“One of the most difficult and rewarding things I have ever done…” These words sum up the CELTA experience for many of the candidates who come through British Council Singapore’s CELTA course, regardless of the format. After all, the CELTA is the world’s premier initial qualification for EFL professions, providing trainee teachers with a complete tool kit to jump right into the classroom and start teaching. Furthermore, because it is internationally recognized, backed by Cambridge University, and prized by language schools everywhere for its six hours of observed teaching practice, it offers graduates the possibility of working immediately in almost any country in the world.
The intensity of the course, however, does change with the format, as well as the tools available to our candidates to help them get through it. The 4-week face-to-face course is of course our most intensive course; by contrast, because candidates have three times as much time to get through the same content—including the course’s culmination of 12 days of observed teaching practice—the online course allows for a good deal more flexibility. Online modules covering classroom pedagogy can be consulted at any time, lessons by experienced teachers are available to be watched at candidates’ convenience, forums are open 24 hours a day, and British Council’s specially trained moderator can field questions at the most improbable of times of the night or day.
The flexibility of the online course’s scheduling pales, however, in comparison to the geographical flexibility it affords to participants, since they only have to be present together in the same place for a total of 12 days. Anywhere with a reliable internet connection and computer—or laptop or tablet—can become a venue for learning and contributing to the course. Even the synchronous sessions—where candidates meet up with each other and their trainer, via video conferencing, every other week, to discuss course materials, share experiences, and ask and answer questions in real time—are equally accessible to trainees from the quiet of their living room or a beach bungalow in Tahiti.
The online course, while more flexible, is not always necessarily less intense, due to a strange CELTA-specific phenomenon: participants have found that the course tends to “expand to fit their every available waking hour” (in the words of one of our seasoned trainers). Its ability to draw so much out of participants may appear daunting, but we believe that it is, above all, testimony to that other aspect of the CELTA experience: it is one of the most rewarding things candidates have ever done—regardless of the format.
Written by Mohamed Oummih, CELTA Trainer at the British Council.