What’s the definition of a dodgy TEFL course?

The new owner of a TEFL course that’s been mentioned here before has contacted me to object to things in the post as inaccurate or out of date. As the conversation has developed, a regular talking point has been around the word “dodgy”, specifically how you can define it and how a dodgy course could stop being one. Below is my first attempt at a definition, one that needs a lot of feedback before I send it on I reckon…

Things that make a TEFL course “dodgy”, in approximate order of importance:

1. Likely to run off with your money, e.g. the tiny minority of courses that are advertised but don’t actually exist

2. Likely to disappear or go bankrupt

3. Lies on their website or by people representing them

4. Other attempts to deceive, e.g. use of weasel words

5. Connections to dodgy people and other dodgy companies

6. Threats, e.g. to sue

7. Slagging off competitors

8. Involvement in online slagging matches

9. Involvement in email slagging matches

10. Insults

11. Run by people with no knowledge of or previous involvement in TEFL training

12. Names of companies and courses that are unrealistic or deceiving, e.g. “diploma” for an initial training course

Order about right? Any more to add?

More on dodgy TEFL courses:

The Six Ways TEFL Courses Try to Rip You Off series by guest writer Teflista

Part One – Bait and Switch/ Linguistics Dictionary

Part Two – Call Anyone a Trainer

Part Three – Guaranteed Jobs

Part Four – The University Language Institute

Part Five – Slippery Accreditation, Multiple Websites

Articles on the topic by me

10 typical meaningless or misleading statements by TEFL course providers

15 reasons to avoid a TEFL course

plus no end of stuff on this blog…

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12 Responses to What’s the definition of a dodgy TEFL course?

  1. Simon Thomas says:

    Ha! I agree with Richard – this is a good post – thanks!

    I’d add: not providing actual teaching practice on the course (with real language learners) and (relatedly) thereby failing to assess trainees’ actual teaching skills; training from pre-fab materials only, in a formulaic way (i.e., ignoring the individual trainees).

    Best wishes

    Simon

  2. David Petrie says:

    yep – Simon’s point about teaching practice would be my biggest issue.

    The other thing I’d add is lack of recognition by reputable employers. Obviously the question of what constitutes a reputable employer is open to debate – but even so.

    Cheers,
    David

  3. Ian Player says:

    Good list, to which you might add:
    – having two or three websites (usually with keyword-stuffed domain names unrelated to the business name)
    – using phrases like “the internationally-recognized TEFL/TESOL Certificate” which of course is utter bullshit (may come under your #4 attempts to deceive)

  4. Alex Case says:

    Thanks for the contributions, plan to take them all into account and polish the list up. Also:
    – Employees commenting or posting in forums under pseudonyms
    – Employees commenting or posting in forums under several names
    – Employees etc trying to hide their connection to the company in comments or posts on forums
    – Attempted “bribes” (offers of work, refunds to dissatisfied trainees etc) to stop criticism
    – Very rapid expansion
    – Very low entry requirements
    – Training people who won’t be able to get a legal job in that country (e.g. because of lack of degree) without telling them about that situation
    – Lots of emphasis on the lovely location
    – “Guaranteed jobs”

  5. Stephen says:

    Thats an interesting list but needs some adjusting. Lets take a look, shall we?

    1. Likely to run off with your money, e.g. the tiny minority of courses that are advertised but don’t actually exist

    2. Likely to disappear or go bankrupt

    These two are probably the same. Call them Business Stability.

    3. Lies on their website or by people representing them

    4. Other attempts to deceive, e.g. use of weasel words

    Again these should be combined and “weasel words” is far too subjective. Clean that up. Jut get rid of it.

    5. Connections to dodgy people and other dodgy companies

    Again, very subjective. I would get rid of it.

    6. Threats, e.g. to sue

    And why would that be? If someone has been wronged then its their right.

    7. Slagging off competitors

    8. Involvement in online slagging matches

    9. Involvement in email slagging matches

    10. Insults

    Eight, nine and ten should be combined but I do not know if thats even a valid point. First of all, the students would not really care. Secondly, Alex, do not you actively try to engage some of these people in slagging matches? That makes you quite disingenuous. Finally, there was this crappy little company and its crappy little CEO that practiced this quite a bit. His name is Steve Jobs and the company was called Apple. Just because you disagree with someone’s style does not make something dodgy.

    11. Run by people with no knowledge of or previous involvement in TEFL training

    Good

    12. Names of companies and courses that are unrealistic or deceiving, e.g. “diploma” for an initial training course

    Good.

    In my personal opinion you created this list in an attempt to put as many items in here as possible to discredit TEFL International. I believe you are better than that, Alex. Please prove it to us.

  6. Stephen says:

    yes most important of all, does the course have a real practicum with real students.

  7. Stephen says:

    Sorry one more thing. just taking a look at a couple of sites for TEFL courses and found something interesting.

    Testimonials are dodgy. Everyone can get a good testimonial. It would seem far better to have all the feedback available online. Which courses do that?

    Oh now I know why you left it off your list, Alex!

    lol

  8. Alex Case says:

    No practicum is dodgy (especially if they aren’t clear about that), but plenty of dodgy TEFL courses have a proper practicum, e.g. Windsor TEFL which took money off their students for a Trinity course without telling them they’d lost their accreditation, just giving them a Windsor Cert on the last day.

    Use of testimonials is a good point, but I can’t think of a sentence including that which would be a definition of a dodgy course.

  9. Alex Case says:

    This link above gives my definition of weasel words, and includes mention of testimonials:
    http://edition.tefl.net/articles/training-articles/tefl-course-claims/

  10. Tom says:

    Just curious how many courses follow the practice of having their end of course feedback online. It seems I can only find one. That’s pretty non dodgy in my book!

  11. Alex Case says:

    While this is certainly better than cherrypicking, I think all feedback from people who have just taken a course is meaningless for people choosing a course. To start with, when I was a ViaLingua trainer a long long time ago we got plenty of good feedback while what they didn’t yet know they should be writing was “The training was great but it would’ve been just as good on a CELTA and my job prospects would have been greatly improved”.

    I wrote a whole post on this at some point but can’t track it down.

  12. Alex Case says:

    “In my personal opinion you created this list in an attempt to put as many items in here as possible to discredit TEFL International.”

    Five interviews with Bruce and countless emails and comments from him since means that I know a lot more about that course than almost any other, but actually it was two other courses in Thailand connected to the person I am in contact with that were at the front of my mind when writing this. TEFL International are by no means the worst. Just to start with, as I point out in another post numbers 1 and 2 are not true at all. Number 3, however, was very much true the last time I checked, again if not as much so as some others. Anyway, surely the point is whether they are dodgier than Cambridge, Trinity, SIT etc rather than if there are courses which are dodgier than TI.

    A general point worth pointing out about this list is that some of them are more things that generally go together with courses I would define as dodgy (e.g. the schools I contacted about misusing the IATEFL and TESOL names – https://tefltastic.wordpress.com/tesol/abusing-tesol-name/) more than things that of themselves make a school dodgy.

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