The Importance and Role of Subject Matter Experts in E-learning

The Importance and Role of Subject Matter Experts in E-learning

The Importance and Role of Subject Matter Experts in E-learning

As a training manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that your eLearning courses are accurate, comprehensive and cater to the learning needs of the intended audience. This can be achieved by providing all the necessary inputs to your eLearning vendor. These inputs can be in the form of PowerPoint presentations, user manuals/reference guides, classroom training materials, PDF documents, etc.

At times though, especially if your content is too technical in nature or pertains to a specialized subject, just providing these inputs will not ensure the successful rollout of a comprehensive eLearning course.

The reasons for this can be manifold:

  • The course developers may not have a proper understanding of the content.
  • They may need explanation of the complex processes/animations involved in the course.
  • The course structure itself may not be straightforward, and developers will need help in this area.

So, how do we address these issues and come up with a comprehensive course?

The solution is quite simple. Identify the person best qualified to answer these questions and assign him/her the responsibility of being in constant contact with the course developersto answer their queries.

This is where the role of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) becomes crucial. When they are in direct contact with the designers, they can address issues as and when they arise. Hence, course development becomes a joint process involving the SMEs and course developers.

This partnership can be carried on through e-mails or direct visits to the client. E-mail conversations are economical and save time. But in some cases, a direct visit to your eLearning vendor might be the best option.

This will be viable when the matter is too complex and specialized in nature to justify a visit. The benefits of the visit should far outweigh the costs.

When the SMEs visit the course developers, they can work together on a number of issues and sort them out, including but not limited to the following:

  • Course Structure
  • Animations
  • Global Strategy
  • Role of Audio
  • Knowledge Checks

I will address each of these issues in a few lines.

1. Course Structure

Course developers are experts in deciding the appropriate duration for an eLearning module depending on the content. SMEs are best qualified to highlight the important content to be present in the course. Thus, working together, they can leverage their joint expertise to decide:

  • The duration of each module in the course
  • The content to be presented
  • The flow of the content in each module/topic, right up to the individual screens

2. Animations

SMEs can specify the correct method or sequence for each animation to be used in the course. Once, developed by the designers, they can review the animations and sign-off it they meet their approval. Else, it becomes very easy to specify and get the desired changes implemented because they are in close contact with the designers.

3. Global Strategy

The SMEs and course developers can work in tandem to finalize the global elements to be used in the course such as using characters/scenarios/case studies. They can also reach a consensus on the design or functionality of common screens as the:

  • Agenda/transition slides
  • Module introduction slides
  • Do you Know/Teasers/Ice-breaker slides

4. Role of Audio

Depending on the content and the method of presentation, the role and duration of audio can be decided by the SME and course developer. For example, audio is often not included in interactive screens or for ice-breakers. These practices are not set in stone and can be adapted based on the course requirements.

This is one of the most important advantage of having the SME and developers working together. Any issues which crop up can be addressed and solved immediately.

5. Knowledge Checks

The SME in collaboration with the course developer can agree on the number/type/location of knowledge checks. For example, they might decide to include questions as soon as a topic is taught or at the end of the entire module. Similarly, they can decide to use highly customized interactive question patterns or simple single/multiple select questions.

These questions can be prepared by the SME or alternatively, the developer can prepare them and obtain the SME’s sign-off.

I hope this blog has given you an idea of the benefits of sending your SMEs to your eLearning vendor and obtaining a clarification on all issues. This will address all your concerns and help develop comprehensive courses which cover all aspects of learning and engage your learners.

View Webinar on Learning Design Process