How to Gain Expertise in Virtual Coaching

Emily Coleman
Emily Coleman
ELL academic support specialist; Ph.D. candidate in Strategic Leadership and Administrative
A young girl working at her desk during virtual learning

What does Educational Coaching Encompass?

Coaching is a wonderful career for someone who is looking to make a difference in a student’s life. Educational coaching helps students develop their skills and realize their potential. Coaching is not just for struggling learners. Coaches work with students of all abilities, even those who have already found success in the classroom.

Educational coaches use a well-rounded approach to improve a student’s skills so that he/she can achieve more. Educational coaches can be crucial to many students’ chances of success. When approaching educational coaching, it is vital that you make it known that you are not just a tutor. You are going to be the person to enhance the students’ academic abilities and teach them invaluable study skills.

As an educational coach, you will teach your students how to approach their classes and assignments. You want to understand what the issues or problems are that may be hindering the students’ learning. Then, you can begin to guide them in how to organize their studying and break down assignments that may seem daunting to them. Students who do not have great study skills or who have not been explicitly taught how to overcome challenges or barriers will forever be grateful to you for giving them these invaluable tools.

How is Virtual Learning Different?

Virtual coaching can be very similar to face-to-face coaching. Most likely, it will be one-on-one with a student. If the student gives you permission, you can reach out to his/her teachers and counselors to gain more insight to where, why, and how the student is struggling. The main difference is that you will not be in the same physical environment as the student with whom you are working. However, the entire country has learned a lot about how to function in the virtual world due to the pandemic. Therefore, you and your students most likely have had a lot of experience studying and working virtually.

In order to gain expertise in virtual coaching, you want to think about what makes an educational coach successful in the non-virtual world. A lot of that success comes from relationship building. A virtual coach needs to make sure that he/she is able to reach out to the student so that he/she knows that you care and knows why your meetings will be very useful.

Be sure to set the scene for every meeting. You want to formalize your coaching since it is over the computer. Be sure to look the part. Do not join your meetings looking like you just got out of bed or got home from the gym. The student (and most likely the parents) will not think that you have the skills to bring the student to where he/she needs to be. Make sure that your background is free of debris and other distractions. Ask the student to do the same. Before starting virtual coaching, discuss whether or not the student will be comfortable turning on his/her camera and using the microphone. Discuss what you will require of the student ahead of time, so that no one is surprised.

Advantages of Virtual Coaching

There are numerous advantages to virtual coaching. The number one may be the time and schedule aspect. As a virtual coach, you will be able to work from anywhere. You will not have to travel to students’ homes or libraries for sessions. You will be able to work with more students because you are virtual. Another advantage is that you will have every resource available in the virtual world ready for you to use. If you notice that your student is struggling with conceptualizing a topic, you can pull up a video to further your explanation. If your student does not have his/her required textbook, you will be able to access their virtual classroom so that there is no lost learning time during your sessions.

An additional benefit to virtual coaching is that you really get to focus on the student. Your sessions will not be hindered by scheduling conflicts or students showing up late. You will be able to dedicate the entire time to pushing your student to find the success that you know is inside of him/her.

Disadvantages of Virtual Coaching

Of course with any job, there are some disadvantages. Because we have all had to rely on doing things virtually over the past year and a half, new students may have virtual fatigue. They may struggle in creating a relationship with you and trusting that you will help them achieve their goals. That is why the virtual coach has to be very creative during these sessions to create the relationships that are so desperately needed.

Outside distractions are also a challenge for virtual coaching. Although you can advise the student on how to set up the best learning environment for your meetings, it may not always be possible for the student. He/she may have many siblings at home that create a loud, non-conducive area for studying. You need to be ready to make suggestions to overcome these outside distractions.

Finally, you may find some opposition from your students. They may look at you like a tutor and not be willing to open up at all. They might be embarrassed and feel that they can succeed on their own. When this happens, be ready to explain and demonstrate the skills that you can share with them to make their academic life easier and more enjoyable.

No matter what, virtual coaching is a very rewarding career to have. Be sure to be familiar with your technology and continue to research the best new programs/apps, and you will continue to gain expertise with every session that you have.

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