All posts by Sarah Witol

TEFL, TESL and TESOL: What’s the Difference?

Today on the blog we tackle some frequently asked questions about TEFL/TESL/TESOL and how to choose a training certificate that is right for you. Still have questions or need more information to help you make a decision? Feel free to contact our office and one of our program staff would be happy to speak with you.

What’s the difference between TEFL, TESL and TESOL?

TEFL, TESL, TESOL are NOT certifications or qualifications, these are terms that refer to where and to whom you are teaching English. These terms are used interchangeably, so it can sometimes be confusing to know what they mean!

  • TESL refers to Teaching English as a Second Language: programs in English-speaking countries for students whose first language is other than English.
  • TEFL refers to Teaching English as a Foreign Language: programs in countries where English is not the primary language and is not a lingua franca.
  • TESOL, which stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, is a general name for the field of teaching that includes both TESL and TEFL.

What type of certification do I need to teach ESL/EFL?

There is no single degree or certificate program that authorizes an individual to teach ESL/EFL in all fields or in all parts of the world, so the type of credential you need really depends on where in the world you would like to teach, and to whom.

  • Teaching in Canada: If your primary goal is to teach English to adults in Canada, generally speaking, the minimum qualification to teach English is a bachelor’s degree and a TESL/TESOL certificate from a TESL Ontario or TESL Canada accredited program.
  • Teaching overseas: If your primary goal is to teach English overseas, you may want to contact the department or ministry of education in the country where you plan to work for more information about that country’s education. Generally speaking, most overseas employers demand that applicants have at least a Bachelor’s degree and some sort of TEFL/TESL/TESOL certification. It is important to note that because these terms are used interchangeably, completing a TEFL certificate in order to work overseas is not necessarily better than completing a TESL or a TESOL certificate. Most employers will prioritize the quality of the training you receive over whether the certificate was called TEFL, TESL or TESOL.
  • Teaching in Canada and overseas: If you would like the option to teach both here in Canada and overseas, it would be wise to invest in a program that meets the minimum standards to teach here in Canada (e.g. TESL Ontario/Canada accredited programs), because TEFL certificates or EFL programs do not qualify you to teach here.

Any advice for comparing Certificates and TEFL/TESL/TESOL training programs?

It’s important to note that not all programs TEFL/TESL/TESOL are created equal, and as there are no international standards for regulating this type of training, it is always wise to do some research before investing in a training program. After consulting with applicants, employers and graduates, we’ve created a list of some questions to consider when selecting your training. This list is by no means exhaustive, but will hopefully give you a starting point in your search.

Questions to consider:

  • Where in the world do you want to teach? What are the general requirements for English teachers in that country/region? If your primary goal is to teach overseas, do you also want the option to teach in Canada in the future?
  • What are the admission requirements to the program? (This will give you a sense of who the other students will be, and the rigor of the program)
  • Who accredits the training program? Programs that are accredited by professional organizations (e.g. TESL Ontario or TESL Canada( are evaluated/reviewed annually to ensure standards are maintained.
  • Who are the instructors? What are their credentials/qualifications?
  • Do potential employers want you to complete a practicum placement?
    • Is there a minimum # of hours that are required? Do employers have requirements or qualifications required of practicum supervisors?

What is the difference between the TESOL Certificate program offered through Woodsworth College and the TEFL Online program offered through OISE’s School of Continuing studies? Are they related?

Check out our FAQ section for more information.

Still have questions? Feel free to contact us and speak with a University of Toronto Advisor. 

11 Things You Should Know About Teaching Online

Teaching Online - Veronica
Veronica Stratulat is a TESOL graduate, teacher extraordinaire, and one half of the teaching duo behind ESL Anywhere. She’s based in Toronto and in December she offered a crash course in online teaching for current TESOL students. Here she shares a round up of the top 11 things she’s learned through her teaching adventures.


My Online Teaching Career

A while ago I decided to take on a new challenge and started teaching online. I have taught all ESL levels as well as test preparation classes (IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC etc.). I had students from countries like China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Brazil, Spain, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Italy, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Argentina or Venezuela. I did not know too much about online teaching and I can say that it hasn’t always been a smooth journey, but certainly one that has been worthwhile. Soon after I set up my own website, I realized that I had a lot to learn and that face-to-face classes are totally different from online classes. Here are a few things I’ve learned while teaching online:

  1. Getting students can be quite challenging. A website and advertising online won’t help you get too many students. Reaching out to former students is a good marketing strategy as they can recommend you to their friends.
  2. Offering free trial classes is not a good idea and I’ve learned this the hard way. Students will gladly take the free trial class and disappear forever.
  3. Although it offers flexibility and comfort, online teaching requires a lot of work. At first I thought that I could use the same handouts but realized that everything had to be adapted for online classes.
  4. Consider time zones! While it might seem easy to jump out of bed and teach in your pyjamas, one must consider time zone differences.
  5. Technology can be a challenge for some students. Not all of them are computer savvy.
  6. It’s important to talk about the payment system before you start the actual classes.
  7. Online students need constant motivation. They tend to lose interest faster than face-to-face students.
  8. Feedback is very important. Online teachers should give and seek feedback on a regular basis.
  9. Be friendly and communicative but also strict. Students love friendly teachers. However, you should set limits and treat all students with respect.
  10. Online tutoring students love personalized lessons. Try to personalize the learning experience and cater to the student’s needs as much as possible.
  11. Top 5 places to advertise your online tutoring classes:
    2. Free classified ads
    3. (Japanese online community)
    4. (Korean online community)
    5. Teachlingo – ESL Jobs

My Go-to Resources:

There are tons of resources for ESL teachers nowadays but I couldn’t possibly do my online classes without Skype (the screen sharing feature is fantastic), TitanPad (which can be used as a blackboard) and my binder. I also love The Internet TESL Journal, English Pronunciation from Okanagan College, TEFL.netTEFLtastic and Teach This.

What I Like Best About Online Teaching…

The good thing about online teaching is that it’s comfortable, convenient and it gives you the freedom to set your own schedule. Transitioning from face-to-face classes to online classes can be a challenging process but it’s worth it if you’re looking for flexibility (wherever and whenever you have Internet service, you can teach), want to avoid commuting costs or wish to teach to a wider audience of non-traditional students.

Thank you Veronica! If you would like to connect with Veronica or any of our blog contributors, check-out LinkedIn and get connected! 

Teaching Online

This week TESOL grad Rabia Rashid shares her adventures in teaching online.


What I Love Most About Teaching Online…

Teaching online was a very unique experience for me when I first started a year ago. At first the very thought of an online classroom made me feel intimidated, as I had never been an online student myself. But as I started teaching online, in half hour sessions, I felt that its perks were more than the challenges. My two favourites are: firstly, you can teach in your PJs. I simply love it! You don’t need to think about your looks or your (un)organized room/desk. Second, you teach one on one. This is one of the big reasons I stuck to online teaching! As a traditional classroom teacher, no matter how much you wish, you can’t completely address the individual needs of your students due to time constraints and many other factors. Online teaching gives you the opportunity to tailor a lesson for each individual student’s needs.


Online teaching needs a lot of learning; not just the content, but also learning to solve technical issues. As an online teacher, I sometimes wish I was better at solving technical issues, such as safer options to download material or online sharing applications. When I first starting teaching online, I thought I knew a lot about technology – I could use Microsoft tools, Edmodo, Skype, Google Drive, Share, Chat, Docs etc. But what I didn’t know was how to problem solve a bad connection while I was teaching, or why a media file wasn’t playing. I have many friends who whizz through technology while teaching, and can provide quick fix solutions so that a class session is not interrupted, so now thanks to them, they have been guiding me and are there to help whenever I need them. So to be a successful online teacher, it is essential that you know basics of technical problem solving (and find some colleagues who can help you troubleshoot!).

On Resources…

Many teachers think that only good planning enables successful teaching; I think a good resource bank to count on is important too. As much as I know, there is a jungle out there of online teaching resources and as a new teacher you could be overwhelmed with the abundance. However, I have learnt with experience that identifying a resource that is absolutely necessary to achieve the students’ learning goals is the key. It takes investment of time (which would probably unpaid) to build a bank of your favourite resources. The best resources have to be the ones that are closest to the students’ field of interest and the ones that keep them engaged. I find the podcasts very useful for ESL learners at all levels and media giants like CBC and BBC have awesome resources that are authentic, current and easy to use. Another good resource to invest in is the ESL library – they have great, thematic and graded resources. Great teachers use resources that help their students achieve their goals and spend time in adapting them to their class needs.


The Future of Online Teaching…

With the ever-evolving media and technology, online education has a greater scope. In my opinion it caters the education for all needs, which inspires hope in the next generation.

Looking into the future of online education, it is about time that we take the next step; to prepare ourselves and the next teaching generation for online teaching as a viable way to provide flexible education to more and more people. It takes a lot of hard work and preparation but the results are instantaneous, as you can experience continuous assessment, immediate results and on-the-spot-problem solving. Moreover, it is a great way to reduce the space issues at bigger institutions if they offer online programs as well as create more jobs in the field of education.

Links to the websites:

Thanks for sharing Rabia, we wish you all the best with your teaching journey! If you would like to connect with Rabia, you can find her through LinkedIn