Digital coaching or e coaching is a non-hierarchical developmental partnership between two parties separated by a geographical distance, in which the learning and reflection process is conducted via both analogue and virtual means (Ribbers and Waringa, 2012). The lack of a hierarchical and advisory relationship is a characteristic of digital coaching, which intrinsically distinguishes it from e-learning and e-therapy.
The learning and reflection process in digital coaching is conducted both in a practical setting (on the job) and in the client’s everyday environment (analogue). This learning and reflection process is facilitated by using the Internet (digital). This approach enables the client to practice new skills in relevant real-life situations.
Benefits of digital coaching
Is digital coaching as effective as traditional coaching?
A study by Berry et al. (2011) shows that there is no significant difference between face-to-face coaching and coaching over the phone, in terms of building relationships and finding solutions. This shows that it is indeed possible to establish a sustainable and trusting relationship via e-formats (digital coaching / e-coaching), as well as to achieve individual coaching goals. Further studies (Geißler et al. 2013, 2014) showed that initial scepticism about whether it was possible to establish a trusting relationship via digital coaching, was proven unfounded by personal experience. For 93% of the participants, trusting their coach was an essential criterion for successful coaching. Before the start of digital coaching, 36% of participants were quite sceptical and 14% very sceptical with regard to establishing a relationship of trust digitally. After three months of digital coaching, this scepticism declined, with only 14% of participants still having reservations. Furthermore, 62% of the participants surveyed were very confident and 38% of them were rather confident that digital coaching encourages constructive self-reflection – a criterion that was also very important to all participants.
Is digital coaching only for young people?
In recent years, usage of the internet for voice chat, e-mail and video chat has increased considerably. While in 2016 usage was at 28%, this rose to 53% by 2018 (statistics from 2019). There also seems to be a change in internet usage among different age groups. 43%
of people aged 50–69 use the internet as their preferred means of communication in their private lives, followed by 35% of 30–49 year- olds and, lastly, 22% of 16–29 year-olds. Digital media is therefore in no way just something for young people. On the contrary, according to media researchers at the University of Hamburg, a kind of “digital puberty” is emerging in the 50+ generation. Thus, digital coaching is suitable for all generations.
What is a virtual coach?
A virtual coach is still a human in remote coaching. A virtual coach must not be mistaken for a robotic coach powered by artificial intelligence. The human touch is still a fundamental element. Communication is digital and virtual, but your coach is a real, certified human coach.
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