Using online tools or a VLE for coaching and training coaches and counsellors
Until quite recently the coaching community wouldn’t touch e-learning with a barge pole. Many coaches and counsellors thought that coaching and counselling has to be done face to face or not at all. However, techniques have moved on and experience has shown that in many cases (though probably not all) telephone or online support can be effective whether offered on their own or in support of face to face sessions.
For non-critical types of coaching one-to-one telephone coaching and counselling is often used, with regular time-limited telephone calls backed up by email exchanges of reading material, feedback documents, forms and surveys. As an extension of that, many coaches and counsellors now use VOIP and audio tools like Skype, as well as non-audio synchronous tools such as online text chat or instant messaging. Asynchronous tools like discussion boards are also used: a VLE (virtual learning environment) may be used to post links, downloads, forms etc. A VLE may be useful even in a context outside formal education because of the usually excellent privacy settings of private learning environments. Clients can share with confidence.
One helpful mechanism for supporting people with similar needs is to start a self-help community for clients, potential clients and past clients – as an expert you can share your expertise judiciously with them, and the members can also help each other. Careful planning needs to go into the rules and guidelines for forums like these, to avoid inappropriate advice being given, or difficult topics being discussed in an inappropriate way, but sharing with those in the same situation is a relief for many and one of the great strengths of the Web. Skilful facilitation and moderation is essential.
Using a private discussion forum per client for one to one discussions can be an excellent strategy and allows for each partner in the discussion to reflect and think and research before responding.
Online tools can also be used to support coaches and counsellors in distributed teams. Online techniques such as uploading video or blogging can be used to feedback to other coaches for supervision and personal development. For those still training, the trainee can upload videos of coaching sessions for supervisor to critique – this requires levels of privacy in both signed approvals and the technology itself.
Finally, a coach or counsellor can create quizzes and surveys online for their clients that help get to the nub of the problem in a non-threatening way. These can be discussed in a safe secure private environment as described above. Private online spaces – rather than the very public social networks and other social media technologies – can offer the coach or counsellor an efficient and effective way to support clients.