Advance your career with the Trinity DipTESOL course. Register for our free live seminar

Register now for any of our upcoming ELT events to celebrate 25 years of teacher training

Which is better? 100% Online CELTA or Face-to-Face CELTA Course?


2020 was the year everything went online. From meetings to markets, parties to pub quizzes – we made the switch so we could keep doing what we always have and maintain a sense of normality. Forced though the change may have been, there’s no doubt that most of us have noticed some advantages. Who would have thought even a year ago that we could not only organise but enjoy an online book club? Had anyone truly realised how much fun we could have at an online baby shower? If the-year-which-shall-not-be-named taught us anything, it was the importance of being grateful for what we have. The interconnectivity online communication provides is certainly among the things we started to appreciate all the more. 

Many of us became more adept at using the available tools too; remember those first, awkward Zoom chats? ‘You’re muted,’ we’d lament, ‘I can’t see you,’ our colleagues sighed. For a lot of netizens, this is a thing of the past. Through necessity (and maybe because we suddenly had a lot of free time to investigate), we learnt how to navigate online conferencing apps and now feel more comfortable interacting via a medium which looks like it’s here to stay. 

Cambridge Assessment English was by no means an exception to all these changes – they adapted quickly and, for the first time, providers like Oxford TEFL were able to offer a 100% Online CELTA course. We, in turn, pulled out all the stops to ensure that our course remained as rigorous as ever while exploiting the advantages of the online format. Thanks to the hard work of our team and the positive feedback received from graduates, the 100% Online CELTA will be offered at least until June 2021 and looks set to become a permanent fixture. 

This leaves potential trainees with a dilemma; which is better? 100% Online CELTA or Face-to-Face CELTA Course?

Schedules, pricing, technology and other considerations are likely to feature among the deciding factors. In this post, we will walk you through the main differences between the 100% Online CELTA and Face-to-Face CELTA courses, guiding you towards the path which suits you best.

Why Cambridge CELTA?

Perhaps you’ve already decided that a CELTA qualification is what you need, but before we start analysing whether the online or face to face CELTA would be best for you, it’s worth saying a few words about what makes this course stand out from other TEFL qualifications you may have encountered.

Whether taken online or face-to-face, the CELTA is independently moderated by Cambridge Assessment English. This means that the quality of the training you’ll receive meets the highest of standards – whichever the format and wherever in the world you do your course. As a result, over the years, the Cambridge stamp of approval has come to be trusted by TEFL employers everywhere. In fact, a CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL qualification is required by over 75% of employers worldwide. Other TEFL courses often fail to provide any hands-on teaching practice or provide training from tutors who are qualified to a recognised standard. Not only does this leave graduates less prepared to begin working as teachers, it also makes them less attractive to potential employers at home and abroad. 

We are often asked whether there is any difference between the official CELTA certificate awarded after an online or face to face CELTA course and the answer is a firm no. Both formats have exactly the same depth of study, assessment criteria and high standards you would expect to receive on any CELTA course. So the level of qualification itself is not one of the factors you need to be concerned about when making your choice between the two formats. 

Without further ado then, let’s look at some of the aspects to consider when choosing an online or face to face CELTA course.

Your Schedule and Other Commitments

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you are willing and able to clear your schedule for four weeks. The full-time intensive schedule is just that – an intensive programme of focused study which will use a majority of your time. This means that it’s not advisable to work at the same time as your CELTA course, and you will have to do all you can to minimise other commitments during your studies. If this sounds good to you, there are two options – online or face to face CELTA course:

4-week 100% Online CELTA course: This format lets you continue enjoying the comforts of home without the need to spend time travelling to any centre. You won’t need to get to grips with being in a new environment, and you can spend any free time just as you normally would. Make a coffee in your break, grab that folder you left upstairs, create your own personal workspace at home. You can connect in a jiffy and immediately get on with other tasks when you’re finished studying for the day. If you’re a homebody – or continue to have your movements restricted by the pandemic – this could well be the best choice for you.

4-week face-to-face CELTA course: Some trainees can’t wait to jet off to an exciting new destination for a few weeks and exploring somewhere new. Others wish to stay and study in their hometown but have a living situation which is less than conducive to studying all day. If either of these apply to you, give the in-person option some serious thought. Oxford TEFL is offering full-time face to face CELTA courses  in Barcelona in June, July, August and September 2021. So if you are not in a hurry to get qualified, and you would like to experience Barcelona for yourself, this might be the best choice for you. 

Can’t commit to a full time CELTA course?

Some other aspiring teachers are very keen to obtain their CELTA certification but are unable to set aside four weeks from their schedule. If you are in this situation we recommend the 14-Week Part-Time Online course. This allows you to fit your training in around your other commitments. Perhaps you intend to continue working, or have young children at home. It may be that you are already studying something else, or simply wish to work at a slower pace, without the intensity of the four-week programme. 

Is the application process the same?

All CELTA course providers will interview you as part of the application process. The process is the same, whether you take an online or face to face CELTA course. This includes completing an online application form, pre-interview task, and an online interview. This is a great opportunity to ask any questions you might have about which option will work best alongside your goals or the other arrangements you’ve got in your diary. 

Your Employment Goals

It’s important to keep in mind that whether you take the online or face to face CELTA, you will be qualified to teach either face-to-face or online. However, you may wish to take into consideration the type of work you intend to look for after graduation. For example, if your goal is to work at a private language school, perhaps you’ll conclude that the in-person CELTA works best for you. Your Teaching Practice will more closely reflect the reality of your future job role, and being in the country where you’d like to work may help you to network and make contacts which will benefit you as you search for employment. If, later, you want to begin working online, you can always consider a teacher development course in Teaching English Online to build your skills.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to start teaching English online, consider the 100% Online CELTA course. It will allow you to familiarise yourself with some of the more popular tools of the trade, and give you a good grounding in what it means to teach in the virtual classroom. Although your CELTA certificate won’t show that you took the course online, you might choose to share this information with potential employers to demonstrate your suitability for online roles.

Regardless of the format, the better course providers will offer assistance in finding a job after graduation. Oxford TEFL’s lifelong Careers Service, for instance, can support you with finding job vacancies, creating a TEFL CV, preparing for interviews or introduction videos etc. This means that ten hours or ten years after graduation, you’ll have the guidance you need to really take advantage of your CELTA qualification.

Financial Considerations

Let’s face it – the financial cost of taking the CELTA course is something most potential trainees will consider carefully. Here, the online format has advantages for many. Firstly, it will not be necessary to pay for travel expenses or accommodation during your course. Depending on where you are based, this may represent a significant saving over the traditional face-to-face CELTA. Secondly, if you choose – for example – our 14-week part-time option, you have the option of paying in installments, allowing you to spread the expense over several months, while you keep working to maintain an income. For an idea of how much to budget for the CELTA course and live in Barcelona, check out this page. Whichever format you choose, remember that the investment made in a CELTA qualification is an investment made in your future.

Many trainees feel the opportunity to spend time living and studying abroad is well worth the financial outlay, but if you’re working to a tighter budget, it may well be that the online format will suit you best.

Travel Arrangements

In some parts of the world, even local travel is still quite severely restricted and if this is true of your area, it’s wise to think about the more future-proof online choice. Going for this option means you can be assured that whatever happens, you’ll be able to go ahead with your CELTA course as planned.

Others may be itching to get away after a year spent mostly at home, and in this case there are various considerations to keep in mind. Some of the most important are:

  • Visas: will you need a visa to study in the country of your choosing? If so, how much does this cost, and how easy is it to obtain? This page is a good place to start.
  • Flights: is it easy to find flights to your chosen destination? How expensive are these? Can you obtain appropriate insurance in case your flight has to be cancelled or rescheduled?
  • Accommodation: How easy will it be to find somewhere to stay close to the school where you’ll be studying? What are average rental prices? Will a deposit be required?
  • Covid-19 measures: What sort of experience are you likely to have in your chosen destination given restrictions that may be in place? What kind of risk assessment has the school undertaken, and do these conform to local laws?

Larger schools will offer visa and accommodation services to help you navigate some of these issues and if you have little experience of travelling abroad it may well be a good idea to take advantage of these. Remember that once your course begins, you’ll need to put all your energy into studying and will not want to be concerned with practical or administrative concerns.


You’ll also have to think about your hardware and software: you’ll need a computer or laptop with a good quality webcam and microphone. Perhaps this seems obvious, but it’s definitely worth a mention. You don’t need to be Ada Lovelace or Steve Wozniak to make a success of the 100% Online CELTA, but if you don’t know your caps lock from your cut and paste, you might feel more comfortable on a face-to-face course. To give you an idea, a few of the functions you’ll need to be familiar with include:

  • Basic text editing features like copy, cut and paste
  • Opening a new tab in a web browser
  • Creating a presentation on PowerPoint or Google Slides
  • Saving, organising and sharing files using online storage (Google Drive etc.)
  • Converting a Word document to a PDF file.
  • Taking a screenshot

You’ll also use video conferencing software such as Zoom, and a Course Management System like Moodle. Both are pretty user-friendly, and any good course provider will support you in getting to grips with the tech, but if this section sounds like gobbledegook to you, perhaps an in-person course is the way to go! 

Another consideration is your internet connection. To give you an idea, Oxford TEFL requires a minimum upload and download speed of 4 Mbps (you can test this here). 

Some Final Thoughts

There have been times when it was tough to find any positives from 2020, but improved access to training and education is certainly one of them in our book. Providing you’ve got the necessary motivation to gain an internationally-recognised qualification and begin an exciting new career in teaching, there’s bound to be a course format that works for you. Give it some thought, seek expert advice where necessary, and – most importantly – enjoy your online or face to face CELTA!

Meet the author

Download our Working around the world guide

Hey, wait!

Are you thinking of teaching English abroad?

Download our Working around the world guide and compare salaries, cost of living and entry requirements in 50 different countries.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.