Which Online TEFL Certification is for You? Distance-Learning vs. Self-Study

By Lisa Rooney
October 31, 2011

You want to teach English abroad.  You don’t have a TEFL certification.  You can’t attend a face-to-face, traditional TEFL course like the CELTA or IDELT.  What do you do?

The answer is easy – you get TEFL certified online, of course.  Well, that’s the easy part.  Now you have to figure out which online TEFL course is best for you.  There are two main types of online TEFL courses available: distance-learning courses and self-study courses.  Following are some general characteristics of both types of courses, as well as some tips on how to choose which type is a good fit for your needs.


  • Distance-learning TEFL courses tend to run on a structured schedule.  Generally there is a certain amount of content broken down into modules, each of which has to be completed either every week, every two weeks, every month, etc.  The most common courses require that assignments be submitted every week.

  • Self-study TEFL courses tend to allow for a certain time period in which the student must complete the entire course.  However, there are not fixed due dates on assignments, and a student can work at his/her own pace until finished with the course.

Type of Learning

  • Distance-learning TEFL courses provide what is usually referred to as synchronous learning, meaning that all of the students in the class move through the content and the assignments at the same time.  They all start and finish the course at the same time.  However, within this framework, there is a little room for asynchronous learning.  This is when students may be working on any one assignment or task at different times.

  • Self-study TEFL courses provide what is usually referred to as asynchronous learning.  This means that the student moves through the course at his/her own pace.  So, while some students may be on Module 3, another may be on Module 5, and yet another on Module 7. Students do not move through the course at the same time.

Level of Interaction with Classmates

  • Distance-learning TEFL courses almost always provide a very high level of interaction with classmates.  This may happen in forums, chat rooms, live messaging, or live video conferences. Distance-learning TEFL courses also often include a group project, where classmates have to work together on an assignment.

  • Self-study TEFL courses usually do not provide such a high level of peer interaction.  There may be some open forums for students to post on, but generally most of the interaction takes place between the trainee and the tutor who grades his/her assignments.

How to choose?

Here are some simple questions to ask yourself to help you choose between a distance-learning course and a self-study course.

  1. Does my schedule allow me to work a regular amount of hours (8 – 10) per week on a course?
  2. Do I enjoy sharing ideas and perspectives with other people?
  3. Does having a structured schedule help me to stay focused on my studies?

If you answered “yes” to the above questions, a distance-learning course is right for you!

  1. Does my schedule change often, making it hard for me to commit to a certain number of hours per week on my TEFL course?
  2. Do I feel more comfortable sharing my ideas and work with my online tutor only?
  3. Do I have the discipline to complete a self-study course on my own without needing strict deadlines?

If you answered “yes” to the above questions, a self-study course is right for you!

Whichever online TEFL course you choose, you can feel good about your decision because it will make you eligible for thousands of jobs abroad teaching English!  Online TEFL certification is your ticket to employment overseas as an EFL teacher!  Go for it!

Explore all of Bridge’s online TEFL courses here.