Despite the fact that I have an advanced degree, I do NOT have a degree in English Education or a teaching license (you don’t need one to teach in universities). Because of this, I needed a TESOL or TEFL certificate in order to gain employment as an English teacher at a public school in Korea. While the GEPIK program did not specify whether or not your certificate must be earned in an online or in-class course, they did specify that the course must be 100+ hours. A quick search on the internet reveals that these courses can cost anywhere around $200 – $1500.

It should come as little surprise that I pounced when I saw the deal below on Groupon last September.

tesol groupon

For a meager $69, you can get a certificate that meets the 100+ hour requirement? Sold! Before I started the course, I hadn’t found many reviews online – and what I did find was a complete mixed bag. The deal was recently back on Groupon and several people have been on the forums asking for feedback. What follows are answers to some questions I’ve been asked.

Is there anything I should be aware of?

  • I had a look at the company website (tesols.com) and thought it looked like a decent course. What I did not realize, however, was that this online course would be hosted by Global Leadership College. This is something you learn after you’ve paid your money and attempt to begin the course. Not a big deal.

 

  • Keep in mind that you will need to purchase your certificate once you’ve finished the course. At the time of this posting, an emailed copy of the certificate cost $20 and a hard copy cost $30 (including shipping).

 

  • The course began regularly enough, but somewhere around the end of section 1, things got a bit strange. There were often references to “The Good News” and discussions of sin, forgiveness, apostles, and disciples. While I’m not especially bothered by the use of religious doctrine, there may be others who are. And, even though I’m not especially bothered by it, I would have liked some warning up front that things would get a bit preachy or that this was a course heavily based on Christian mores. So, dear reader, you’ve now been warned. 

 

Is this course accepted by public and private schools in Korea?

I applied to a public school position in Korea, so I cannot speak on what a private institution will or will not accept. My certificate was deemed acceptable by GEPIK, so there’s a decent chance that yours may be too. Of course, what’s acceptable in Korea (or any other country) can change rapidly. At the time of my application, the only requirement set forth by GEPIK was that aspiring Native English Teachers without a teaching license be in possession of a 100+ hour TESOL/TEFL certificate.

What topics are covered?

The course has chapters/sections covering topics such as:

  1. Language Characteristics
  2. The English Language
  3. Development and Usage of English
  4. Learning and Understanding Standard English
  5. Teacher Student Relationships
  6. Understanding Classrooms

Once you get over the preachy bit, I’d say there was some pretty useful information. I applied what I learned regarding communication methods and group dynamics within the classroom to my university courses with great success last semester.

Is it hard?

I cringe when I read this question being asked in forums because it makes me think of some of my lazy university students who always wanted the super easy way out. Furthermore, what does this mean? What’s difficult to me may not be difficult to you. However, I will go out on a limb and say that if you have a Bachelor’s degree and a speck of common sense, you shouldn’t have much difficulty with this course. If you do run into trouble, you may email the instructor (Note: I didn’t feel the need to do this, so I have no idea how responsive the instructor/tutor is). Here’s a breakdown of the structure of the course… Within each chapter/section, there are several lessons, a few mini quizzes, 1-3 writing assignments/projects, and a more detailed exam. Many questions on the quizzes and exams are multiple choice – with a few short answers thrown in for good measure. In addition to the lessons and assessments mentioned above, each chapter/section has silly games that you can play to help you remember the material you covered before a quiz or exam.

I’m pressed for time. How long will it take me to finish each lesson or this course?

I started the course in September and finished in December – with a break from the course during the entire month of November. I worked on the course whenever I had free time on the weekends and was able to complete most chapters/sections within 10 hours. Your mileage may vary.

Is this course beneficial for someone who has never taught before?

Though I have not taught formally in a K-12 setting, I have been teaching at the university level for the last 5 years (as a graduate instructor and as a professor). That being said, I’m no stranger to the classroom and having a course with an in-class component wasn’t a requirement for me. If you are new to teaching and are looking for a course that may ease some of your anxiety about being in front of the classroom for the first time, this may not be the course for you. Perhaps an online-only class may not be the best way for you to learn things about pedagogy, lesson planning, or classroom management. In all honesty however, there are plenty of other resources for you to learn these skills – books on Amazon or free websites for EFL teachers. If you do not wish to return to school to earn a Bachelor’s in Education, you may want to consider the CELTA program, which has a widely respected curriculum and provides in-class teaching practice/observation (see a review posted on The BELTA Blog). Again, I’ve learned that absolutely nothing prepares you better for being in front of the classroom than… being in front of the classroom. Gaining on the job experience often means being thrown in the fire and figuring things out as you go. 

Any final thoughts?

From my understanding, there is no governing body for accreditation or standardized curriculum for TESOL/TEFL courses. Some will be a crapshoot and others will be phenomenal. Most, however, will likely sit somewhere in the middle. If you need a certificate and are prepared to put in extra work to continue learning about becoming a good EFL teacher once the course is done (which I think you should do anyway), then why not go the cheap and quick route? For $57 (I had a credit on my Groupon account) plus another $50 for both versions of my certificate, I say this course was well worth my money. I used it as a very inexpensive means to accomplish my goal of securing a GEPIK position so I could live and work in Korea by March of 2013.

Choose wisely and proceed as you wish. If you have any more questions about this particular course, feel free to drop me a line in the comments section.