Posted on behalf of Cansu Akan
The amazing thing about the CELTA course is that it can be taken in different ways. The candidates are free to choose from three options offered by Cambridge English, which are differentiated according to the mode of delivery: full-time, part-time and online. Nowadays, the demand for online CELTA is on the rise as it offers a more flexible schedule and is more personalized. This is probably the most important reason why it is preferred by many. Still, even the candidates who apply for the online option don’t know what to expect in the online course. This post looks at the similarities and differences between face-to-face (F2F) and online CELTA with reference to my personal experience and observations as an OCT (Online Course Trainer) and the feedback I have gathered from my trainees so far.
What is CELTA Online and what isn’t it?
Before delving into similarities and differences between F2F and online options, it is important to define what
CELTA Online is…
- convenient: trainees can follow the course anywhere.
- a good option to reduce accommodation and travel costs.
- flexible: trainees can organize their time and schedule according to their family or work commitments.
- for autonomous learners who take responsibility for their own learning.
- collaborative: there is a continuous interaction with the OCT and other course participants in weekly forums and synchronous online sessions.
- spread over a longer time typically 12 or 13 weeks: there is more time for new information to sink in.
CELTA Online isn’t…
- fully online. It is a blended course in which the methodological input is delivered in units through a virtual learning environment called Cambridge Fronter and the teaching practice sessions are done F2F at the centre.
- easier or more difficult than the other options: Cambridge English reports suggest that trainees receive similar grades.
- less intensive: all CELTA courses are demanding and intensive in nature.
- only for people who are computer geeks.
- a different teaching qualification: online trainees receive the very same certificate as F2F trainees.
Similar to or different from F2F CELTA?
- Expectations & Assessment standards
The fact that online CELTA is as demanding as F2F CELTA comes as a surprise for some trainees who are not well informed about how the online component works. One of the things I frequently hear from online trainees is that they think the course expectations differ according to the mode of delivery and that F2F full-time courses expect more from candidates than the other forms. In terms of time-management, that might be true as F2F full-time trainees achieve the same goal in less time. But in terms of content and course standards, this is not true. Regardless of the course type, expectations from the candidates are the same. In both, trainees are expected to attend a minimum of 90% (though ideally 100%) of the course. In online CELTA, this means that trainees need to complete the units, forum tasks and observation of experienced teachers in due time and attend synchronous online sessions held at least eight times during the course. In both options, every trainee needs to submit four assignments and pass at least three of them to finish the course successfully. In other words, the fact that you take the course online and in a more flexible way doesn’t mean that less is expected from you: you are expected to follow a structured schedule just like in F2F CELTA and meet the deadlines for the online units, tasks, observations and assignments. Plus, in both options, trainees need to complete six hours of teaching practice on site. The expectations and assessment criteria are kept the same for standardization purposes across courses and centres worldwide.
Most candidates who go for the online option work full-time and state that they wouldn’t be able to do the course otherwise. However, with a full-time job, it is not as easy as it seems. In the last few courses, it was brought to our and the assessor’s attention that the trainees were struggling with three things running at the same time (units, assignments and TPs) in the course plus their full-time jobs. Their comments were very similar to the ones we always receive in full-time courses: lack of time, lack of sleep, feeling like they are bombarded… It came as a great surprise for the trainees when they experienced this in an online course. Yet it should be emphasized that in an online course you should allow for extra 60 hours of study time as the face-to-face discussions in full-time courses take place in forums in the online course. Group works, reading posts and contributing to them take a large amount of time.
- Guidance & Support
Very often, the trainees worry about not being able to see the trainers and other trainees before beginning the course. However, rest assured that so far, the trainees have rated the guidance and support they received very highly in an online course. In all CELTA courses, the candidates receive continuous support and guidance from the trainers and online CELTA is no exception. The OCT communicates the weekly tasks at the beginning of each week, monitors and moderates the forum discussions every day, helps with deadlines and personal queries, holds synchronous sessions and gives individual online lesson planning guidance- pretty much the same guidance one receives in a F2F course.
- Engagement & Collaboration
While it is true that trainees can finish weekly units in their own time and at their own pace, they still need to collaborate with the others in forums or weekly tasks related to the methodology they have learned in the units. This compensates for the interactive component in F2F courses. The trainees are always engaged in weekly group tasks and hold meetings on Skype to design their materials. There is constant online communication going on. When they start the TPs, the trainees get to build stronger bonds. Still, a trainee might favour F2F courses due to their personality traits and learning styles- this choice is totally personal.
- Technical knowledge
No one that takes part in the online course needs to be a techy. Basic computer skills, Microsoft programs and a headset would suffice. The OCT is always there for the questions and instructs how to set up things and manage files. The virtual learning environment is just like a social networking site- pretty simple to use, so don’t be intimidated.
In short, the online CELTA leads you to the very same qualification as a F2F course. As the expectations and assessment standards are the same as a F2F course, the fact that you have taken the course online doesn’t even appear on your certificate. It is a great opportunity for those who cannot take a month off from their work or don’t want to spend more time and money on commuting
I hope this post helps you make your mind up about CELTA- remember whichever option you go for, it is worth doing CELTA.
Cansu Akan has been teaching general and academic English to adults for 12 years at tertiary level and has worked a test writer for many years. After having completed DELTA, CELTA tutor training as well as IH World e-moderation course, Cansu was certified as CELTA Main Course and Online Trainer in 2015. Since then, she has been running face-to-face and online CELTA courses. She is currently doing her M.A. in Linguistics and TEFL at LMU Munich. She is interested in teacher training, testing and assessment and curriculum development.