onsite education many factors such as personal circumstances and the needs of the individual will come into play when deciding what to go for. The “online school experience will differ greatly from your on-site school experience and you should make sure that you are fully aware of the differences before you proceed with either course.” 4 the choice is yours.

    Scott Macleod

  • Online VS In-class Courses

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    Online courses are vastly becoming more popular with the growth of the internet and busy lifestyles. Online courses provide an opportunity for people with families, full time jobs, other commitments or limited finances to further their knowledge and education at their own pace and environment, with minimal cost. But is this the best way to achieve your goal of becoming a teacher?

    Having completed lengthy research on this topic before opting to study for an online qualification, it was apparent that both online and onsite courses have their pro’s and cons and that it is largely down to personal preference and differing situations that determine which type of course is best suited to each individual. In an ideal world we would all have the flexibility and finances to allow us to take on any course whenever and wherever we wanted, however this is not an ideal world and that is a luxury that most of us unfortunately do not have.

    Onsite courses undoubtedly prepare you for what lies ahead in the world of teaching, more so than online courses. Some give opportunity to teach actual English students, and most have observed practice sessions, which is an international requirement and a perk you do not get with an online course. It is worth noting however, that some online providers do offer teaching practice opportunities at an extra cost. Onsite courses have a good balance between theory and practical work, allowing first hand training from experienced teachers. Despite the perks associated with onsite courses, they are the most expensive way of attaining a teaching English certificate. Onsite courses can be completed in anything from 2 days to a year, if studying part time and can range from just below £200 to £1000. More often than not you will be required to travel to the course and pay additional accommodation fees.

    Online courses are the most cost effective way of becoming a teacher of a foreign language. Online courses easily fit around busy schedules, allowing the flexibility to study at your own pace, which you don’t get with an onsite course. They have a more theoretical approach than onsite courses and are completed via the internet with help and guidance from an online tutor. However bear in mind that if you need assistance it has to be done via email and can take up to 24 hours for a response and they may not work weekends. There is no opportunity to practice teaching with online courses; however some provide you with an opportunity to watch a tape/DVD of a teacher during a lesson, which gives a taster of what’s to come.

    After researching various sites offering TEFL courses, it seems there is not much difference between the content of onsite and online courses, other than onsite gives opportunity for teaching practice. A study conducted by Yang and Wong titled: Teaching On-line Versus On-site: A Study of Instructional Delivery Modes in Foreign Language Educationfound that there was not much difference between the weight of online and onsite courses, however, students studying using online methods could learn at varying rates and explore material to whatever depth they desired. Online courses can take from 20 - 100 hours to complete and range from £100 - £200 in price. It is important that you are relatively competent using a computer and possess a knowledge of emailing, creating Word documents and attaching files to send to your tutor. You also need the internet to access the worksheets and units and a printer is useful if you wish to work somewhere other than at the computer.

    When choosing a course, online or onsite, it is important you are aware how well recognised the qualification is. Online TEFL certificates are often not worldly recognised and may restrict job opportunities upon completion. CELTA, Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults, is highly regarded throughout the world and is accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). Such a certificate will stand an individual a better chance of gaining a teaching post than would a certificate from an online course.

    Remember before signing up for an online course that there is no teacher or classroom environment to encourage or motivate you to complete the work – self motivation is key and without it you will fall behind quickly. There is no denying, it is a difficult course and if you are working full time, have a family, or work long hours, motivating yourself to pick up a pen and study after a hard day is the last thing anybody wants to do. But if you are determined and motivated enough to achieve your goal, achieving an online TEFL qualification is rewarding and attainable. Whether online or onsite, is down to individual preference.

    Stephanie Roberts and Jonathan Jameson


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