One of our clients wanted to train their new recruits as medical reps. The requirement of the client was to make short eLearning modules, not more than 10 minutes long, for each product, so that the new staff members get the gist of the features of the products before they enter the field.
As instructional designers, we started analyzing the content. The content was provided in the form of PowerPoint presentations and MS-Word documents. Each module has its own style and significance which is very important for the medical representatives. As we did not have a background in life sciences, it was difficult to understand a few terms in the content, and this was the biggest challenge during that time. Soon, we were told that all the 6 SMEs of the project were going to visit our company to help us out. Managing Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) is both a science and an art.
As a team, we all started making a detailed plan which helped us allocate resources, time for reviews and get approvals to obtain the best results from each SME. Soon after, the SMEs visited our company, and we introduced e-learning, its capabilities and limitations. Before the start of any project, it is good to spend some time to get to know the SME. This ice-breaker forms the basis of a relationship of trust between both parties. Usually, SMEs are very willing to help and share their knowledge if you build a good relationship with them. Then, we shared our project timelines with them.
Here are a few tips based on my experience with SMEs.
Tip 1: Ask specific type of information from your SME
As the inputs were already mailed to me, we prepared a basic outline, framed broad objectives and a list of questions on the content. Preparing the outline and setting broader objectives helped us a lot to identify the gaps and proper flow. I shared the outline and the questions with the SME and he answered each of them in an organized manner, and this saved a lot of our time.
For a few topics, the SME started giving us a lot of information, and I observed that the information did not match the objectives set. As an ID, you should always help the SME stay on track. Allow him to share his knowledge and then ask, “How will the learner use this piece of information on the job?” Keep the extra content aside and find innovative ways to make it useful to the learner.
As an ID, ask for specific types of information from your SME, by providing examples such as identifying training needs, audiences and the learning outcomes.
Tip 2: Work with the SME Hand in Hand
After clarifying all the doubts on the content, we started making the storyboard and gave it for the SME’s approval. Soon after, we started producing eLearning modules using an agile process. The IDs, VDs, production staff and the SME started working hand in hand and started producing the modules. Doubts on animations and assessment s were clarified by the SMEs simultaneously. We also made sure that the modules are highly interactive and engaging by adding “What’s in it for Me?” and “Can you recall?” sections, which makes the learner think and apply his prior knowledge.
We clearly communicated the information about the rounds of reviews needed and signoffs for the project that we were doing for each of the SME.
Tip 3: Review the course
After producing the modules, we made sure that the quality of the product is good so that it takes very little time for the SME to review the course.
Tip 4: Appreciate and thank the SME
After the completion of your work, send an email thanking the SME for his help. Appreciate the effort and the time they spend with us and they are more likely to work effectively, with you, in the future.
By following the above mentioned tips, I continue to enjoy a good working relationship with SMEs. Keeping them informed and involved in each step of the module development. This will lead to an effective alliance for your eLearning project. Hope you find this blog useful.