To develop an app that enables students of Applied Psychology to practice coaching skills. This is the goal of the Tamacoachee project. Sebas Nouwens, the project leader of TamaCoachee, wants to design an app that uses artificial intelligence to provide feedback on students’ coaching skills.

The research was started in September 2019 at the Fontys University of Applied Sciences HRM and Psychology in the Netherlands. The research revolves around the relationship between the coach and the person being coached.

Nouwens: “I started the project because I always found the concept of artificial intelligence interesting. We teach our own Applied Psychology students coaching skills. The idea to train the students with the help of a digital assistant came to me as a result of my interest in artificial intelligence.”

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The project

“Technically speaking, we haven’t gotten very far yet with the development of the app. At the moment, I am still mainly researching the relationship between client and coach and how much this will help with coaching. In the research, I am thinking about questions such as: ‘Are you able to build up this kind of relationship with a chat system?’ I think this is possible and that it is important as well.”

The app

The name TamaCoachee is a combination of coachee and Tamagotchi. A Tamagotchi is a virtual pet in the shape of an egg. The tiny computer can be carried around on a keychain. So, the owner always has the Tamagotchi with them. A student can carry the TamaCoachee virtual coach around with them all the time too. That’s what makes the app so appealing.

Students can use the app on their smartphone to talk to the coach. This will work in a similar way to Skype or FaceTime. The coach will analyze the coaching and conversation skills and the student is then given feedback on this.

“Of course, we obviously don’t need to completely digitalize the training of coaching skills. The idea here is that it will be a kind of homework assignment. It works like a game. You get points and can move on to more difficult levels. You do this by talking to the TamaCoachee which enacts tricky scenarios as a client.”

Development

“The reactions of students to the TamaCoachee are quite varied. Students are mainly very skeptical about the development of the tool and whether it will work. I hope to have developed something that can actually be used in five years’ time. Of course, an app is never really finished, technology is constantly evolving. A collaboration is currently underway with the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). We really want to make progress in the development of this application.”

“As a teacher, I noticed during the corona crisis that some aspects of education are easier to replace than others. You can record a straightforward lecture, but you still want to practice coaching skills in real person in front of a class. In this situation, a TamaCoachee can help a student practice. Corona shows how useful this tool could be. The virus actually provides an excuse to experiment with online tools.”

The TamaCoachee is not yet a reality. Although according to Nouwens, the research has already come a long way. A demonstration prototype has already been developed, among other things. Nouwens hopes to be able to present and use the pilot application in about three years’ time.

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