How to work with new SMEs

Louise Clare | 07/24/2018

On a recent instructional design course I was co-hosting, a delegate asked if I had some tips in dealing with new subject matter experts (SMEs), particularly when the whole organisation is new to eLearning.

It made me think that as many people will face this same situation, it might be a useful subject for a blog. So here are my 10 top tips on how to work with SMEs.

  1. Make sure that you have support from senior management for the transition to eLearning and ideally have a project sponsor.
  2. Set up an early meeting with SME(s) taking care to do some basic research around their subject matter and about their roles.
  3. Many new SMEs will find it difficult to conceptualise the final eLearning course especially if they have been used to classroom training. Try to produce an early demo so that the SMEs can understand what the end-point is and ideally get excited by the project.
  4. Set out your expectations early on and be realistic about how heavily SMEs need to be involved.
  5. SMEs, by definition, will have huge swathes of knowledge that they wish to impart. It is crucial with new SMEs to help them concentrate on learning objectives or what actions will change in the audience because of completing your eLearning course.
  6. Define the SME role in terms of what is needed at each stage. So far example, if you need precise comments at review stage, give examples of the difference between a helpful review comment and one in which is less helpful and will only add time to the project as further clarification is required.
  7. Avoid talking about the authoring tool you are using but do explain what you see your role as being.
  8. It will always be the case that some SMEs will be more enthusiastic than others for eLearning. Sometimes an enthusiastic SME will be a better advocate than an Instructional Designer for eLearning as they have more influence with their peer group.
  9. As the project progresses, make sure you continue to build rapport by speaking to SMEs directly rather than doing everything by email.
  10. Celebrate and share in success especially as the first eLearning courses come through.

I hope that some of these points will help you when working with SME’s, especially those of you that are new to eLearning. However, if you want to see these points in greater detail, you can download this useful guide from our friends at Articulate.

Download now 

Louise Clare

Louise is an instructional designer at Cursim, Omniplex's learning design & development division.

Related Articles