E-Learning Subject Matter Expert Challenges
Right off the cuff let me preface this by saying I understand, I’ve been there – I am there. Working with Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) can become challenging. Simply because E-Learning is our thing and Subject Matter 101 is there’s (and the twain MUST always meet, if we are to be successful). I know, I know, some may argue that SME’s can be:
- Resistant, etc…
But before you throw up our hands and scream, “they just don’t get it”, let me pose these questions to you, “Is it their responsibility to know exactly what you know as the E-Learning Professional”? And “Should they really share your passion for design and development or even the e-learning process as much as you do”?
Without any biases’ related to your current SME challenges your honest answer should be – No.
It’s possible that SMEs demonstrating any of these characteristics believe that only they know how to effectively communicate, control, and deliver their knowledge to others. But here’s the kicker, don’t we feel the same towards the SME about our passion and drive for e-learning? Read the list again and now place yourself in their shoes. Could SMEs think some of the same things about us as e-learning professionals? Huh, something to think about. So they’re challenging, we’re challenging, now what?
Consider the following, SMEs need E-Learning/Instructional Design Professionals that can:
- quickly assess their knowledge of e-learning
- show that you care about the quality of the finished product as much as the SME does and that you are there for their best interest
- identify and share only what they need to know to get through the design process (possibly per design project – baby steps)
- demonstrate effective listening skills to understand their point of view, challenges, needs, and wants
- identify key indicators for past failures or successes and recommend how to use “what they’re accustomed to” and take it to the next level
- provide visual recommendations like storyboards or prototypes that display what they want Vs. what you can provide and let them decide – even if you disagree (if their choice proves ineffective then they’ll learn to trust your judgment)
- demonstrate self-control and don’t give off a sense of frustration or anger verbally, with your body language, or via your facial expressions – aka no “stink face”
There are many more strategies to consider as this is not an exhaustive to do list by any means but you get the point. Other key considerations are relationship and empathy. Believe it or not empathizing with a SME goes along way, matter of fact it could get you all the way to sign off (LOL). And don’t try to teach them the entire process during the first discussion that ship will sink quickly. Make it a gradual learning process just as you would any large scale content for e-learning delivery…yeah, it works with people to – a little bit at a time.
Share what you’ve done to address and resolve SME challenges.