Instructional Design

All Greek to SME: 5 Questions to Ask Your Subject Matter Expert Before Starting an eLearning Project

The topics on which SME’s advise are about as diverse as the SME’s themselves. From tech to healthcare, education to software, your subject matter expert is there to add the meat to your eLearning module. When working with an SME, it’s your job to extract the necessary information and divide between the need-to-know and the nice-to-know. Luckily, no matter where your SME’s area of expertise lies, you can use the following questions to get high-quality, targeted information – no matter what the topic.

  1. What is the ultimate goal of the module?

Your SME should be able to explain the end goal of your eLearning projects. Whether it’s a better understanding of a certain concept, compliance training or learning a new behavior, you and your SME should be on the same page as the overall design and purpose of the course. Starting with this question sets the tone for the rest of your work together.

  1. Can you divide between informational and behavioral subject matter?

Not all learning is created equally. Sometimes, the module is purely informational: You learner needs additional knowledge. Other times, the goal is a change in behavior. In the end, your SME should be able to tell you what the learner should know and accomplish by the completion of the course.

  1. Why is the information important to the user?

Subject matter experts are fountains of knowledge and perspective, but there can definitely be a case of “too much of a good thing.” An SME can get so excited by a topic that their input becomes a data dump, leaving you to sift through and try to locate the right stuff. By asking your SME about the importance of the topic at the beginning of your collaboration, he or she is better prepped to share with you only the most relevant, targeted information.

  1. What are the learning objectives?

Who better to help you dial in on the learning objectives than the person most passionate about the material? Not only can discussing learning objectives help you extract better information, but it can help you create learning objectives that motivate and move your learners. By knowing how and when they’ll topically reach the end goal, learners are incentivized.

  1. Can progress be measured?

Your SME can tell you whether or not a learner’s proficiency can be measured after completing the modules. Sometimes, the answer is no: It’s difficult to measure purely knowledge-based subjects. If the information was behavioral, however, there may be ways to assess a learner’s knowledge absorption using simulations, testing and other assessment tools.

Consider your subject matter expert your partner in crime for the duration of the design. Ask the right questions and you’ll receive the information and insight you need to create the meatiest eLearning module possible.