CELTA Online: Spilt Milk or Red, Red Wine?

A recording of the 45-minute presentation will be available soon, but this is the write-up of the main points of our webinar, organised by Shaun Wilden and International House World Organisation.

Here at IH Rome I’ve seen how the sausage is made and taking CELTA online during this unprecendented period is the fruit of a lot of hustle, hard work and many, many emails from Gianni and Flo Feat-Jones to Cambridge English. They’ve done an incredible job to pull this possibility into reality (I’ll say no more about the Mother Ship in the UK to keep this in the positive! ;)) Much appreciated, and the whole IH Rome Teacher Training team has contributed to improving Online CELTA on Zoom since March.

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Here’s what Gianni and I advertised:

14:15 – 15:00 UK Time Giovanni Licata and James Egerton- IH Rome Manzoni. CELTA Online: Spilt milk or red, red wine?

2020 has been momentous. CELTA is one of many realms that had to adapt with a (temporary) move online and questions have been raised regarding practicality, assessment and credibility issues. In this talk, we’ll address these questions and how we can make the most of this opportunity for better quality hybrid teaching. 

Understandably, face-to-face (f2f) CELTA and Online CELTA offer different challenges, and we tried to address concerns related to the three-headed hydra of PRACTICALITY, ASSESSMENT and CREDIBILITY based on the IH Rome experience.

The situation is out of our control, but how we react to it is under our control. Let’s make this work. 

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*The school must invest in the Advanced Zoom package in order to offer Online CELTA* Not all features are available on the free Basic version.

1. Host/Co-host

Make the teacher the Host and ask to be made Co-Host immediately. This will allow the teacher to create and organise Breakout Rooms (BORs) and as Co-host, you have the right to move between the BORs freely to monitor both the teacher’s monitoring and students’ understanding of the task set.

2. BORs

Check your Zoom settings before any sessions begin. Give the maximum control to the teachers.

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Once in a meeting, there are many options available on the BOR control panel so let teachers play around with them in TP0 (recommendation from the CELTA representatives Cambridge English). For example, we recommend setting the countdown time to get back to the Main Room to 10 seconds, as its default setting is usually 60.

3. Timetabling

Four-day, five-week courses are recommended.

4. Sharing documents

Experiment with and get used to the different options available for sharing files with the trainees and TP students: screen share; send file in chat box (doesn’t always work!); pre-send documents by email. No need to print these out; we’re working 100% online in 2020 so save the trees!

5. (The Magic of) Google Docs

You can create a Google Doc and share the link so everyone can edit it live. This is just one way in which teaching/training online has a huge advantage over classroom practice. Google Docs are very useful for writing tasks, answer check and any collaborative work (we need to translate the ‘looking at someone else’s notes/answers’ function in the classroom here!)

6. (The Magic of) the Zoom Chat Box

This is an underestimated resource. As well as sending files (when it works!), use this to write task instructions and dynamise answer check. For example, I regularly make it a race after pair check in BORs for learners to write their answers in the chat box back in the Main Room as quickly as possible.


What we presented here was a summary of the main points on adapting the f2f CELTA criteria into the Online CELTA. This is based on our experience at IH Rome, having been assessed on several courses already by Cambridge Assessors, and ideas from CELTA trainers from across the IH network.

Click on the following words for the link to the Google Doc (not editable in this version but please request permission if you’d like to edit it!).

Our most important realisation? Prepare your teaching environment in a more professional way than these two:

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Incidentally, another way in which Online CELTA prepares trainees better than f2f for both Zoom and classroom teaching is in instruction clarity. These have to be extra tight online because re-clarifying becomes a traumatic experience once students are already in BORs. Peripheral vision and hearing are out of bounds here!

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Personally, I find it incredible and incredulous that credibility is even given credit due to CELTA trainer professionals’ ability, work ethic and honesty. This is a new venture and trust is needed if we are ever to make any forward movement in this industry. We trust the profession.

Perhaps reluctance is more understandable before any Online CELTA course has proof of results, but now we have ample evidence from IH Rome and across the world that Online CELTA can and does work. Here’s one of our lovely trainees Micol describing her Online CELTA experience:

We also echo Cathy Bowden’s attitude on this Twitter thread:

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So is this red, red wine going to go bad?

Not if we at IH Rome have anything to do with it. Like the layers of history in Rome’s Jewish Quarter, adding innovation to traditional practices doesn’t devalue what’s been built before – it simply updates the view.

This is a historic period and we are adding this Online CELTA layer to the possibilities for future ELT professionals around the world, complementing the traditional face-to-face CELTA course and creating the chance to train hybrid teachers in future who are skilled in both classroom and online environments.

That’s a great opportunity to be savoured like a good glass of red wine.


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