Online training has caught on so much over the last 15 years. It has, apparently, many benefits that make it a viable alternative to classroom-based training. Let us consider, specifically for online coaching training courses, to see whether this is the best route for coaches in training to follow.
To be clear, I am referring to self-study online learning, i.e. being sent videos and documents, so that the coach can study at their own pace. This is different to webinar-based learning, about which I have written another blog.
This has, of course become much more important since the corona crisis, as so much training has switched to an online approach.
Benefits of online, self-study training
A: Cost. Clearly, online training is a considerable cost saving, compared with classroom training. The training company has reduced costs and passes them on to the coach. In addition, no travel or accommodation is needed, so the costs are reduced even further.
B: Own pace. Online learning requires self-study, so the coach-in-training can go at their own pace, and not necessarily at the pace of a class. This is particularly important for adult learners – we are entitled to study at the pace that suits us.
C: Not limited by the tutor. The coach-in-training can draw from many sources, not just from the course tutor. They may come across other coaching tools, other research, other bits of best practice, to incorporate.
D: The technology supports online learning: Course tutors can use the technology well to enhance the experience. There can be demonstration videos to share, e-books and articles to share. The coach-in-training can record their own coaching sessions to be reviewed by the course tutor.
E: Self-study does not mean fully alone: course tutors can offer 1:1 tutorial to enhance the self-study experience. Students can join a shared learning hub, to connect with other self-study students. There can be message boards and Q+A options.
All in all, there are a number of benefits that can, under some circumstances, make online learning a viable option for coaches-in-training. Now, let us look at the other side of the coin – the downside of self-study training.
Risks of online coaching training courses
A: Micro skills practice. Much of the training is practicing micro coaching skills (questioning, pausing, listening, structuring conversations…). Self-study takes away the opportunity of engaging with fellow learners on this vital aspect.
B: Non-skills discussions. Much of coach training is discussion based, with plenty of Q+A, flip chart filling on relevant topics, debates about coaching skills. It is harder to replicate these in the online environment that when in the training room.
C: Other people’s questions. In a group training environment, many, many questions come up from the group member, and everyone learns from the responses.
D: “Spot” demonstrations by the coach trainer. Often, in response to activities, the trainer will give impromptu explanations and demonstrations of approaches and techniques. This enriches the learning experience significantly.
E: Coaching fellow coaches-in-training. So much of coach training revolves around coaching practice, and in the classroom, we coach each other. In many ways, fellow coaches are the best people to coach when we are practicing. They understand the processes and make it challenging, but not too much!
F: Whole group momentum. Being part of a group that is learning at a similar – not identical – pace and being part of that momentum is a powerful thing. There is a sense of energy, achievement and mutual support that is hard to replicate.
Mitigating these risks
With Covid-19, we have taken the decision to offer self-paced coach training and have had approval from our qualification body to do so. So, we are taking our own medicine, and looking to minimize the risks above! In particular:
- Making the cost of self-study training only 35% of the classroom training cost
- Still offering 1:1 tutorial support, feedback on coaching sessions
- Still offering the intensive support for assignment writing and submission
- Giving noticeably clear guidance on skills practice activities
- Encouraging two people to study in tandem, to support each other
- Enriching the training materials, to make sure they provoke engagement
Some of the items listed in the risks section can be overcome, online coaching training courses can be adapted to incorporate these elements. But it takes plenty more work, planning and structure to do this in online settings than in face to face ones. Our role as coach trainers is to give people the best possible opportunity to develop their coaching skills, and, for the moment, the face to face environment is superior.
But we have to recognize that in post-Covid, viable alternatives to being in a classroom are important to offer. So, having a robust and high-quality alternative, with self-study training is important.
Good training is good training, and poor training is poor training. Good trainers will be able to take their high-quality courses and make them as effective as possible as the self-study approach allows. Those of us who teach coaching have a duty to make sure that, if we offer self-study options, that they are of the highest quality. I am not referring to the technology, but the learning experience. Coaches-in-training pick your self-study course wisely!