Get to know the eLN Chair: Joan Keevill

Joan Keevill joined the board of the eLN in 2016 and was elected to Chair in 2018. She was due to step down as Chair in November 2020 but stayed on an additional year to steer the eLN through the pandemic whilst bringing new board directors into eLN. Joan and husband Paul have just relocated from Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire to Hinton-in-the-Hedges, near Brackley, Northamptonshire. She runs her own learning design consultancy, Designs on Learning, which was set up in 2008.

What do you like most about the L&D field?
It’s got to be the people! I’ve met so many interesting colleagues over the years and many of them have become really good friends. They constantly inspire me and are there for me if I need support.

What made you decide to stand for the eLN board?
I had reached a point where work had dropped off a bit and I found myself with some free time. I wanted to do something useful and thought being on the board would give me a chance to give something back to the profession.

What would your dream job be?
I’m nearing retirement so it’s a bit late for that but if I had the opportunity to go back in time, I would love to have been a singer in a band, probably a backing singer – harmonies come easily to me, even though I don’t think I have a great voice!

If you could change 1 thing about the world of L&D, what would it be?
If I had a magic wand I’d use it to charm the folks in L&D, who insist on doing things the way they’ve always done them, to adopt new practices, ones that are more effective in achieving behaviour change and performance improvement. It never ceases to amaze me that UK productivity remains so low and we constantly have a skills shortage, when £££s are poured into training and development activities year on year. There’s something we’re not doing right and that has to change. The pandemic gives us that opportunity to do things differently. I’m an ex-teacher so I think we need to look at how we educate our kids at school, too. It should be less about knowledge transfer and more about learning to collaborate – and learning to learn effectively!

What does a typical work day look like to you?
I’ve been working from home since 2008 and have a good set up – iMac with large screen, superfast broadband, etc. I get started around 9.00am and usually work through till 6pm or later, if I need to. The pandemic stopped me from meeting clients in person but Zoom has been a godsend and I have lots of meetings on that or on Teams during the week. Working for myself allows me to flex my hours so that, for example, I can go for a walk during the day if the weather is nice.

What book are you reading right now? Or what podcast are you listening to?
I’m listening to the Women Talking About Learning series but not getting through them as fast as I’d like! I tend to listen to the radio a lot. I’ve just started reading The Learning & Development Handbook by Michelle Parry-Slater and am really enjoying her writing style. Otherwise, I’ll be reading some detective story or other.

What is your favourite type of training to either build or deliver?
I love writing scenario-based learning. I started doing this with (eLN Director) Jason Baker in 2010 for a client who needed a global anti-corruption programme and have been doing it in one form or another ever since. I like to have what I call ‘consequential feedback’: instead of telling the learner if they got the right or wrong answer, you explain the consequences of the decision they just took. I find it helps learners to empathise and imagine themselves in that position – and hopefully think twice before doing the wrong thing.

If you could give yourself advice when you were first starting out, what would it be?
Be clear about what you want to do and map out a way to get there – and be confident in your own abilities. I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do after university and drifted into teaching. I was successful at it, rising to Head of Department but the poor discipline wore me down. I think I was very fortunate that a job came up in BBC Education (as Languages Advisor) and I got it. It was a big step from BBC Languages to BBC Training but that’s when I realised that the skills I had were transferable. My old boss gave me the confidence to set up my own business and I’m so glad I did! It feels like I’m in my 3rd career now.

What has been your proudest moment?

I think my proudest moment was having my son, Jamie. We had tried for years to have a family and went through years of IVF. I had to be very resilient but it was all worth it in the end. He’s turned into a delightful young adult and a competent racing driver (in the amateur series we do).

If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?

I chose 2008 in a recent podcast with Jane Daly, as that’s the year I set up my own business, but there are so many years I could choose: 1978 when I met my husband, 1979 when we were married, or 1994 when Jamie was born…

If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?

I think right now it would be to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine even faster than is happening now, so we could all return to normality! I can’t wait to get back to travelling, the theatre, pubs and restaurants and seeing friends in person.


If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
I could choose someone well known but, instead, I’d go for my own parents and my in-laws. They’ve all gone now and there’s so much I’d like to update them on. You tend to take your parents for granted then they’ve gone and you have so much more you wanted to say to them.

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
I don’t do daring, I’m a coward! I did once canoe down the white water rapids in Cataract Canyon in Utah which was amazing. I stayed in the bigger boat with an instructor while Paul and Jamie went into the small canoes – Jamie got tipped out but loved it!

What three items would you take with you on a deserted island?
Sun screen – I’m very fair and would burn instantly otherwise! A constant supply of contact lenses or tinted specs – I’m blind as a bat without them. Thirdly, snorkelling gear: I’ve snorkelled in places like the Maldives and the Caribbean and I’m sure there would be coral reefs to explore around this island.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
As for Q13, I avoid things I don’t like the look of, including shellfish, octopus – anything that looks too much like what it is!

Would you rather win the lottery or work at the perfect job?
It would have to be the lottery, as I’ve had a few perfect jobs already and am now thinking about my retirement, albeit a gradual one. Having a decent amount of money would allow us to fulfil our global travel aspirations, as well as help out the family. It’s not easy trying to get onto the housing ladder when you’re paying rents in London of £800+ per month, as Jamie currently is. Mind you, he’ll be in a strong financial position once we’ve gone!

Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
The media – listening to the radio, reading the paper, watching the news, even using social media as it keeps me in touch with what’s going on. A colleague at the eLN told me recently that my social media notifications were right up there on her feed, along with BBC News. I must say, that got me thinking I should rein in a bit! Plenty of time for that when you’re old and decrepit, I say.

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Joan Keevill

Joan Keevill

I run my own eLearning and leadership consultancy, Designs on Learning Ltd for my 'day job' as well as being the current chair of the eLN. I set up the company in 2010 and work with a range of different clients, either running my own projects or being subcontracted as an ID to other companies. Prior to that I spent 18 years at the BBC, in Training and before that in BBC Education Languages - I began life as a French teacher and nowadays enjoy conducting client meetings in French.