E-Coaching: An overview of 7 new coaching formats
Over the last years, coaching through modern media is becoming increasingly popular. This development is stimulated by the increasing need for flexibility both, in the professional and in private sectors, but also by the demand for more cost-effective coaching formats. The purpose of this paper is to provide a systematic overview of this new area of coaching practice and to outline seven coaching formats.
- Communication is structurally constituted by the triangular relationship between the speaker, listener, and communication content. Communicating partners alternate between the roles of the speaker and the listener and thereby, construct and develop the communication content together.
- Language lies at the heart of human communication. It is an extensive and differentiated system, made of pre-defined sound combinations (phonemes). Each of these phonemes have a socially defined meaning (semantics) and based on a set of rules, i.e. grammar, they connect to sentences, which are interconnected and together make up a pragmatic language system.
- This way structured language can appear in three forms:
a) In spoken language, which is not documented or archived (social situativity).This type of communication is fluid,in the sense that words are present only at the moment they are being said, but then they immediately disappear.
- The medium we use in order to speak is the human body. The body is particularly important for the expression of emotions. Thus, emotions can be expressed through our face (facial expressions), posture, intonation, pitch and volume.
- Additionally, communication content can be enriched or illustrated through visualizations (texts, tables and graphs, audio and video recordings, as well as artistic artifacts, such as paintings, sculptures, films etc.). Every visualization has some structuring capabilities.
- A further possibility to enrich or illustrate communication contents, is the use of actions. Actions such as for example, hand gestures, used to clarify an aspect or an area of a given communication content, role play or pantomime, which can be used to reconstruct a social situation, or the staging of the “inner dialogue” in psychodrama.
- Non-interactive media, for example when the coach sends emails, MS Word documents, Power-Point slides, audio- or video documents to the client. The client is asked to study them and then discuss them with the coach through telephone, skype or asynchronous text-based communication.
- Examples of interactive media include, documents with empty spaces to be filled out by the client, engaging the client in role play, in order to analyze the client´s behaviour in communication, or when coach and client communicate in virtual reality using avatars, in order to address the client´s issues and find appropriate solutions to them.
- The first basic format is telephone or video communication. Undoubtedly, there are significant differences between these two media, in terms of body-depedent expressions. Specifically, video communication can not only convey vocal expressions as it is the case in telephone communication, but also facial expressions and body language. However, these differences are minor in comparison to the differences to text-based communications.
- The second basic format is the pure asynchronous text-based communication. Unlike telephone and video communication can be grouped under the same format, asynchronous text-based communication must be distinguished from synchronous text-chat, as it pre-supposes more time, particularly time to reflect (www.moodeln.de).
- The third basic format thus, refers to synchronous text-chat. Here it should be noted that in practice there are hardly any initiatives to coach exclusively through synchronous text-chat. The main feature of this format is thus, its use in combination with asynchronous text-based communication and possibly also with telephone or video communication.
- Telephone or video communication, combined with non-interactive communication elements, such as MS Word documents, Power-Point slides, audio- or video documents, enriching the communication content.
- Telephone or video communication, combined with interactive texts, such as coaching questions to be answered by the client. An example to this is “virtual coaching (VC)”: The coaching process is thereby structured through some basic coaching questions, which can be accessed on the internet (www.virtual-coaching.net) and answered in written form by the client.
- Telephone or video communication, enriched with interactive visualizations. Examples include: a) Avatar- based actions, which coach and client carry out in virtual worlds. First attempts in this direction are currently made in the Karlsruhe Institute by Elke Berninger-Schäfer. b) Tools for virtual constellation work, such as the LPS Cocoon tool (www.world-wide-coach.de).This tool uses 13 virtual stones through the positioning of which clients in the coaching process can express their ideas or personality characteristics on a virtual table.
- Asynchonous and synchronous text-based communication, with interactive communication elements, following the concept of e-learning. Existing possibilities in this area include:
a) The tool “JigsawBox“ (www.jigsawbox.com) offers the coach the possibility to send written documents, figures, audio and video documents to the client, to edit them and to combine them with learning tasks, creating a basis for the subsequent asynchronous text- based coaching process.