CELTA online or face to face? What's the difference?

Should I take CELTA online?

The new delivery of CELTA in a fully online version because of CoVid has many people asking- is it the same? Here are a few thoughts from an experienced CELTA trainer.

What’s the difference between online and f2f CELTA?
So you want to do CELTA, but CoVid has put paid to a lot of face to face courses worldwide…. But you STILL want to do CELTA.
You’ve heard it’s online now, but you’re not sure what that means… Want more information?

I’m Jo Gakonga, from ELT-Training, I’m an experienced CELTA tutor and in this video I’m going to take you through ..

What’s the difference between CELTA online and face to face.
Let’s start at the beginning. CELTA has traditionally been a face to face course and about 90% of courses worldwide have been run this way. About 10 years ago, Cambridge introduced what they call the Online CELTA, but actually, it’s a not fully online, it’s a blended option. You do input online with videos, readings and forum tasks, but you still spend well over half of the course timetable face to face, doing your teaching practice in a real classroom.

In March 2020, though- everything changed. Suddenly being in a real classroom became potentially life threatening and so, out of necessity, the fully online CELTA was introduced. At the moment, Cambridge have said that this is a temporary measure but it’ll be at least available in centres until the end of this year, so if you want to do CELTA anytime soon, this may be your only choice.

What’s the same?
So what’s still the same? Well, basically, the course IS still the same. The time required is the same- 120 hours- the syllabus is the same. The amount of teaching practice you have to do is the same. The assessment criteria are still the same, too. CELTA is carefully standardised and you’ll be expected to develop exactly the same skills and achieve to the same level. A lot of tutors I’ve spoken to say that they feel it really is no different. Finally, and not least of all, perhaps something that worries you- The certificate is the same- it won’t say on it anywhere that you did the online course or indeed where you did it.

What’s different?
Well what IS different, you’re probably asking, apart from the obvious lack of physical contact? Not too much, in honesty. A lot of courses are being run over a slightly longer time- maybe 5 weeks instead of 4, with some rest days built into the course and in some centres, they’re giving you the opportunity to do a bit of unassessed teaching practice to get used to the online classroom and how it works. But apart from that, there aren’t many significant differences.

How does it work?
CELTA courses consist of input- where the tutors teach you how to teach- and teaching practice- where you actually get to jump in the pool and swim, so to speak. In the new online course, the input might be via the online course used for the blended CELTA- with video material- guided tasks, forums etc. - some centres using these online input materials, some aren’t OR it might be similar to face to face courses but in a virtual classroom e.g. Zoom.

If it’s like this, it’ll be very similar to input on a f2f course but adapted for the online environment. Watch how your trainers teach you- they’ll be doing what’s called ‘loop input’ which means that they’ll be teaching you in the way they want you to teach your learners- with lots of interaction. they’re giving you a model- so take note!

That’s input- let’s look at teaching practice- that’s where you get to teach and to watch your peers teach. This will be in a virtual classroom like Zoom. You’ll still be observed by your peers and a tutor for the same amount of time and you’ll still have feedback in a group afterwards. Is this exactly the same experience as being in a real classroom? No- of course not, but it’s surprisingly similar. There ARE a few added pitfalls to watch out for and I’m planning to make another video on this, so look out for that!…

Are there any advantages to doing your CELTA fully online? The obvious one is that you CAN do it now- in CoVid times. A few centres are still running face to face courses, but not very many at the moment, so this might be your only option.

The other great thing is that you have a lot more of a choice of centre. CELTA is a very standard product- Cambridge are very careful to make sure everything is kept this way- but you can choose a centre with dates that suit you more easily-time zones permitting, of course. For many people the online option has made CELTA possible when otherwise 4 weeks off work and the location would mean they couldn’t do the course.

And finally, of course, there’s the fact that even post-lockdown, there is bound to be more online teaching in the future- the online course gives you experience of this and may be a strong selling point when you’re looking for work.

Are there any problems, then? You do have to be a bit more tech-savvy than doing a face to face but tutors will help you to learn the systems. There may be technical problems that you face in teaching practice, but your tutors will be understanding of this and help you, so I wouldn’t worry about those things too much.

For me, the big thing to be aware of is that you’ll be spending a lot of time in front of a screen- that IS more tiring. CELTA is pretty intense however you do it and this will add to the strain, I think, so you need to be aware of that and get ready for it!

And then, there’s the 64 million dollar question-

Won’t it be difficult to transition to face to face teaching?
The main worry that trainees seem to have is whether they’ll be able to make that transition to the classroom and whether employers will be suspicious of the course online? I can’t speak for all employers, of course, but what I would say is that there are a lot of these courses going on at the moment and so it won’t be an unusual situation. And, although there are some differences, the principles of good teaching and the techniques you learn ARE the same.

Remember that post-celta many people are asked to do things that they weren’t trained for- teaching young learners, business, academic English etc and you CAN learn on the job- that’s why we try to teach you to reflect on your practice.

You also need to remember also that CELTA is only designed as a pre-service course- not a ‘full qualified and ready for anything’ qualification. Employers should realise this, too.

I hope that this has been of some help. Check out elt-training for support with all aspects of the course- grammar, lesson planning, concept checking and lots more and good luck with whatever you decide to do.

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