Teaching Online vs. the Classroom – How Do They Compare?By Maggie Palmer
March 5, 2021
Teaching English online has seen incredible growth in popularity in recent years and especially now, because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, which leads to consideration of the differences in teaching online vs. the classroom. Which is better for you — the virtual classroom, a traditional brick and mortar TEFL/TESOL school, or maybe even a combination of the two? Learning about the differences between these two options can help you decide which career path to pursue — or if you should pursue both!
What are the main differences between teaching English in the classroom and teaching online?
Teaching in the classroom
For a comparison between online teaching and classroom teaching, it’s important to first start with the different types of students. If you’re hoping to teach English abroad or in your home country in the classroom, you have a lot of options in terms of students and age groups.
If you want to work with young learners, you could work in a preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school. Or, for teens, you might choose to work in a middle school or high school. If you prefer adult learners, you can work at a university or teach Business English.
After you know what age you prefer, if you’re working in a brick and mortar environment, you should also consider whether you want to work in a public or private school or if you’d prefer working in a training center. There are both advantages and disadvantages to teaching English abroad at a chain school or independent school. The key is to do your research and find the place that’s the best fit for you.
Also, keep in mind that with the current pandemic, depending on the city, country, and current restrictions, some schools might be putting hiring on hold or delaying start dates. Don’t let this discourage you, but just be prepared and know that things are often moving a little slower than normal, so try to be flexible and patient.
For teaching English online, you’ll probably find that a vast number of companies specifically focus on young learners, and many of the large companies cater to Chinese students.
However, if you prefer older students, there are also companies where you can teach English online to adults. Just keep in mind that you’ll probably have fewer choices available, and some have specific hiring seasons based on demand. But, don’t worry, as long as you do your research, you won’t have problems finding a company.
Learn more about the requirements to teach online in this article: How to Teach English Online From Home.
One of the greatest perks of teaching English online is how flexible it is. If you’ve been looking for a job that will allow you to live a location-independent lifestyle, then online teaching is ideal for you. For example, if you want to spend six months living in Costa Rica before visiting your family for a few months, you can absolutely do this. Teaching English online as a digital nomad is possible regardless of where you are physically located in the world.
If you know that you want to live abroad but aren’t exactly sure where you want to live, you can always teach online and explore different areas. Then, once you find a city or country where you want to stay longer-term, you might decide to start teaching in a brick and mortar school, or even teach both online and in person.
Most teachers who work in a traditional classroom have set hours. Teachers at language institutes that accommodate students before and after school or work may have split schedules that require both mornings and evenings, or even weekends. Teachers in a K-12 setting, on the other hand, will most likely teach a standard 8-4 schedule.
Online teachers have the flexibility to choose their own schedules, but it’s important to note that much of the demand for online English classes comes from countries in Asia, such as China and Vietnam, so as an online teacher, you may find yourself waking up at odd hours to teach a class in order to catch your students at peak teaching times.
Salaries for classroom-based teaching jobs are set by the schools and generally align with the economic level of the country where they’re located. Click here for average monthly salaries for popular TEFL/TESOL destinations.
Salaries for online English teachers, on the other hand, vary depending on the company for which you teach, your qualifications and experience, and how many hours you choose to work (many online companies let you work as many hours as you like). An average hourly rate for an online teaching job at one of the major online English providers ranges from around $14-$25 USD.
If you work as an independent online English teacher, you’re free to set your own rates and schedule with your students, which, for experienced and highly qualified teachers, could lead to higher income.
The recommended TEFL certification is similar for jobs teaching English online vs. in the classroom. For both, the international standard TEFL/TESOL requirement is at least 120-hours of certification. This can be earned through an online TEFL course, a classroom-based one, or a blended one.
Additional requirements to teach in the classroom vary mostly by location and can include a bachelor’s degree or teaching experience. For a look at requirements for classroom-based TEFL/TESOL jobs by country, check out the Jobs at a Glance Chart.
For teaching English online, it’s recommended that you take a certificate program focused on teaching in the virtual classroom specifically, such as the Bridge Specialized TEFL/TESOL Certificate in Teaching English Online. Online teaching jobs may also have additional requirements (a degree or experience working with kids, for example), though this varies from company to company and plenty of opportunities exist for teachers of all experience levels.
What are the pros and cons of teaching English online vs. the classroom?
First, let’s go over some of the pros and cons of teaching English online.
Pros of teaching English online
Cons of teaching English online
Pros of teaching English in the classroom
That being said, teaching English in the traditional classroom setting has its own pros and cons.
Cons of teaching English in the classroom
However, there are some relevant cons to teaching in the traditional classroom setting.
So, which is better, teaching English online or in the classroom?
Now that you know some of the clear differences between online teaching vs. classroom teaching, you may find the benefits of teaching online vs. the classroom outweigh the disadvantages. Or, you could most value the opportunity to teach in a physical classroom with a group of students.
But for many teachers, there’s a third option: A combination of teaching English online and in the classroom can provide the sweet spot between these two unique teaching environments.
Can I really do both? What does it look like to teach in the classroom and online?
Since we’ve already done a comparison between online teaching and classroom teaching, let’s talk about what might be the best of both worlds: doing both!
Whether you decide to teach English online, in the classroom, or both, there are many types of rewarding jobs you can get with the right certification and preparation. Consider the pros and cons of each — you’re sure to find an option that’s right for you!