The digital future of coaching

by Rossana Espinoza 0

The digital future of coaching



Learner attitudes are changing. Learners now expect that universities will replicate the accessibility and immediacy of their current social media connected lives (New Media Consortium, 2018). We already expect these “just in time tools” in the area of our productivity and communications at work (word, excel, slack, twitter) and increasingly we are expecting this for our professional development too. Our staff demographic is also changing as by 2020, millennials (born 1981-1996) will account for 50% of the global workforce (, 2017). Millennials want to challenge and be challenged so they are able to take control of their learning journey which aligns perfectly with the ethos of coaching and self-determined learning. This independence is only likely to further increase as future generations join the workforce.


As coaches, we are facilitating the individual’s opportunity for awareness and self-discovery leading to learning, growth and personal empowerment:


  • “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance”. John Whitmore, founder of Performance Consultants International.


  • “Coaching is about helping people to identify, scaffold, and leverage the learning that is just beyond their current capabilities yet within their reach and necessary for the next step forward.” Dr David Drake, founder of Narrative Coaching.


Although the model we know best is to have a trained human coach help facilitate our growth and potential, there are an increasing number of digital tools that can now contribute to our personal development and learning. At the moment, these are not a replacement for human support but are a way to maintain and even increase our momentum for self-reflection and learning as we are able to figure out what we need for our personal and professional development.


Digital coaching tools are going beyond using technologies such as Skype to provide human-to-human coaching online. For example, you can now have real-time coaching conversations with a virtual (Artificial Intelligence) coach that uses machine learning to help you reflect, clarify your issues using your own words, identify what is important to you, identify resources and help you create your own outcomes and action plan. Digital platforms containing self-coaching tools are becoming more widely available. These platforms offer online learning materials and targeted micro-coaching exercises on specific topics such as emotional intelligence and resilience, providing personalised online spaces for you to track your commitments for personal accountability.


So, is this the right time to think about how digital personal development tools could become ubiquitous? Could such tools help us as coaches and our ‘clients’/’learners’ as we find creative ways of navigating our challenging world? How might the human and digital interact for the benefit of coaching in Higher Education? Could we see a world in the future where a human coach is replaced by an Artificial Intelligence coach?



Twitter chat questions:

  1. What might the future look like for coaching in HE? What could be the balance of human and digital?
  2. How might adding digital coaching tools support the development of a coaching culture in HE?
  3. How do you see digital tools helping to democratise coaching for the whole university ecosystem? What value might that bring?
  4. What does this potential future mean for your own development as a coach?


Here the summary of this Twitter chat.


This blog was written by coaches Isla Reddin @islareddin (Co-Founder of Pocketconfidant) and Jo Wright @jo_wright_ (Founder of Mindset and Editor of Coaching Culture Magazine

With thanks to Dr Emma Gillaspy @egillaspy (Senior Lecturer in Digital Learning at the University of Central Lancashire) for facilitating the production and edition of this blog, with input from #CoachingHE