Sometimes subject-matter experts (SMEs) can be the hardest part of dealing with the development of instruction. The SME is the person who has the content knowledge the instructional designer needs. The process of getting to the knowledge can feel frustrating to a designer. Despite the problems instructional designers might encounter working with SMEs, the bottom line is a SME is a necessary part of the ID process. The SME is critical to the success of your instruction. Here are three things you should know when working with a SME. These reminders will help you keep your sanity and improve the approach you take when engaging with the SME.
Sometimes it is difficult to leave behind those words you use daily to describe what you do when you meet with your SME. In fact, you might want to leave behind the “SME” acronym altogether. Oftentimes as instructional designers, we fall into our own jargon when talking with SMEs. Remember that you are meeting with the expert to learn their jargon and knowledge. You don’t know their jargon; don’t expect them to know yours. Use non-training terminology when presenting a plan to the SME.
2. Listen to your experts
Be prepared when you meet with the SME. Come in prepared to listen and engage the expert! You need to ask questions. When you meet with the SME, have an agenda and a list of topics to address all of the needs of the project. Don’t forget that the SME’s time is valuable and so is yours. Don’t waste time by repeating information, and listen to your SME closely.
3. Play nice
This suggestion might seem like a no-brainer, but it probably the best advice. In the heat of conversation and deliberation, you might feel like saying something that should be left unsaid. You might encounter a SME who is unapproachable or perhaps downright cranky. You will run into situations that will test your limits, but be professional. Never do anything to jeopardize your relationship with the SME. Sometimes the SME is also your client, and it is important to maintain a positive attitude and a positive relationship. Because you will need to return to the SME later for approvals and suggestions.
If you have other suggestions on how to work with SMEs, please post them to the comments. I look forward to reading your thoughts.
Guest Blogger: Stacy Clayton is an IT Specialist with over 8 years of experience in Higher Education. She is employed at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She manages websites, web conferencing, interactive development, and video services. Her interests are in creating elearning content and improving the way technology is used in the classroom at the university level.
Image courtesy of Zach Klein at http://www.flickr.com/photos/zachklein/54389823/