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eLearning and the SME – 3 Best Practices for Successful Collaboration

Collaboration gets the best out of every individual and yields mutual benefits. eLearning development is a collaborative approach that involves the active participation of several stakeholders and skillsets. If there is one relationship that needs special focus, it’s between the eLearning design and development team, and the subject matter experts (SMEs). An expert with extensive knowledge and experience in his domain, the subject matter expert helps create an effective eLearning course, that appeals to the target audience.

To create a good working relationship with the SME during both the design and development stage of your online course, you need free communication and well-defined expectations. Here are three best practices that will help you foster a healthy relationship between your design team and subject matter experts.

Best Practices to Work Seamlessly with SMEs for eLearning Development

1. Educate SMEs on eLearning Development

An SME provides detailed information on the subject matter and educates instructional designers (IDs) on the content to effectively design an eLearning course. He also reviews the developed course content and assesses its comprehension. To help the SME do these things and aid IDs, it becomes necessary to educate the SME on who your learners are and their training requirements.

An SME need not necessarily come from an instructional design background. Hence it is necessary to make them understand the process involved in designing an eLearning course. Take your SME through the entire online course development process, with the help of supporting examples. This will help them appreciate good eLearning, have better understanding of the possibilities an online course can offer, and guide IDs to present content effectively.

Most SMEs believe the more content you give the learner, the better. On the other hand, eLearning is all about sorting information into comprehensible modules of “need to know content”. Additional resources or “nice to know” content is provided as complementary knowledge in the form of additional links or job-aids.

Hence help the SME understand the relevance of short and crisp learning modules in corporate workspace and how hard-pressed for time learners are.

2. Schedule SMEs’ Time

Unless the SME is a full-time member of your eLearning development team, you need to set a realistic timeframe that would accommodate their busy schedule.

Tips to schedule SME time

  • The SME provides you the course content, and your instructional design team crafts it into a meaningful eLearning course. Break the SME’s job into sub-tasks such as providing ample time between the submissions of each module.
  • Provide a detailed overview of how you plan to go about the development. Explain the stages where the SME is expected to be involved and the time they will have to spend on each stage.
  • Provide a timeline for each deliverable. This will help them streamline their schedule and focus on the relevant areas.
  • Agree to a deadline for each deliverable and review cycle.

3. Use Tools that Simplify the Review Process

How does a typical eLearning review process in your organization look like? In most organizations, eLearning review is a multi-round process, by multiple SMEs. This often results in multiple, standalone feedback documents which are difficult to track and manage.

Leveraging the features of online review tools such as Lectora ReviewLink and Articulate Storyline Review will relieve SMEs of the drudgery of reviews. In an online review process, review can be done online simultaneously, by multiple reviewers.

Advantages of online reviews

  • Anytime anywhere access, even on mobile devices
  • Simultaneous reviewing of the same course by multiple reviewers, thus saving time and conflicting feedback
  • User-friendly compared to Word and PPT formats
  • Deal with a single version of the feedback document rather than multiple standalone versions

Popular Tools for Online eLearning Review

Lectora ReviewLink and Articulate Storyline Review are two online review tools popularly used for eLearning reviewing. While Lectora ReviewLink can review courses developed using other authoring tools, Articulate can accommodate only those courses developed using the Articulate tool.

Once your course has been published to ReviewLink, invite reviewers by adding their email address to the tool. Reviewers will receive an automated email invitation with their login details to the ReviewLink site. Reviewers can now log-in to the website, start reviewing the course and add comments.

Subject matter experts have specialized knowledge that the eLearning design team might lack. However, for the successful rolling out of an eLearning course, you need to make them receptive to your ideas and work collaboratively with your eLearning team. Understanding your SME and being prepared in advance with a proper schedule of the expert’s time and a well-defined communication channel will help you establish harmony with your SME and ensure eLearning development is seamless.

The eLearning Champion’s Guide to Master Design, Delivery, and Evaluation