As an Instructional designer, you are an expert in developing online courses. You have mastered various strategies in a way to keep your learners engaged in your course. You know and understand your learners and their requirements very well. But with regard to the course content, you feel the need for a subject matter expert (SME).
Your SME gives you information about the content in order to develop an engaging and informative online course. If things are going well with SMEs, your project goes smoothly. You have the right content in order to design and deliver the course effectively within stipulated timelines. However, if things are not well with your SME, you might just end up with irrelevant content for your project, a discouraged team and a long list of feedback from your client.
So while SMEs play an important role in your e-learning project, it is important that you know a few guidelines while dealing with them. Here I would like to share with you some guidelines.
1. Know your SME: Subject matter experts play an important role in providing the content you need and ultimately in the success of your project. Hence, it is important that you establish a good relationship with them. Before talking about the content, introduce yourself and get to know them better. Let your SME get to know you well and that you are looking forward to working with them.
2. Show some examples of courses: Your SMEs might look puzzled when you talk about scenarios and e-learning strategies that you use. They might face difficulties in visualizing what you plan to develop. Show them some e-learning courses that you have already developed.
Show them some scenarios and make them understand how these will help learners learn better. This approach would help the SME understand what you are creating and they would possibly be inspired to contribute their ideas in your project.
3. Ask the right questions: Prepare a list of relevant questions that you need to ask your SME. I say ‘relevant’ because SMEs are experts in the content and will sometimes tend to get into deeper explanations, which are not really required. Ask them only for information that is relevant to your learners. For this, prepare a list of questions that you need to ask your SME beforehand. This will help you get the information quickly from your SME and also save their time.
4. Ask for examples and demonstration: Get your SMEs to provide you with some examples and demonstrations so that you can easily understand the content and develop the course accordingly. For example, while developing a course for pharmaceutical sales representatives who need to learn about drugs, you can ask the SMEs to explain how the drug functions in the body. In another example, you can ask your SME to walk you through the steps while using a product. In this way, you can get your course done effectively with proper animations and steps.
5. Establish good relationship with your SME: It is very important that you establish a good relationship with your SME. An SME has a deep knowledge of the subject. But as an instructional designer, only you will know all the learning theories and strategies to develop the best online course. Sometimes, you might experience crisis and differences of opinions with your SME because your SME may insist on including all the information in the course, while you may want to incorporate only that which is relevant to your learners. The best possible way to handle this situation is to assure your SME that you value the information they provide but also convince them to include only relevant information pertaining to the objectives of the course.
An SME is the content expert and an important person in your e-learning project. But sometimes, it feels difficult to fully harness the power of an SME during your project development. By following the above guidelines, you can effectively involve an SME in your project and utilize his or her subject knowledge to the full benefit of the course.
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