EP 022: Interview John Hinchliffe

Cara interviews John Hinchliffe, Instructional Design Expert at UAEU.

Music created by Jahzzar.

Show Transcript:

North, Cara A. 0:03
Hi listeners! It’s one of your hosts, Cara North. And today I have a very special treat for you on the Instructional Redesign podcast. If you know me, you know that I love conferences. I love going to conferences for the knowledge, but equally as important are the people. Last year I had the opportunity to go to Devlearn, and I met a wonderful learning development professional, who I’m sure we can learn so much from his name is John Hinchliffe! John, welcome to Instructional Redesign podcast.

Hinchliffe, John 0:36
Thank you very much.

North, Cara A. 0:38
Again, a pleasure to have you. John is actually in the UAE is currently where he lives at and if you will, John, can you give our listeners just a little bit background about you and what you’re currently up to?

Hinchliffe, John 0:53
Yeah, sure thing. Thanks a lot for having me on here. Really big fan of it. Now when it comes to me I’ve been in learning and development for over 10 years now. And I started out as a face to face trainer for a bank and started to really develop into digital learning about seven years ago. So I started in instructional design, understanding kind of what words instructional design pedagogies started looking at authoring tools. Then I joined a fantastic e learning company with virtual college in the UK. And just really making wonderful pieces of E learning and just being given the freedom to really understand what works, what kind of really helps our customers. And I became instructional design manager there and I won Learning Professional of the Year Bronze when I was there, which was a wonderful thing. And I also joined as a volunteer position on the board of directors for the E Learning Network, which is one of the biggest nonprofits in the E learning industry had a really great time that just really helping people understand what they can do in the industry. How they can progress. And from there, I have now moved out here to the UAE I personally worked for the United Arab Emirates University as their instructional design expert. And I take care of around 700 members of faculty helping them evolve from just face to face learning to blended learning. So telling them you know, about how do we learn, but also how do we forget as human beings? And also what technology can we utilize? And also what learning experiences can we incorporate to really help the 16,000 students that we have here? And in addition to that, I also help with our PhD students that we have here. So PhD students who are looking to become faculty, I give them insights into what is modern learning and how can they really incorporate that? Because that’s real knock on effect for the future generations. So kind of in a nutshell, that’s me.

North, Cara A. 2:54
I love it. And I didn’t know that about the PhD piece of what you do, and it’s something that I’ve kind of learned the hard way in my own PhD journeys, is, you know, a lot of times in my role, and I also work at a university, it’s very easy to get frustrated with faculty and also the system. But then I take a step back. And I think, you know, these folks that are teaching, typically in a PhD program, there are not any courses on how to teach. It’s just hyper concentrated in whatever it is that they’re trying to study. So I love that you have the opportunity to kind of work with with them on that piece. And I also didn’t know you started as a stand up trainer. I did too. So I think there’s Yeah, there’s a lot of us out there that started in that ILT space and then kind of pivoted into the digital space. So I love that. So it sounds like you have a pretty diverse background with corporate and higher education. And obviously, you’ve been in this space for for a while, kind of like kind of like me. So I’m curious, how do you keep those skills sharp because there’s a lot of noise out there right now about everything in the space.

Hinchliffe, John 4:04
Yeah, I mean, that’s always been the thing is that there is so much noise and so many opinions and and obviously, we’re January now it’s time for buzzwords. So it’s really about how can you look at what are the valuable sources, sort of the credible sources, but also conscious talking to people, so having the conversations and also having conversations with people that you really respect. So for me, a really big inspiration is Learning Development podcast with David James, and on there, he’s had some incredible guests, you know, like Lori Niles Hoffman, so much respect for her work in data driven learning. Adam Harwood when it comes to resources, not courses. Danny Seals when we talk about learning experience design, and that’s a real big focus on experience. How do we learn from experiences? And finally, I think, you know, one of the really big ones on there is Nick Shackleton Jones, who has such a unique insight. But I think when you really start taking these pieces of information on board, it just really starts making you think about learning and the process of learning. I think also for me, you know, being in this region, it is quite a surprise when I turned up here. So today’s actually my one year anniversary of living out here. And for me, it has been really quite curious how there was no best practice sharing really out here. So I started a meetup group called the UAE Learning and Development Meetup. And in the beginning, it had six people. And the reason for that was that out here, there are quite a lot of people who are looking to make money off things. So if you have a Meetup group, it’s usually you turn up and you pay the host 10 pounds, which kind of feels a bit wrong to me. So a lot of people thought that it was a money making scheme, because everything else was so it happened the first one I gave a ton of value to people and then the words are getting out there I wasn’t in it for the money, I was in it for the karma. And so it’s a growing and growing. And now it’s really about how many people can we help and how many people can have the conversations and not feel alone out here. Because I think that’s one of the things that if you’re not talking to anybody, and if you are just being a bit of an onlooker on LinkedIn, you can feel very alone, you can feel as though your skills are not really up to par. So very much for me is about talking to everybody just whether it is face to face, or whether it’s on LinkedIn. For me, LinkedIn has been an incredible ride. And it just keeps on going and going. So randomly, I’m in the top 5%, in our industry on LinkedIn, and I just love providing people value but also by providing value, it also gives me insight from other people. What’s working for them, what’s not working for them, what are their pain points, and where can I get inspiration from that, but then also being able to practice those in my work. So with the faculty that I help, I’m able to experiment. So I have quite a number of faculty who are, you know, willing to take, you know, a little bit of a pump, been able to really see how can we implement resources? How can we implement things that will help that learner when they need them? So yeah, it’s, it’s really quite a big broad range for me.

North, Cara A. 7:20
You know, you’re the second person that I’ve interviewed for this season that’s talked about the importance of LinkedIn. So that tells me that we need to get some LinkedIn experts in on this podcast to help our listeners kind of get started with that. And I smiled, because I know we’re probably gonna talk about this here when we talk about Devlearn, but the Meetup thing you kind of like those meetups don’t, you?

Hinchliffe, John 7:43
Yeah, I think, you know, we can click from place to place but nothing really replaces face to face. And I think it just yeah, I think, you know, it’s actually, you know, meet people and, you know, just really thrash ideas out and also, you know, just kind of give some empathy as well. Well, you know, this is a tough game that we’re in is learning and development, whether you are face to face, whether you’re online, and being able to know that people have gone through those same pains, and, you know, being able to, you know, just have a coffee and just talk through something, and really help people is, um, yeah, it’s a really great thing for me.

North, Cara A. 8:19
I love that. And I think that that’s definitely a noble cause that that you’re doing. And you kind of talked a little bit about kind of the culture of, if somebody is helping you that it was kind of expected there was a payment, where you’re currently at, can you give us kind of another quick little snapshot of like, what instructional design looks like, in your part of the world where you’re at? I just think it’s fascinating to kind of hear like the day in the life of someone else somewhere else in the world, and how they approach things.

Hinchliffe, John 8:50
Yeah, I mean, really, quite a surprising thing is instructional design really feels in its infancy here. And it was quite a big shock for me. I mean, tin can out here, you would only really find in the supermarket. It’s, um, it’s not really a word that is used. And, you know, really, it feels as though being able to bring kind of my experiences and kind of my thoughts that I’ve had from actually doing the work. But also, you know, from this, keeping my skills up to date is really, really helping people kind of think differently, and really think about who are our learners? How are they learning? How can we help them? That’s kind of a big thing for me. So yeah, it’s very much in its infancy. You know, as best practice sharing is feeling really brand new. And it’s really, it’s really just trying to help people open up to new ways of thinking. So thankfully, people are adventurous out here. But it’s one thing that the instructional designers are adventurous. It’s another thing being able to prove it to the organizations. And so it’s really you know, whenever I’m doing Meetups or whenever I have people talking to me on LinkedIn is talking through: I have this problem, I’m trying to convince my manager that I want to do X, have you experienced this, and it’s either from my experience, or I’m able to point them to a case study that I found, or somebody that I know, that has actually dealt with this. So it’s really trying to be a facilitator to really push what we’re doing out here, which seems crazy that you know, from one individual trying to change and progress something can whole country, but um, I think it’s a really worthy cause.

North, Cara A. 10:28
Absolutely. And again, building a community kind of from the ground up is is never an easy task, but I’m sure that everyone appreciates everything that you do, at least I hope they do. Speaking of being appreciated, John, one other thing that you are currently doing is you are in the running for Learning Professional of the Year and just so you know, your friend in the United States is cheering you on very loud. Can you tell us a little bit about the the process of what this looks like and a little bit more about that award?

Hinchliffe, John 11:02
Yeah, sure thing. And really, really, I, I am so amazed and appreciative of everybody supports on this. It’s something that always gets me is how wonderful this industry is and how we’re all backing each other. So I always appreciate it from everybody. So with the Learning Performance Institute’s Learning Awards, this takes place in London and it’s a global award for learning professionals. So it’s not just online learning, but it’s face to face. So it’s quite a big category and it’s quite a fierce category. You know, you’ve got people from all over the world who are incredible at what they do. And so it starts out whereby you submit your information with regard to a number of key criteria. So, it may be you know, how have you made impact over the past 12 months, what has been an example of innovation within your role and so you provide this information and then you are then shortlisted for that. Then you have to do a 15 minute presentation in front of four judges. And then you have 30 minutes of being pretty much George Foreman grilled by these absolute incredible people in the industry. And you know, within that 15 minute presentation, I remember when you first start doing public speaking and five minutes feels like eternity, and 15 minutes now feels like nothing. It feels like a blink of an eye. So really, I’ve been talking through the work that I’ve done over the past 12 months, but also I’ve been talking about a lot of things that I do in my spare time. So I started a best practice sharing video series called hashtag one tip Wednesday. And really this was born from the idea that we have a lot of great information in this industry, but we kind of need a reason to provide it. We need something novel and I was looking at the ice bucket challenge. And I thought, yeah, there is something here with having that ownership, you know, being kind of nominated by somebody, and then you know, owning that. So I did a video where I gave a tip, I nominated two people. And then they do the video nominated to people, and so forth and so forth. And surprisingly, that had over 50,000 views. And it was just this incredible thing. And people gain value from it, but also, it became something and I was ever so proud with that. But then also in my spare time, I mentor seven people globally. So it’s looking at people who are different stages of their career, whether they are looking to change career completely or whether they are quite new in the E learning industry and just want to know, what’s the next steps, you know, whether it’s things like how do I make a portfolio or whether it’s just where is good best practice? What does good look like. So really helping people and helping them get the jobs that they want. And thankfully people have. I mean, I’ve got one mentee who does a bunch of hypnotherapy courses. And when she first came to me, she had four students because they were documents and they were really long. And they were unformatted. We looked at learner analysis, looked at market analysis, made a plan made the videos, and now she has over 7000 students. And it’s now a full time occupation. Just you know, doing online learning, and you know, being able to make impact. That’s been the biggest thing for me. So that was my 15 minute presentation. And I talked through some of the things that I’ve done here at the university, like I made 127 videos for our faculty in one month, seven days a week for one month to make sure that they had the knowledge to create blended learning. I created two six week English MOOCs that had a project kind of two years. I did that in two months, because we had really, really strict timelines that we had to hit. So the 30 minutes of kind of conversation really came down to, is this real, you know, really kind of hard to justify how us these things were real. And it’s really kind of crazy thing to think about, you know, that the stuff that I’ve accomplished this year. Sounds crazy. But um, yeah, so that was Learning Professional of the Year, I find out on the 20th of February. It’s actually I think, streamed live online. And yeah, just been incredible thing, but, um, you know, whether I win, whether I lose, you know, it’s always a chance to grow. There’s always chance to develop but it’s not only about how can I develop myself is also try and inspire others because, you know, I’ve had a very, very, you know, long careers 10 years, but it hasn’t been easy. And you know, it’s about how do you motivate yourself to really push. And so that’s why I help out as many people as I can. Because I know how difficult it is.

North, Cara A. 16:11
I just think it’s so important that if you are in a stage that you can give back, you do it and you just shared absolutely the benefits of doing so because I guarantee you, the folks that you’ve mentored and all these conversations you’ve had, have you grown from that? Have you learned from the other people as well?

Hinchliffe, John 16:31
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think. So. empathy and self awareness are a couple of things that I really promote. And I just think, you know, you can talk to people and you can find out stuff about what you’re doing, whether it is to do with your role, but also whether it’s to do with you as an individual. You know, I think I have grown so much over the time of mentoring because you know, you do a times have to be very honest. But then you also have to be honest with yourself, you know, you have to practice what you preach. And that’s a massive thing for me is, I can’t tell somebody to do something if I’m not doing it myself.

North, Cara A. 17:11
Yeah, absolutely. And again, I love that you’re kind of operationalizing mentoring as this kind of dual conversation this two way street, because I think a lot of people when they think about it, just expect somebody more senior just to do like a knowledge dump into somebody’s brain, right? And it’s not really about what that person can get from it. But in my experiences, that’s something I always look for if I’m trying to help somebody, I want to know what I can learn from them. And if you don’t think you can learn something from them. I feel like that’s really foolish because I do not have the luxury so to speak of looking at everything of this profession with new eyes because I’m seasoned and I’ve been in for a while. So getting perspectives from new sets of eyes. I think are super critical. And again, kudos, John. I love what you stand for. And I love what you’re doing. And it really is important and keep up the awesome work. So it’s great. Speaking of awesome work, we’re going to switch gears a little bit. You recently got on a plane and came to the United States. You came to Devlearn!

Hinchliffe, John 18:22
I sure did!

North, Cara A. 18:22
Let’s talk about that. What made someone that was living in the UAE come all the way to the United States to Devlearn? What were your goals? And what were some of your takeaways? And then we’ll talk a little bit about like our experience.

Hinchliffe, John 18:37
Um, yeah, it was a feral flight. I’ve got to admit, it took me about, gosh, it was about 20 hours to get from Dubai, over to Las Vegas, but um, you know, for me, Devlearn, I’ve been meaning to come to Devlearn for absolutely years because from everything that I’ve heard from people, because you always see people doing their recaps, whether it’s daily recap or whether it’s a conference recap, and they were always talking about, you know how much value they got from it, but also the community. And that was something that I really wanted to experience was, you know, getting to meet people that I have seen so much online through LinkedIn. We’ve had, you know, back and forth conversations. And yeah, for me, it was really, I wanted to experience that, because I heard so many positive things. And also, I wanted to see I’ve done UK conferences, which are, you know, their nice, their reserved, but I think it’s like, I’ve been to Vegas quite a lot. I got married there. And I really wanted to see what the Americans would do with the conference. I wouldn’t see how big how wild how wonderful. It would all happen. And I’ve got to admit, I really wasn’t disappointed. It was. Gosh, it was absolutely incredible. I mean, just meeting so many wonderful people. And once again, that sense of community was something that just really shone through. I mean, obviously, getting to meet you face to face getting to meet what has now become the flute crew is one of the most wonderful things. And being able to not only watch and participate in absolute incredible presentations, I mean, that’s the thing that I’ve got admit. All the sessions that I went to every single one of them was valuable, which is so rare with conferences. It is very, very common that you go to a conference, and you just feel like you’ve been sold to. But you know, I’ve got to give massive credit to David Kelly, and the Elearning Guild team for just put on an absolute fantastic conference. And so was incredible sessions from people like Tim Slade, just giving a really wonderful insight into design. Kate Pastorfield talking about data driven learning, Helen Papagiannis given without doubt, the best keynote that I’ve seen, and that was to do with AR so there was those wonderful things, but then yeah, community it was just being able to go on the app. And say to a whole bunch of random people, I’m thinking of going for dinner tonight, does anybody want to join me? And without doubt, you would then go to dinner with seven strangers, and just have a great time. So, yeah, I really, really looking forward to this year, I need to actually work on doing a proposal for a session so that I can afford to come through, but um, yeah, I’m really, really loved it.

North, Cara A. 21:24
Done! We will work together and we’ll get that session proposal done. So that’s something that I’ve been really trying to push more, especially this year. DevLearn probably won’t be the only big conference that I go to this year, because I’ve really had to scale back. I mean, I was very, very fortunate. I got to go to Learning Solutions, ATD ICE, and Devlearn last year, which is nuts, but I really want other people to feel like they’re good enough to speak. And then again, the nice thing about these and something I always try to encourage people to think about is if you get a no, let’s say you put in all this work into this conference proposal and you get a no, that’s fine. I mean, just keep it and then shop it around at other conferences. You’ve already put the work into it. Go ahead and try to get into different maybe local ATD chapters or different regional conferences in your area. And you might as well you put the work on it, you might as well, well do it.

Hinchliffe, John 22:22
Yeah. I mean, I think that’s a wonderful point, not last year, but the year before I actually put forward a proposal, I put forward a proposal for how to make adaptive learning really easily in Storyline. And it didn’t get accepted. And so kind of instead of getting in a huff, and you know, feeling so I was wronged. I just went on LinkedIn. And I said, Look, I was going to do the session. It didn’t get accepted. Fair enough. If anybody would like to, you know, see it, I will put it online. Just give me a yes in the comments. And I’ll make it happen. And 190 people signed up.

North, Cara A. 22:56

Hinchliffe, John 22:57
So it was just incredible to, you know, make it happen. So, you know, there’s so many different avenues. But yeah, I think, you know that point about, you know, just because it’s a no one place. I mean, that was a great thing. I actually spoke to the E learning Guild about it and they said, Look, you know, it was just that the themes that they’ve got going on that year. It might not have really worked, but it wish me all the best. And you know, I’ve got a lot of respect for him for doing that.

North, Cara A. 23:24
Yeah, absolutely. And I will plug that as well. The Guild is very good about giving feedback on your conference proposals even before you submit them. That’s one of the only organizations that I know of off the top of my head that will do that at that level. So again, kudos to David Kelly and his wonderful team. I I do think that that is absolutely amazing that they’re able to do that for folks because I think a big hurdle is people are scared of being rejected. And I think another hurdle is people deal with imposter syndrome. Am I really good enough to give this presentation if you’re listening, you are so there you go. So if you are a living breathing human, and you’re in this space and you want to present you totally should, because you have different perspectives that maybe some of us don’t. And Tim Slade says one of my favorite things about this, you are an expert in your own experiences, so might as well elevate that and use it.

Hinchliffe, John 24:21
Perfect. And also, I think, you know, one of the great things from you know, when I did that video for LinkedIn, that actually got me started to talk to Cath Ellis, who, you know, once again, we’ve got to give, we’ve got to give a massive, massive shout out to the incredible Cath Ellis, who did the most wonderful Demofest demo of her podcast and driven fraud and anti corruption training, which was just the most incredible story. Every time I went round, there was just a group of people. And I actually sat down on the table and we were chatting, and I was getting emotional by how amazing the job she had done and you know rightly so she won her division. So I think DemoFest is just that little cherry on top of everything and that some free drinks vouchers. Just a great night.

North, Cara A. 25:14
I will agree that I love Demofest. I will never do DemoFest again because I’m undefeated. But I do want to encourage people to do it. So I know this for this past DemoFest, I met Andy Lockwood on LinkedIn and he had built this product that he was showing off in DemoFest so I tried to give him some pointers but absolutely agree 100 percent, John that Cath Ellis is like the gold standard of what we should be doing. And yeah, you actually sat down because I saw you running around with drinks all night.

Hinchliffe, John 25:46
Yeah, I was I was pretty much like a mobile bartender. I think it was this thing of I’ve been so nice people people are like, Oh my God, he’s so nice. Just had my free drinks patches and then like I had like bottles in my pocket. I’m literally I was walking around and I’ve seen people who I know. So I saw Andy and I was like, right, what kind of serve you? So James McLucky the tallest man in l&d gave him a bottle of beer. And yeah, so pretty much i was i was a mobile bartender from that portion. But I think that that, once again comes down to that community of you can walk around you can meet, you know, even though this towards the end of the conference, you’re still making friends. You know, it’s a great time to catch up. And also, you know, you start seeing some real l&d rock stars in the flesh. And yeah, it’s just, it’s crazy. I mean, I saw Ken Murray, who I go a whole heap of respect for from a podcast he did, absolutely years ago with Learning Now TV about storytelling. It’s one of the best podcasts that you know, I really reference and um, yeah, I just saw him just at a table just chillin. And, yeah, there’s just so much value in so many different areas with Devlearn. And I think also you know, meetups as well, you know, just being able to bring together a bunch of people and just have a drink, have some food, break bread, and just get to know what everybody’s dealing with what are people doing? You know, from so many different parts of the world, you know, like I went out for dinner, and it was half English, half American. And just getting snappy from home, getting to know people from America, different areas, different industries. And, yeah, so much love for Devlearn.

North, Cara A. 27:30
Agreed, and I can’t wait to go back. And I know that my friend in England, Jonathan Hill, is going to be trying to come over some really excited about finally meeting him face to face. And then of course, hopefully, John, you get to come back as well. So yeah, again, if you’ve never been to an L&D conference, I do think that Devlearn is probably the highest on my list. I just for all the reasons that John just mentioned, because, again, the presentations they’re so on point but also I find a lot of them are actionable. And then seeing products that your peers are making, learning experiences, podcasts, even like a card game. I think I saw card game at DemoFest, seeing how people approach that that’s absolutely invaluable information. Anytime you can look under the hood, at how someone else is building something, I always learn a lot from that. And then three of the people, the people are wonderful, you will find people you’ll find a tribe at Devlearn if you go. John, thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate it. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about you and your insights are always just right on target. Where can people find you if they want to connect with you?

Hinchliffe, John 28:41
I would say main place LinkedIn. I pretty much live on there. So if you search for John Hinchliffe because a lot of people call it Hinchliffe, find me on the if you think I might be able to bring you value. Connect with me Say hello. Say that you heard it from here and hopefully, if you’re Devlearn, I will try and be there. And be lovely seeing you there. And also, if you’re in the UAE, then feel free to connect and hopefully have you one of the meetups.

North, Cara A. 29:10
Fantastic again. Thank you, John. I think today’s challenge listeners are to think about what you’re currently doing, and how it is impacting you in your career. One of my dear friends Anna Leach has always imparted on me this idea of your retirement speech, what are the things that you’re going to say, at your retirement speech as big achievements in your career, and who are the people that you’re going to thank? John’s giving you a lot of good food for thought here when he’s talked about what he has done in this Learning Professional of the Year process, and then also just his own experiences and mentoring. I definitely think that if you are a professional and putting the pro in there, then you definitely should be helping other people and building a community just like John is. So again, thanks so much for listening and hope you have a wonderful day.