If you’re considering qualifying as a coach, the current learning opportunities are greater than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated new methods of working and learning, and as a result, many coaching courses that were previously only taught in person are now available online.
Of course, online learning isn’t simply about new or advanced technology. The best online coaching courses are those that have reimagined their existing learnings for the virtual environment, to evolve and make the most of the platforms’ myriad of capabilities.
Online training can have several advantages, and in this article we explore some of these benefits, before sharing some things to look for when enrolling on an online coaching course.
More flexible learning
Online coaching courses mean you can fit your coursework around your work schedule more easily, as you don’t have the time and cost restraints associated with transportation. You can also listen to recordings of sessions, so you can dive in further and cement your online learnings. And, as many coaches ultimately choose to work with their clients online, you’ll emerge from the course with built-in knowledge of this style and method of coaching.
The best online facilitators bring their material to life through interactive group conversations, detailed walkthroughs of coaching models, and student participation, rather than simply reading a series of slides during lessons.
The top teachers are keenly aware of how certain aspects of the virtual arena can encourage greater learning. For example, Zoom and other online platforms have break-out-rooms to allow for smaller peer-to-peer practice sessions, ideas discussion, and skills practice.
These breakout spaces also allow the trainer to silently step into the virtual room to observe the participants’ coaching and even offer real-time feedback before opening the group back up for additional sharing and discussion. Timekeeping can be better, too eliminating the ‘straggler factor’ which often takes over as groups return to the real-life classroom after breaks.
Virtual platforms also lend themselves particularly well to multimedia use, such as video, especially to explore and analyse some of the techniques used by classic practitioners to facilitate dialogue-based change. Short videos can be easily screened for the group to watch and discuss further, either in whole-groups or in breakout sessions.
Remember the classic flipchart that trainers use to describe concepts visually? Good news: in the online arena, a facilitator can easily open up a virtual whiteboard to draw diagrams or map out ideas for the group.
Smaller group sizes
Online training means that, in theory, the group size can be limitless, but bigger is not necessarily better. As with in-person coach training, a more focused group size (generally about 20 people) can mean more buzz, energy, and quality interaction – plus you get to see all of your classmates on one screen. (Any larger and it can be difficult to feel like you are part of the conversation, particularly if the only two-way communication offered is via the chat box function). We especially love the ‘raise hand’ function to ask and answer questions, as in a face-to-face space.
A greener way to learn
Not only can online learning be more effective for students, but it’s also a better option for the environment. According to The Open University, virtual learning uses 90-per cent less energy and creates 85-per cent fewer CO2 emissions per student than traditional courses.
Try before you buy
Is your interest piqued? Most online coaching programmes have online open days or evenings where you can dive deeper into specifics of the course, asking questions about the learning platform, course structure, and more. You may also find it useful to ask students for feedback on their course experience. Ask to speak to a coach who has recently attended online modules and use the time to voice any concerns you may have about learning online.
Beyond the bells and whistles
Of course, it’s not just innovative use of technology that makes for a great online coaching course. All of the qualities that you’d look for in face-to-face learning – from credentials to practice client work – remain as important as ever, as do the relationships you build with instructors and peers.
Here are some key things to consider:
1. Check the course accreditation and credentialing
Make sure your chosen course carries accreditation from at least one of the major professional coaching bodies: International Coach Federation (ICF), Association for Coaching (AC), European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) – Though the more accreditation from these professional bodies, the better quality a coaching course is likely to be. Accreditation not only helps ensure your peace of mind about the quality of the course but also lets clients know that you have professional credentials and adhere to a certain standard of ethics. The Animas coaching course is accredited by the ICF, AC and EMCC so you can be sure that it is a great quality, professional course that will train you to be a truly competent and confident coach.
2. Ask about the qualification and assessment process
The best coaching schools assess students using a mix of methods including live sessions, reflective practice and a client log. This rigour ensures your coaching skills will be assessed to a high standard. If the course you’re researching allows students to simply show up and pass, it’s probably not good enough for you, or your clients. Make sure you thoroughly explore the qualification process to ensure you’re getting rigorous and quality coach training.
3. Make Sure it Includes Practice Client Work
Coaching is something you do, not just something you know. It’s a skill based on the working relationship between two people and you can’t become a great coach without practising and honing your live skills. Make sure that any course you choose includes a requirement for practise coaching sessions as this will be where you build your aptitudes and confidence as a new coach.
4. Seek Observation and Supervision
Also, make sure that your coaching is observed and supervised as part of your training. Having honest and ongoing feedback from a supervisor will help guide you to better practices and an improved set of coaching skills. Supervision sessions allow you to bring any questions or concerns about your clients or sessions, to gain reflection and insights, all of which will help you become a better coach in the long run. And it’s worth noting here that many of the best coaches continue to receive supervision even once they’ve qualified, which is testament to the importance of reflective feedback on your journey to becoming the best coach you can be.
5. Allow for an extended learning journey
It’s impossible to develop strong coaching skills in a matter of a few days without client work. Coaching is a skill that develops with time so look for a course that takes place over an extended period (generally over several months) with steps that develop your skills and allow time for reflective learning. Indeed, the periods between the sessions are often where the greatest personal and professional shifts take place.