Early 2019 brought to the online teaching community what has been described as a clever ploy: news that Chinese companies would now require a 120-hour TESOL/TEFL certificate for all online teachers. There was not at the time any clear evidence for these claims, and it is still not true that all companies require it; but word blew through the online community like wildfire. This had many online teachers flocking to fast and cheap 120-hour certificates, some of which were advertised with reports of completion within just a matter of hours or days.
These certificate programs left many experienced online educators shaking their heads, and they left discerning online teachers with questions. If a program could be completed in just a few days, how could it merit a 120-hour certificate? And what kind of actual training could be provided in such a program? Some suggested that these questions were irrelevant in the case of quick and easy TESOL certificates, and that to participate in these programs was little more than to pay for a certificate that says “120 hours” - no hands-on application, no individualized coaching, and certainly no practicum.
It has been recognized that these are still the “wild west” days of the online teaching industry, with forms of regulation just beginning to take shape. As with any industry, aspiring workers often start with the most basic possible qualification to get into an entry-level position; and many employers don’t scrutinize the quality of candidates’ training any further than is required by regulations. It can be expected that more stringent requirements will become standard over time; but where does this leave those of us who already recognize the necessity of quality professional development?
Effective training for an online TESOL career takes a degree of personalized attention from qualified mentors which is not feasible in a twenty-dollar program. It calls for a program designed specifically for online teaching, with application-level activities and feedback from experienced online teachers. To truly help trainees ensure success, such programs must cover all aspects of an online TESOL career. This must include technology for online teaching, activities for the online classroom, language acquisition approaches and methods applied to the online space, strategies for online lesson preparation and planning, means of recruiting and retaining regular online students, and basic business management techniques. It should also provide opportunities for observations and actual practice in online EFL classrooms.
Even if you’ve already acquired a TESOL certificate fast and cheap, any successful teacher will recommend that you invest your time into personalized training and continued professional development. Do the research and find a comprehensive, accredited program designed specifically for online teaching. Do not cheat yourself of preparation then expect to be skillful, effective, or satisfied in your online TESOL career. This can be such a rewarding and freeing career, it is beyond worth the work to ensure your success.