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How to ace your online TEFL course


So, you have paid the money and signed yourself up to an online TEFL course (see: to qualify to teach English as a foreign language.  This might not have been your first choice but the lockdown has suspended all classroom and taught sessions so now it’s just you and the laptop.

You may not have studied at home before or you may not have studied at home for a very long time so when you receive that email saying your online course materials have arrived or your access is set up to the online learning hub, it could be with some trepidation that you take those first steps and log in.

Here is a concise guide about how to set yourself up to study at home to optimise your success and make it work around family life.

How to organise your study time

It can seem something of a daunting prospect to organise your study time around housemates or a busy family life particularly with everyone stuck in the house together during lockdown.  Unless you live in a palace, most people are all rather on top of one another at the moment and so it can be hard to find some personal space for any solo activity.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The best way to start to structure your study is to divide your course up into sections and work out how long it will take you to do each bit.  Most online teaching is deliberately designed to be flexible to fit around other things so you may find that the only deadlines you have are the ones you impose for yourself.

If your household is busy, try and work at quiet times such as when the children have gone to bed if they are little or before they get up in the morning if they are teenagers.  You can schedule study time whilst other members of the household are out at work or shopping.  You are bound to get interruptions, it is inevitable even if you are lucky enough to have a dedicated room to study in.  There are always noise-cancelling headphones.

Find a working space and set it up

It is important to have a delineation between home life and study time and this can be difficult if you don’t have a dedicated study where you can close the door when you have finished your study session and walk away.  Most people don’t have that luxury.  Set yourself up a workspace with a properly designed and supportive chair – not the sofa or your bed – and desk and then when you have finished studying for the day, tidy away your papers into folders and close your laptop.  This will help you make the important distinction between study time and downtime and also help your family to understand and respect when you might need some peace and quiet to get on with your work.

Set realistic goals

If you have 120 hours of coursework to get through then don’t try and do it all in three weeks just because you are on lockdown and theoretically you can.  You will get more benefit from the course if you tackle it in bite-sized chunks and factor in some time to revise and refresh areas that you found more difficult.

You may discover that there are weeks when you can do less study than others due to family commitments like a sick child or other problems.  The whole idea of online study is that it is designed to be super flexible around other commitments.  There are bound to be some weeks when you are able to do less work than others.

When you set out your study plan, consider how you will manage the study commitment you set yourself weekly if lockdown restrictions are lifted and your children go back to school or you go back to work.  It is very easy to set unrealistic targets with study and then become frustrated when you can’t reach them.

Isolation issues

Studying at home via distance learning requires a degree of self-discipline, motivation and organisation – it can be isolating which is why many people choose to have classroom-based tuition if at all possible.

Find out from your course provider if they have online groups or chat rooms where you can engage with other students and share ideas and problems.  These support groups don’t have to come from your course provider and they don’t even have to involve TEFL although clearly, TEFL specific issues are best resolved by those connected to your course.  Many challenges with distance learning and home study come with the territory and are common to lots of home students.  There is plenty of online support and advice available via the internet and social media groups.

What next after certification?

So, you have completed the course but are not yet ready to travel because the world is in lockdown so why not plan ahead for 2021?

  • Research the countries where you would like to have your first teaching post
  • Find someone who has taught there and pick their brains for advice or read their online blog
  • If you haven’t got a natural preference then spend some time looking at the different age ranges of students and the different types of learning institutions in your preferred destination country
  • Look around for any further study opportunities which are specific to your travel plans and which will give you the edge when applying for jobs
  • Start applying for posts for 2021
  • Develop lesson plans using good online resources and tools from experienced TEFL teachers and language schools
  • Stress test your plans and financing to see whether you would have been able to cope stranded far away from home in a foreign country if you had been teaching abroad when the Coronavirus pandemic first began
  • Sign up with an online language school and start to do some easy paid teaching work from home. You won’t earn a fortune but it is always a very useful skill to acquire to supplement your salary when you are in post abroad and the experience will really help get you started without the pressure of having to stand up in front of a classroom full of students.  And it’s a great way to get some experience on your teaching CV

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