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Chris Munro and Claudia Owad: GCI Online reflection

“We now offer online coaching training that is as interactive and impactful as our face-to-face training.”

That’s something we hadn’t imagined saying back in early February when we began discussing online learning provision as a strategic goal for 2021. Little did we know what was about to unfold and how we’d all be thrust into the world of online learning. Six months on, we are extremely proud of the commitment and hard work GCI colleagues put into accelerating and achieving this strategic goal a year early. We now have a suite of programs that provide increased flexibility and access to high quality professional development for educators around the world.

So, what have we learned about facilitation of online coaching training?

 

Rapport

The most powerful insight from the experience of delivering our live interactive workshops via Zoom has been that we can establish rapport, connection and belonging in this mode. The key here has been noticing, and acknowledging, the different social dynamic that exists in the online meeting environment and findings ways to create the equivalent conditions for participation, engagement and connection that we do routinely in the face to face environment – between facilitator and cohort, and between participants themselves. Without the social mingling over coffee and forming table groups on arrival at a venue, strategies to encourage early interaction and connection need to be more deliberate and planned in the online space. This can be achieved in a number of ways such as gallery view or break out rooms. Noticing the body language and reactions of participants is really crucial. This can support facilitators in asking specific participants their opinion throughout the training. It increases connection and engagement.

 

Involvement and Inclusivity

‘Gallery view’ on Zoom (and other online meeting platforms) can be quite ‘in your face’! At first, this can be disconcerting for some participants (and the facilitator) as we are not used to seeing everyone and being on show quite so much when sitting in a workshop room and this can result in a reluctance to offer answers or ask questions openly. To mitigate for this and create a greater sense of democratic involvement and inclusivity, we’ve learned to utilise a variety of online response methods and groupings across the workshops. We also ensure breakout rooms have a mixture of participants that change regularly to ensure maximum exposure for all participants to each other.

 

Inter-personal Connection & Coaching

The most pleasing outcome so far has been witnessing an equivalent level of personal connection develop across each cohort as we see in face to face workshops. Participants have told us that they enjoyed the personal and confidential space of the breakout rooms for small group discussions and practice coaching sessions. From a facilitator point of view, the live coaching demonstrations have been more personal on Zoom than in a room with other participants sitting just metres away from us. The feedback and insights from participants during the debrief sessions have shown that they are picking up all of the things we’d want them to notice, and maybe even a few more because if the focus provided in the online environment.

 

Way of Being

Finally, we might have thought that the ‘way of being’ could be harder to convey and detect online. Well, the feedback from participants and facilitators is that this is being conveyed very effectively in our facilitation and coaching activities. Participants are noticing (one of our key coaching skills) interpersonal characteristics such as respectful curiosity, warmth, and empathy during Zoom interactions and even attributing qualities such as integrity and humility.


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