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Personal Learning Coaches

Experienced learning coaches help learners create an end goal, research learning options and coach through milestones and achievements.

Photo of Kate Hayward
10 11

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With the wide variety of inexpensive and free courses available on the internet, it's possible to create a learning path designed to achieve an end goal. But there are many more ways to learn than from traditional curriculum. There's mentoring and internships; job shadowing and deep dives into a new world; conversations and conferences, etc.

You need to know what you want to do with your education and what will indicate you are successful. Plans can be life long or start on a Monday and end on a Friday. They can be based on an immediate, known need or a curiosity.

And, as easy as it is to adopt a technical degree plan, it's not enough. Higher education is as much about learning how to think, how to live in this world and how to learn as it is technical skills.

Trained learning coaches (backgrounds in instruction, and/or coaching) will counsel learners to:

1. develop a desired end state

2. envision key objectives, including and extending beyond the simplest path

3. create flexible and extensible learning goals and set milestones

Once a personal plan is co-created, coaches will:

4. Guide and encourage learners on that path

5. Help learners assess and certify their learning through learning portfolios

6. Imagine sustainable, self-directed, life-long learning plans

One coach can handle approximately 15-20 learners in the counselling stage and 30-40 in the coaching stage. Counselling can be provided 1:1 using virtual communication or in face to face, in-person sessions, depending on the enabling environment.

The underlying objective in this is to co-create long term learning abilities.

Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine higher education to support the needs of tomorrow?

The audience is those who are unsure of their path, or unable to schedule, attend or pay for traditional options but want the thoughtful experience that comes from higher education.

This idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

This is the germ of an idea. There are conditions that will make it to work, like how to certify to another that educational goals have been met, the details on how to train coaches, the creation of extensible, reusable processes, etc. This is something I do for myself but it's ad hoc. A seemingly random curiosity sparks my interests and I'm off, finding resources, digging in and learning about it. I haven't thought about how to put it into a repeatable format.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I have a friend who is interested in systems thinking. i could ask her if she would allow me to work through a learning plan with her.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am currently working in international development but also have played design roles in 4 different start ups. I have a background in journalism, geology, technical writing and editing, instructional design and learning facilitation (oh, and a little bit of theater).


Join the conversation:

Photo of Terry Hosler

Hi Kate,
I want to be sure of your focus before adding some additional thoughts...
Do you see this as a type of 'advisor' for people take a variety of online as well as local learning opportunities but not through a single source such as a university?

Photo of Kate Hayward

Great question, Terry. Yes, I see this as learner led exploration across all sorts of learning opportunities, including potential deep dives into local opportunities, like Startup Weekends, business open houses, etc. Mostly, the coaches will help the learner explore and develop learning goals as well as learn how to perform their own research into learning opportunities. The coaches goal will be to help the learner develop their own self-directed learning techniques.

Photo of Lucy Chen

Hi Kate,

The idea looks great. I am wondering what is the special value of having a human coach comapred with tech solutions, for instance features like Leanring Path on, micro-degrees on EdX. Even more, is developing a tool to help students to document their learning of all sorts.

It might interest to check out Gabriel Landowski 's idea and get inspired by each other :)!c-b4882c7685a8b64357568a0572c8b345

What might be a synergy of a coach and self-initiated effort of reflecting on our learining path.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Kate!

Happy New Year!

How could you fund the program? How could you incorporate resilience in the students for when things don't go according to plan?

What do you think of learning from failure?

Photo of Kate Hayward

There are some really great comments here. I can't figure out how to address them individually (duh!), so I'll try a blanket response.

I think this approach extends the concept of one time HE learning into life-long learning. The assumption about this audience is that they are motivated to learn on their own, something that isn't always the case with new, young college students. (Okay. True for me. I went to college the first time because that was what my family expected me to do. I returned to college the second and third time for myself.) So, maybe this is a better approach for older students. Motivated learners still benefit from sounding boards, support and encouragement toward their own goals, so the ongoing contact is valuable.

Love the point about picking up on best practices from the guidance counselors already working in HE. For example, Steve Dalton (The 2 Hour Job Search) has a wonderful approach for making meaningful connections. That process could be incorporated into the actions, for example.

One of the nice things about this autonomous approach is that it can take advantage of a HUGE variety of learning experiences that are all over the place.In my minimal contact as a customer of college counselling, I have been directed toward what was available in that institution. And, once again, my contact was minimal, which is understandable when the counselor must serve hundreds, or thousands of students every year. To have a personal guide. . . !

I might shift directed counselling to a pure coaching approach, where the learner leads in all of the decisions. The end result might not necessarily be getting a job, although I know that is a BIG motivator in many cases. I might provoke some searches that are around curiosity, as that's often a hint of a deep interest area. I think many of us don't know what we want to be when we grow up.

So who is this coach? There are many new coaches who need to collect coaching hours for certification. This seems to be a fertile ground for them, if the coaching process and criteria are well defined.

Photo of Max Noble

Kate Hayward I think we need a lot of these people. in every community around the world. How do we find and train these people?

Photo of R

Hi Kate, great idea. You’re right, there are many available options in terms of courses and resources and I think a professional personal learning coach would be helpful for individuals wishing to navigate that universe. I think a place to begin is to examine best practice from related roles such as academic advisors at colleges and executive coaches, to see what might be applicable for this market (individuals who won’t or can’t attend college but who wish to develop a learning objective). It will also be important to develop a business model / funding mechanism for this service as well as a plan to market it to the relevant audience.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Kate!

Great idea! Congratulations on being today’s Featured Contribution!

Would you describe what type of person (i.e. background, experience and so on) who would be the ideal personal learning coach?

There are also a few posts in the research phase that might help you develop your idea.

Academic Advising Inventory 
Dedication "Posse" Networking Apps & Sites Embracing the flaws of group work within online courses. 

Photo of MM1951

I think that your idea is really good. You can make some businness around it.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Kate, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.