So you’ve decided to take the plunge and enroll in a TEFL course. No doubt you’ve stumbled across some too-good-to-be-true TEFL deals on Groupon (Full Circle TEFL and Global TEFL spring to mind). These will be boasting prices like $39 USD, and the discounts are usually as high as 87% off.
Don’t be fooled, this is not the deal of a lifetime, and it’s not really a discount. These institutes are permanently selling these courses at a similar price. I’m going to give it to you straight – you’re going to get what you pay for. I know, I wasted two precious weeks of my life completing a Groupon TEFL. It wasn’t worth the price-tag (no matter how cheap).
So before I start, think about this: Why does a “university” level course cost less than the average textbook? For me that puts it in perspective. You wouldn’t invest hard-earned money in a budget college degree, so why resort to that when it comes to your teaching qualification.
Although, “course” might be too kind a word for what some of these Groupon offers are selling! 🤷 When I enrolled, I was hoping it would get me set up to teach in South Korea. My experience has stayed with me. So I’m going to share the lasting impressions of my Groupon TEFL experience.
Here’s why my online Groupon TEFL deal was a bad one:
The interface was a complete mess. It looked like something that had crawled out of the nineties. Just figuring out where the course was after logging in was a headache.
The usability was lacking, to say the least. I had to CTRL ALT DEL my way through the modules. Not to mention that submitting quizzes or assignments was so stressful I needed to lie down afterward.
The content was less than inspiring. Sure, it covered the prescribed TEFL “topics,” but in zero detail and felt more like reading a course outline than doing the course. Also, there were so many grammatical errors it started to feel like I should be teaching them.
The assessment process felt like self-gratification. The multiple tests were so simple I could guess the correct answer. Which is not my idea of a great learning experience, I like my assessments to push me to actually learn the material and make me revisit what I thought I already knew. The tests were usually tacked on at the end of modules to make me feel like there was a point to it all. There wasn’t.
I finished the course with more questions than answers. I kept expecting things to improve, and could hardly believe how quickly and easily I got to the end. Which would have been great, if I ended up there with some useful information that I could take with me into the classroom. But I definitely didn’t feel confident about my chances as an ESL teacher, even if they were willing to print me a shiny new cert (incidentally, the same price as the course!).
All the spam emails and hidden costs (sigh!). The TEFL company flooded my inbox with special offers, emails to try and get me to buy my certificate, and weird generic emails saying things like “Start today” despite the fact I’d already finished their uninspiring course load. Eventually, I managed to block them completely, but it felt like they’d added me to twenty different mailing lists.
I didn’t feel prepared afterward and had to enroll in a second TEFL course. This time I paid adequately and ignored the tempting “special offers” plaguing the internet. The difference was immediate – the platform worked, I could submit lesson plans and an online tutor was giving me feedback. The tests were still multiple choice, but the questions weren’t a joke. I actually had to read through the materials to be able to answer.
We hear from frustrated candidates all the time. People who bought a cheap Groupon TEFL on the fly and ended up completely overwhelmed in the classroom. It boils down to what you want your TEFL to do for you. If you are serious about teaching English as a second language and want a TEFL that will work for you in the classroom, then you’re going to have to invest a little to get anything of value. It’s important to take your time researching TEFL course reviews.
One of the big questions to ask yourself before hitting the buy button on any Groupon deal is: what do I want to get from this? Do I mind getting a substandard experience, being frustrated and facing hidden costs? In 12 months time will this certificate be the crutch I need when there’s an emergency in the classroom?
In the end, my non-Groupon TEFL course was the better investment.
Having spent a year teaching in South Korea, I can safely say that I used most of what I learned in the real TEFL certification I took afterwards. There were sections on classroom management tips, class ideas and a section on English for low-level students. It was all priceless when I was faced with 30 Korean 13 year olds expecting me to teach them English.
In my first months, I relied heavily on my notes from the course, and they were my bible when it came to tricky situations in the classroom. From getting students to write better, to giving shy students an environment in which they felt comfortable enough to speak: the TEFL notes saved me on many occasions.
What didn’t help me was the Groupon course I’d completed a couple of years before. Every time I think of that course, I just remember the entire module that was focused on labeling table formations – with no information provided about why the horseshoe seating method might work better than a more traditional one. A real TEFL cert will equip you with that kind of knowledge and much, much more.
TEFL Groupons are dirt cheap for good reason.
A decent TEFL certificate of 120 hours (expected in most countries) will set you back at least $1,000 USD. It might seem scary if you’re comparing the cost of a real TEFL certificate to a cheap one on Groupon, but putting the price in perspective might help. What would it cost you to get a teaching license? Or even just travel abroad?
A TEFL cert is going to cost the same as a flight to many of these countries. Now ask yourself this, would you invest more in a flight (11 hours of your life) than you would in the teaching skills and tools you are going to be using in the classroom (for at least a year of your life!)?
Thinking of TEFL as a set-up cost helped me. I knew that I would earn the money back within one month of teaching in South Korea and so although my pocket felt the pinch, it was easy to justify.