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Everything You Need to Know About Online Mentoring

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As part of our distance learning courses, EDHEC Online offers personalised career support, including — among other features — online mentoring sessions, both individually and in groups. Our objective: to provide professionals with the tools they need to create a meaningful learning experience. But is it really possible to provide coaching remotely? And how do we ensure that this support has maximum impact?  

With the advent of 100% virtual training programmes, like those offered by EDHEC Online, coaching has assumed a role of great importance — and is proving to be even more essential for distance learning than for face-to-face classes. Whether one-to-one or in small learning groups, coaching helps to prevent learners from dropping out by allowing genuine learning follow-up and monitoring of participants’ progress, all while providing them with tailored career support.

Coaching is one of the reasons that courses like EDHEC Online’s Manager Programme can boast a 96% completion rate, in contrast with other online formats which do not offer any support; MOOCs, for example, have an average completion rate of between 4 and 10%.

The coach-learner relationship endures the test of distance

Intuitively, we may worry that remote coaching has less of an impact and that our screens act as emotional filters, creating an unbridgeable gap between participant and coach. In reality, the only genuine prerequisite for effective remote coaching is the technical aspect: a reliable web-conferencing tool. So long as the image is sharp and the sound is clear, coach and learner can create a connection.

In EDHEC Online’s Manager Programme, the coaching programme is even more intensive than in our face-to-face courses. We advocate solution-focused coaching: our online mentoring is directly and firmly anchored in the participant’s professional life, including by means of self-set challenges which participants must determine and work towards, in order to progress in the directions which they themselves have selected.

For example, a professional who considers himself to be overly introverted may set himself the goal of speaking up more in a given meeting, followed by analysis of how this change has impacted himself and others. In this respect, the “online” format makes no difference: regardless of the fact that it has been digitalised, our coaching remains practical and pragmatic, with direct relevance to real-life issues.

Distance coaching: on call, all ears

While it does not change in substance, in form coaching within the distance learning context has an unexpected consequence: it facilitates listening.

In group coaching sessions, during which sharing experiences and interactivity are vital, the difference is marked: the web-conference format allows a more controlled approach to speaking up. Some tools allow participants to signal when they want to make a contribution and to have equal access to speaking opportunities without creating a cacophony. There is less interrupting and more listening, resulting in exchanges which are all the richer.

In individual sessions, too, the remote coaching format prioritises listening — for different reasons. Separated by the screen as they are, a coach can more easily observe the learner, thus noticing many small signs which reveal the participant’s emotional state.

These signals might be less obvious in a traditional face-to-face arrangement, where they can be overshadowed by other factors. It is the responsibility of the coach to develop his or her ways of looking and listening in order to be more “present” when working remotely. This is a slightly different way of working and communicating, but we — coaches and coachees — have everything to gain.

“Knowing yourself is crucial for managers; I would even go so far as to say that the coaching sessions are indispensable! I use the things I learned in these sessions every day, both for myself and for better interactions with others.” Yann Goinère, Manager Programme 2014

Commitment: the prerequisite to successful coaching

When it comes to your personal and professional development, your coach can’t do everything single-handedly. Taking part in a coaching programme like the one we offer at EDHEC requires a commitment, which must only increase if sessions are remote. It comes down to genuinely setting aside time for both one-to-one and group sessions, rather than attending in the middle of your working day from your open-plan office, for example, or perched at the table while your children play in the background.

As when face-to-face, virtual coaching requires concentration and peace and quiet to allow you to think freely and refocus on yourself. Each session must be viewed as time out from your daily life. As a coach, if I feel at the beginning of a session that we are not working with the right conditions, it is always better to reschedule the appointment.

Participants in our online programmes are ready to make this commitment because our career support is one of the reasons for which they selected our courses. In the context of the 100% Online Manager Programme, for example, learners are motivated by their desire to improve themselves: to improve themselves personally in order to improve themselves professionally — to become better managers, to develop their leadership abilities, and more.

In online learning as in face-to-face courses, improvement follows commitment.

“Professionals often hesitate to embark on a coaching programme because their schedules are already hectic. But with distance learning and coaching, they can save time… and gain a unique experience with a human touch.” Muriel Cauvin