E-Coaching community- What have we learnt in a year? Theme 1: Conceptual issues

Theme 1:  Conceptual issues

Continuing the previous blogpost, one theme we explored in our e-coaching community was the conceptual meaning of e-coaching.  What is e-coaching?  Which media does it involve?  Which media does it exclude? What is the difference between e-, virtual- , tele-, online- distance coaching?


What is e-coaching?

In exploring this fundamental question, our e-coaching community expressed diverse opinions. There was disagreement as to whether e-coaching is a relationship between coach and client or it is a process without a coach, as well as which medium/media it involves, whether it is delivered partially or entirely at a distance.

A helping relationship between coach and client 

or an interaction between client and technology?


A) Members of our e-coaching group defined e-coaching as  helping relationship between coach and client

distance communication

 which is delivered at a distance through the use of technology. 


Quoting members of our e-coaching community:

“(E-coaching is) anything that is not face to face, it is delivered at a distance through electronic media”

B) According to other members of our e-coaching group however,  there is no coach-client relationship, but rather e-coaching refers to technology-mediated self-coaching .

technology mediated



Quoting members of our e-coaching community:

“I had taken e-coaching to be the similar to e-learning. i.e. involving online or other technology-based programmes without direct facilitation by the coach – the programme effectively taking the role of provoking thinking.” 

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Which technological modalities does e-coaching involve? 


A) Some of our group members  believe that  e-coaching is delivered through electronic media, including telephone. E-coaching may involve: 

  •  1 medium or a combination of media
  • technological media ranging from telephone, email, video calls, instant messaging
  • additional supporting tools, such as digital file sharing, virtual reality platforms etc.


Quoting members of our e-coaching community:

“E-coaching may be done by phone, email, or other computer-mediated communications, and in combination with face-to-face coaching.” 

“E-coaching in a stricter sense is characterized by replacing face to face communication with modern media. Here we can discern the following technological modalities: (1) video communication, (2) audio communication (telephone), (3) synchronous text-chat, and (4) asynchronous text-chat. These communication modalities can be enriched by e-coaching tools. Here we can discern three types: (1) text-based tools, (2) pre-prepared pictures videos, and audio-documents, and (3) virtual reality platforms.”


B) Other members  argued that e-coaching does not include telephone. According to this definition, e-coaching refers to a helping relationship between coach and client/ or to a self-coaching program, which is delivered at a distance through web-based media. 


  • Technology involves 1 medium or a combination of media
  • Includes only web-based media
  • It includes additional supporting tools, such as digital file sharing, virtual reality platforms etc.

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Delivered entirely or partially at a distance? 


A) Some members argued that e-coaching may be delivered entirely or partially at a distance.


Quoting members of our e-coaching community:

“..e-coaching is coaching that is provided partially or entirely at a distance, using technology for purposes other than simply scheduling appointments and completing administrative tasks.”


B) Others argued that, e-coaching is delivered entirely at a distance, through the use of one or more media, and through supporting tools.  Blended coaching refers to coaching which is delivered partially at a distance, combining face-to-face contact and technology-mediated coaching.


Quoting members of our e-coaching community:

“…if coaching takes place only partially at a distance, i.e. it is combined with face-to-face coaching, wouldn´t one regard it as a blended format, rather than e-coaching? We use for example the term “blended learning” in this way. “


Summarizing, three contradictory opinions were expressed in the group regarding the meaning of e-coaching:

a) E-coaching is relationship–based coaching,  provided at a distance through electronic media – including telephone, email, skype etc. and supporting e-tools.
b) E-coaching is relationship–based coaching, provided at a distance through web-based media, which exclude telephone.
c) E-coaching is not relationship based, but web-based self-coaching.

What these three definitions have in commonis that e-coaching is distance coaching and it is delivered through technology.

paragraph breakE-coaching/ Virtual coaching/ Online or web-based self-coaching/ Distance coaching:  Can these terms be used interchangeably? 

Considering the above three definitions of e-coaching one might conclude that the term distance coaching is the general term encompassing the above 3 definitions. The terms e-coaching, virtual coaching, tele-coaching, online coaching can be used to provide more specific definitions:

a) Distance coaching as a general term to refer to:  coaching with  no face-to-face communication, provided through technology (telephone, or internet based media)

b) Tele-coaching: specific term for coaching through telephone.

b) E-coaching, or virtual coaching,as the specific terms to stand for:  coaching at a distance through computer-mediated (skype, email, internet-based tools)

c) Web-based self-coaching, as the specific term for:  no coach involved, but client-technology interaction provided through the internet

d) Blended coaching, specific term for:  the combination  of face-to-face contact and technology use (telephone, or computer-mediated)

As this theme was only recently adressed in our group however, the scope of our e-coaching community includes relationship-based and self-coaching, telephone and web-based media, entirely or partially delivered at distance. 

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Advantages and disadvantages of e-coaching? 

proos and cons

E-coaching offers several advantages. Here is what members of our e-coaching community said: 

  • Enables wider reach to clients:

international netE-coaches can access young tech savvy clients and individuals who are used to virtual work.

“Given how many of our clients operate in virtual teams, and in a global environment, it serves us coaches to be skilled with phone, vid/con and in-person coaching. “

“So many people are growing up with social media now, so e-coaching seems to be a suitable way of coaching for this group of people.”


  • Time and cost effectiveness:time and cost effective

“…the e-coaching experience is more likely to be sustained over a greater period of time or utilised more frequently — as I guess it will be more cost effective than face to face. “

“It  feels as if e-coaching from a time management prospective, would be more convenient for many. “


  • Intimacy: 

“I find phone coaching takes me deeper and often is more intimate in what the client shares, maybe because they feel safer with sharing over the phone as there is some distance.”

“…the phone is right in your ear somehow”

  • Focus:

“…the lack of visual ” distractions” on both sides…  really does allow both coach and client to focus on the conversation,on the words , on the intentions and on the hidden and unintended.”

“…e-coaching helps to focus the coach and coachee on the coaching experience, as it filters out much judgmental noise. “

“I was surprised to see how much unspoken conversation was present in the “coaching room” and the depth to which we took the conversation. As a coach I was aware of a different type of focus as I was listening to the client. “

There are also several challenges associated with e-coaching: 


  • Lack of visual cues: 

When coaching at a distance, particularly over the telephone, the lack of visual cues potentially makes it challenging to become aware of clients´ emotional states. Without these visual cues, words might be misinterpreted. 


“..the small movements of the facial muscles that can tell us so much – are missing and these are crucial to raising our awareness to the coachee’s emotional state. “

” I found that my challenges were too tough for the clients and being on the end of the phone (no skype) made it difficult to gauge the responses. One went very silent and the other was crying! For both we were able to resolve things but demonstrating empathy is hard over the phone! We discussed the ‘challenge’ in the next session and both felt (individually of course) that the challenge was appropriate but the lack of physical presence made the resolution hard.”

“The match / mismatch of body language and words is crucial for me. Only two weeks ago, in a face-to-face coaching session, I politely asked the coachee how they were as they entered the room. The person said – in a very breezy way – that they were ‘fine’, but you could see in their unguarded moments that something was deeply troubling them. I greatly miss these visual clues when using virtual media. ” 

” ..the e-dialogue has to be descriptive enough and clear enough to minimize misinterpretation.”

  • Less commitment to virtual sessions: quote

“..my problem has been with the actual ‘meetings’ – either missed or cancelled (that includes me too) so I’m thinking there is less commitment to virtual sessions than to face-to-face ones. And if this is true, how does this affect your scheduling as a coach? More white space? double booking? “

What is your opinion? 

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2 thoughts on “E-Coaching community- What have we learnt in a year? Theme 1: Conceptual issues

  1. What does e-coaching mean? – I think the 3 options provided isn’t sufficient, and I think it’s because the definition of distance isn’t specific enough. Do you mean distance in terms of physical proximity or distance in terms of the connection used between e-mediums. The example that comes up for me is e-coaching could be carried out on a shared network IM system with both people in the same room.


    • Yvonne, you have a good point, I think you are absolutely right in that technology can be used while coach and client are in the same room. With distance coaching I meant physical distance, in which case there is no face to face communication and coaching is delivered through technology. In your example, although coaching is technology-mediated, being in the same room implies for me at least some face to face communication.Thus, I see this as face to face coaching with the use of technological media/tools. What the different definitions, provided by members of the e-coaching group have in common is that, coaching is delivered at a distance (as in physical distance) and it is delivered through technology. These 2 conditions were included, whether coaching involved only internet-based media or also telephone, and whether a coach was involved or not (self-coaching)..


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