A Subject Matter Expert (SME) is an expert in an organization on a particular area or topic. To create good e-learning courses, inputs from SMEs are vital. To get the best out of your SME, you need to first understand him and know his role. The SME’s role is to help instructional designers (ID) understand the content. An SME is a knowledge hub looking for the best ways to transfer it, and we IDs are the people who lay the path for it. We generally face many challenges while dealing with SMEs such as variation in timelines (the major challenge), lots of changes in the content and few in the GUI, huge variations in visualization, etc., once the course gets developed. In order to overcome all these issues, and to get the best out of your SMEs, you need to follow a few steps. Let us see what they are.
Know your SMEs
It is essential to maintain a good relationship with your SMEs, as it helps ensure hassle-free development of your online course. From the initial stage to the final stage, it is your responsibility to make him understand about e-learning (if he is new), the project parameters, quality schedule, the project constraints, look and feel, etc. so that you and your SMEs can work together to let the SMEs vision of success help drive your vision for the course. There are several instances where the course gets developed, and then, the SMEs modify lots of content in the course. This is because the SMEs are not clear about the way you have approached. A good bonding helps overcome such issues.
Define your design and development process
As an ID, you need to define your design and development process to your SMEs from the initial stage. If you help them understand this process, he comes to know what is actually going on and how much time it could take. Lay out expectations, agree on tasks and plan a schedule. This prevents time and cost overruns and facilitates the creation of a good course. In our organization, we educate our clients with key deliverables and set clear expectations on the project timelines. Involvement of the team during different phases of development is another key success factor. The goal is to provide clarity on what is going to happen, how long it’s going to take and what needs to be done to make it more informative and engaging.
Make the deliverables visual
SMEs need to visualize what you’re going for. You can provide him with lots of examples of deliverables and the look and feel of the final product early in the design phase itself. You need to provide him with a prototype, in which the look and feel of the final course can be visualized. The SMEs can also provide their feedback and ask for the changes that they need, at this point. The prototype and working version should include the screen types, interactivities, GUI, etc. that you wish to use in your course.
Whatever process you follow, make sure that the SMEs understand what you’re aiming for and what’s the output going to be. Most often SMEs say, “Well, I just want to see the alpha version of the course to really know the outcome of the course.”
Few key points to bring up with SMEs about design:
- Remember the novice
- Provide context
- Chunk the content
- Aim for one idea per slide
Ask the right questions
Once you share the process and expectations of designing and development, you and your SMEs can take time to define the outcomes of the course. During the content analysis, you might have some doubts to be clarified, few content related queries, questions about usage of visuals etc. But, you hesitate to ask queries with SME. Why is it so?
This is because we think that the questions that strike to our mind are very silly, and we don’t ask them. This later leads to a major change. As SMEs are often starved for time, we need to use their time wisely. We need to come up with a list of questions before starting the review with SMEs.
You need to ask questions such as:
- What do you want the learners to be able to do?
- What are the key takeaways of this course?
- What are the mistakes committed by you?
- What are the corrections needed to make the course more engaging?
- Can we explain the content using a story?
- Where should the learner go for help and more information?
- Is the navigation screen required in the course?
These steps help you get the best out of your SMEs and make your job and that of the SMEs easy.
Hope this post is informative.
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