Instructional Design

Instructional Design: Does the Designer Have to be the Expert?

It’s a match made in eLearning heaven: a subject matter expert conveying information and an instructional designer who can create eLearning material to convey it to the masses. But while it should be a happy union, there can be discord when an SME expects the designer to have an expert-level knowledge base. By training your SME to properly communicate learning goals effectively to you as the designer, it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship – and effective eLearning.


1. Define Learning Goals. Before you can coach your SME in the art of designer communication, you’ll first need to define exactly what the SME wants out of the instructional design. Whether it’s a better understanding of the material, igniting discussion, or a refresher course, the SME will be responsible in conveying necessary goals to the designer, which will shape the way in which the information is organized and ultimately, digested by the audience.


2. Create Open Communication. Communication between you and the SME can either lead to a harmonious union – or a dysfunctional relationship. By asking the right questions, you can extract the right information from the SME without having to be an expert on any subject. Asking for all materials upfront can help you outline the design early on, while keeping the SME in the loop as a team member can help encourage communication.


3. Learn About the Audience. Your SME should be able to give you a general idea about your target audience, from how they best receive information and the estimated time line for learning. By learning more about the audience, you put a face to the instructional design to help guide you as you create content and materials that are both specific and effective. What’s more, talking about the audience can remind your SME of the end game – and why you’re working together.