TEFL teacher or e-learning entrepreneur?

TEFL Teacher vs E-learning entrepreneur

The online education (e-learning) space has become one of the fastest-growing trades worldwide. Now a multi-billion-dollar industry, showing clear signs of exponential growth, business-savvy individuals have taken notice.

As a result, there has been a large influx of professionals into the fields of teaching English online and creating online courses. This is in part due the gap in the market, but mostly because online education has a broader scope and is capable of much more than your regular in-person classroom sessions. And while both avenues of teaching English online and creating online courses sound quite similar, there many key differences that set them apart.

With the growing wish to work remotely, teaching English online (to about 1.5 billion people worldwide) as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher has become extremely popular, especially in the Asian market. What set’s this apart from just creating an online course, is that one needs a TEFL certificate as a basic entry requirement. To get the certificate you need to complete a TEFL Course, which covers the basic skills needed to develop lesson plans and teach English as a language to non-English speakers of all ages. In the past many people used TEFL as a means to travel, as it began through teaching abroad. However, recently it has moved predominately to the online teaching realm via the platforms of large international companies.

The second avenue to break into the online education industry is to become an e-learning entrepreneur, through the developing and selling of your own online courses. This is not at all as daunting as it seems; you don’t need a degree, you don’t need a TEFL qualification, you don’t need to be a native English speaker, and you don’t need teaching experience. You only need a passion or knowledge base in your own area of expertise which you wish to share with the world. What’s more is your course can cover any topic, thereby expanding your potential audience. This method best leverages online education’s potential for exponential growth, as it doesn’t require a constant time investment (like teaching does) and your course can be sold an unlimited amount of times, generating a stream of passive income.

Both of these options have their pros and cons; and depending on the type of person you are, either one or the other will suit you and your goals better. If you’re interested in the online education space, but still don’t know whether you should focus on TEFL or being an e-learning entrepreneur, we’ve listed a few of their differences below to help give you a better idea.

Qualifications required
One of the biggest differences is that most online TEFL teaching positions requires a certificate, degree, and first-language English schooling  while e-learning entrepreneurship requires no formal qualification to develop online courses.

Flexibility of time and location
TEFL is not as flexible as people think. While you can teach from anywhere, so as long as you have a stable high-speed internet connection and a quiet environment, your schedule once established is fixed with no flexibility. That is, you have to be present to actually teach, and leave and time-off are limited, which restricts movement and travel. These restrictions also makes it difficult to combine this with other work opportunities.

As an e-learning entrepreneur there are no internet requirements nor quiet places required, as there is no face-to-face teaching necessary. Development of the course content can be done totally offline. This gives one total flexibility in terms of time and location. As a result, unlike TEFL teaching, it is possible to develop your e-learning business while still enjoying the secure income from a traditional job.

Financial rewards
Right off the bat, there is an initial investment of time and money into gaining a TEFL qualification. In addition, with the oversupply of TEFL teachers, many international companies are no longer accepting new teachers. This has made opportunities even rarer and pushed the rates per hour way down. This issue is further compounded, when you take into account just how challenging it is to actually build up a student base to fill your available hours. 

When it comes to remuneration for TEFL teaching, you are paid only for direct-contact teaching hours, and any time you spend not with students, like preparing lessons and content, is not paid for. TEFL teaching can also impose lofty fines on teachers if anything interrupts lessons or prevents teaching, such as load-shedding or internet interruption, which obviously impacts earnings. Lastly, as the system is international and impersonal, it makes it very difficult to try to address any problems.

As an e-learning entrepreneur you have access to a growing industry which easily crosses geographical borders. You are your own boss, and are able to solve problems directly and access e-learning specialists to assist in overcoming challenges. You are able to develop a passive income with unlimited potential, not hampered by hours invested or the need for face-to-face interaction. That being said, there are of course risks – the major one being the chance of investing hours into the initial development of the course, coupled with the cost of placing it on an e-learning platform, and it not selling. However, this risk can easily be mitigated with the guidance of e-learning specialists.

Teaching skills
Teaching skills are required for TEFL online teaching as it is face-to-face. One benefit to this is you are able to build meaningful relationships with individual students. Whereas, for online courses, teaching skills are not required and there is no direct student contact, unless a blended learning approach is considered. All you need to build an online course is expertise in, and knowledge of the subject matter.

Course content
Within the TEFL online teaching environment, course material is generally provided via the online platform and there is ongoing preparation time required for each class taught. In contrast, as an e-Learning entrepreneur you only develop the subject matter for the course once-off. After that, e-learning specialists can then assist in developing the course material further, with the end goal of placing it onto an e-learning platform. Once on an e-learning platform, subject matter updates are only required every now and again.

Finally, one important deciding factor is not a difference between the two avenues themselves, but rather in what type of person you see yourself as. 

TEFL teaching lends itself to a person that has a passion for teaching English (mainly to children) and is more comfortable with a direct teaching environment with specified hours and a predictable, yet limited income. Whereas becoming an e-learning entrepreneur is a great choice for you if you prefer a flexible schedule, no direct teaching, and an unlimited passive income stream that can run concurrently with other work opportunities while you focusing on a topic or product you are passionate about.

Essentially, the choice boils down to this: Do you want to remain an employee or do you wish to be in charge of your own work hours and income?

In looking at all the pros and cons of both options, I think it is fairly obvious to see that there are many more upsides to becoming an e-learning entrepreneur when compared to TEFL. You have the bonus of higher potential earnings, the enjoyment of creating your own online course, and the flexibility of working hours  which greatly outweighs the limited opportunities in TEFL teaching, which are decreasing rapidly due to the oversupply of teachers in this specialised environment.

If you would like to start the journey to becoming an e-learning entrepreneur, we would love to help you develop and sell your first online course. Welcome to the NyouLearning future of online learning!