I know. I know. I skipped a week, but I promise that I have something special in store for all of you Terminology Tuesday fans, so pipe down!
This week I sifted through my archives and was surprised that I had yet to discuss Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), so it seemed like no better time than the present to table that term for explanation and discussion.
Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
SMEs are just that – ‘experts’ within a given subject matter. These individuals are often the authority for content accuracy within your e-learning projects. SMEs come from all walks of life, but generally have a wealth of academic and/or on-the-job experience to be considered proficient in their domain.
Typically, Instructional Designers will work closely with SMEs to determine learning objectives, define training plans and outlines, and ensure accuracy of content within the storyboarding and/or prototyping phases. Occasionally, SMEs may write assessment items, or the Instructional Designer may work in liaison with the SME to determine appropriate assessment items and distractors.
The relationship between the Instructional Designer and the SME can be an intricate one…The Instructional Designer often needs to navigate how to effectively communicate with the SME in order to acquire necessary information for the project. SMEs sometimes have a hard time separating the nice to know from the need to know, and this is really where the Instructional Designer needs to learn how to effectively question the SME to ensure they are developing instructionally sound content, and not overloading learners with extraneous information.
In further considering the relationship between Instructional Designer and SME, it is very important to define roles and responsibilities at the beginning of each project. Without doing so, or without being able to assert dominance within a given area (e.g. design versus content accuracy), a SME can easily run away with the project, negatively impacting the overall design. It has been my experience (not always), that some SMEs believe they could better design the e-learning, which is why it’s important for both individuals to understand their roles and to respect one another’s role in the project.
Above all else, communication is the magic ingredient when it comes to working with a SME. If you can nail down an effective communication strategy, you should be golden!
- What have been your experiences working with SMEs?
- How do you navigate your working relationship with SMEs to ensure utmost respectability and fair treatment?
- SMEs are from Mars, Instructional Designers are from Venus – Tara D. Holwegner, Life Cycle Engineering
- 3 Tips You Must Know When Working With SMEs – Sister Mandi, Elearning Brothers
- Working With SMEs: An Instructional Designer’s Guide to Collecting and Organizing Content From Subject Matter Experts – Peggy Salvatore and Jonena Relth