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Virtual coaching claims an increasingly important role in the context of modern qualification concepts. Why is coaching so important in tomorrow’s learning? Does coaching over the telephone or the Internet have any effect and if so, how does it work?

The learning of the future – different formats and methods

The demands on modern and innovative learning concepts are enormous. A wide range of skills needs to be developed in a varied and efficient way. At best, the learning formats should be effective, sustainable and up-to-date. In addition to increasing knowledge, the focus is and will be on developing mindsets or attitudes and sustained learning transfer. Working on our own attitudes is rather difficult, as this requires actively working on some of our deep convictions.

Each learning format has a different focus. E-learning primarily addresses the development of knowledge competencies. Classical classroom workshops or trainings focus more on the application of knowledge. Community learning is intended to ensure that knowledge is shared more effectively within the group and that an exchange of experience and collegial supervision take place. It makes a significant contribution to ensuring the transfer and integration of what has been learned into everyday life.

Aim and effectiveness of e-Coaching

And what is the significance of (virtual) coaching? It is the ideal format to activate the volition of a learner. But it is about more than just motivation. Coaching can develop personality, stimulate self-reflection or encourage a change of attitude. It is also an excellent choice for flexible learning support.

As part of Future Learning , coaching usually takes place virtually, i.e. via telephone or video conference. Thus, compact coaching sessions offer a way to maintain an ongoing coaching schedule over time regardless of distance, eliminating the need to travel. This makes virtual coaching extremely time and cost efficient. This, in turn, facilitates real long-term support for any learner.

Is virtual coaching effective at all? We have known for some time that coaching in itself is effective (Grover & Furnham, 2016). Also virtual or telephone coaching has an effect. According to current studies, there are no significant deviations compared to live coaching (Jones, Woods & Guillaume, 2015).

So it is no small wonder that this qualification format is more and more en vogue.

Fields of application and effect mechanisms of online coaching

When can virtual coaching be used?

It is always the format of choice when the focus is on supporting qualification programmes that are designed for the longer term development of individual learners. As this case shows, the coach acts as a link between the learner and his learning progress. It is the go-to method when learner and coach are spatially separated and regular live sessions cannot be realised.

In principle, coaching, even in virtual format, can be applied to these topics:

  • Process monitoring and process reflection
  • Target definition and target-process evaluation
  • Self-reflection and reflection on content
  • Review of competences and learning objectives
  • Development of learning successes and fields of development
  • Introduction of, implementation of and support for exercises
  • Personality development
  • Mindset Change, work on attitude and volition

Virtual coaching has a similar effect as a face-to-face format. Through the working relationship, empathy, esteem and increasing trust, learners can usually get involved with the content and development steps can be experienced. Structuring the process, asking questions and discussing exercises, goals or own topics leads to reflection and a deeper processing. The resources of the learners are usually strengthened. In addition, positive effects on a variety of psychological factors such as self-efficacy can be demonstrated.

Virtual coaching has proven to be particularly beneficial when coach and coachèe meet in person at the beginning. Although this is not absolutely necessary for the success of the coaching, it is certainly an excellent support.

Of essential importance is that the coach is experienced or suitably qualified in virtual work. Implementing coaching effectively via computers is an art of its own that needs to be practiced. After all, two levels of communication are severely restricted, body language and mood/atmosphere. This means that the linguistic design of the process is of even greater importance, as is the case in coaching anyway.

Virtual coaching – the heart of Future Learning

The importance of coaching for FutureLlearning will certainly continue to grow as it supports learners in two different ways:

  • Continuous monitoring of the individual learning process: In regular “coach calls” learners can clarify questions, structure their individual development process or check competence development. In a digitalised programme, coaching takes over what digitalised tests, artificial intelligence or e-learning cannot yet do.
  • Personal accompaniment of the human being: However, in an optimally designed and efficient qualification programme, people usually seek personal relationships and contact. Reflection and appreciation can hardly be experienced through the web. This social part of the development work can only take place in a person to person connection.

Virtual coaching thus combines economy and efficiency with the human component in the learning of the future. Attitudes and mindsets can thus be successfully addressed and developed.

Also worth reading in this context could be our Blog Coaching – a powerful instrument of individual change.

This blog was written by Nicklas Kinder, who is currently writing his dissertation on the topic “Coaching” at the University of Salzburg.