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How to manage your SMEs

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How to manage your SMEs

Subject matter experts (SMEs) have valuable insight and you need it! When it comes to your course’s success, SMEs play one of the most important roles. They give you the content and feedback you need to build an engaging and informative eLearning course.

Since they are so critical to keeping your project moving in the right direction, let’s have a look at some ways to manage your relationship with your SME:

Educate them on the world of eLearning

When working with SMEs, don’t assume that they are experts in the field of eLearning or come from a learning design background – this is where you come in. Take the time to explain the steps involved in eLearning course creation and even show them examples. This gives the SME some additional information and context for the project goals. It also allows them to brainstorm ideas on how to create a meaningful learning environment using their knowledge.

Set expectations

Unless the SME is a full-time member of your eLearning development team, you need to set a realistic timeframe that would accommodate their busy schedule. From the beginning, make sure that both you and the SME are clear about the expectations of the role. You can follow some of the tips below for more effective time management with your SME:

  • Provide a detailed overview of how you plan to go about the development. Explain the stages where the SME is expected to be involved and the time they will have to spend on each stage.
  • Provide a timeline for each deliverable. This will help them streamline their schedule and focus on the relevant areas.
  • Set false deadlines to allow for slippage. For example, if you need the resource back by Friday to stay on track, you may ask the SME to get it to you by Tuesday or Wednesday instead.

Work collaboratively

During the process, you may need to remind the SME of the course focus and that you intend to only use information that is vital to your learners. If the SME gives you content that they think is important, but that doesn’t fit the objective of your course, try to come up with a compromise. Can this information be put into a job-aid or be available as a resource later on? See what you can do to retain information they see as valuable, without compromising the focus of the course.

Adapt your style

Every SME is a unique individual. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all process that works for all SMEs. Develop a basic framework that you can use, but don’t be afraid to adapt it to your SMEs needs and preferences. This will help your SME feel more comfortable working with you. For example, consider their communication style. Some may do better at answering questions via e-mail (so that they can have more of an opportunity to reflect), while others may prefer to answer them over the phone or in person. It’s about adapting and listening to ensure that both you and the SME stay on track.

Share Feedback

People like to be encouraged and affirmed. Your relationship with the SME should continue long after you launch the eLearning course. When an SME has devoted their time and knowledge to help you complete the job, remember to recognise their contribution and thank them for their help. This not only serves you well on the project, it will pay dividends later if you need more of their time.

Despite all the challenges you might face, developing a good relationship with your SME will allow your eLearning courses to succeed. You can also check out Omniplex’s blog on The importance of SME reviews for some more tips.