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A subject matter expert (a.k.a. The SME) can really spice up the instructional design of your training with real-world application and examples. Bringing training to life with relevancy and real-world application can be hard to achieve, especially if you don’t know the content well.
This is where your SME comes in. You don’t have to design your training courses on your own.
You can rely on the expertise of a subject matter expert (SME) to help you build sticky training content.
What’s sticky content? Sticky content is content that sticks with the learner long after the training has ended.
SME or No SME
When should you use a SME? Unless you know the training content really well, I recommend using a SME whenever you can. SMEs aren’t always available, but when they are, they can save you a ton of leg work during the Analysis phase.
Instead of putting yourself through a crash course on your topic or scouring the internet and existing resources, you can go directly to the expert for information.
Don’t Give the Training Away
One piece of advice about using a SME, however. Don’t give the training to the SME to create, if you can avoid it. I can’t count the number of times I have been told to “Let the SME build the training. They know the topic better than anyone.”
It is true that the SME typically knows the topic better than anyone else. By definition, the SME is the subject matter expert in that subject area.
But, and I mean a huge but, the SME is not a SME in instructional design! You are the SME of instructional design, which means you shouldn’t turn the training over to the topical expert to build the training.
It should be a partnership. A collaboration between you and the topical SME to build content-rich training that really engages learners with sticky content.
So, the next time you hear, “Let the SME build the training. They know the topic better than anyone.” be sure to suggest a collaboration instead of wiping your hands clean of the project.
More often than not, you will create a much better training through collaboration than either one of you would as a solo act.
The bulk of your information collection occurs in the Analysis phase of the ADDIE model. So, if you are going to interview a SME, the Analysis phase is usually when you do it.
After all, SME interviews are just another method of collecting information. They are a little more specific than the Training Analysis and Scoping Meeting, though.
In the Training Analysis and Scoping Meeting, you ask a lot of questions that are high-level and open-ended. Whereas in the SME interview, you niche down your questions to ask very specific questions about the content.
You ask questions you can’t easily get the answers to on your own.
Prepare for the Subject Matter Expert Interview
After completing the Training Analysis (download here) and the Scoping Meeting, you will have a pretty good idea about what should be included in the training. You just need to dig into the content a bit more with the help of the SME to understand what learners must know in order to perform better.
Before the SME interview takes place and before you send the calendar invite, prepare a list of 5-10 questions for your SME to review prior to the interview. During the interview, you will have the opportunity to ask more questions. The initial list of questions will help your SME prepare for the interview as well as understand what direction you are taking the training.
Once the questions are ready, send them to your SME along with a list of the Learning Objectives and any success metrics that have been identified for the training. This will give your SME the opportunity to mull things over before you meet.
And, if your SME is too busy for a face-to-face, your SME can respond to the questions via email. A meeting is preferred but an email is better than nothing.
Collect Now and Sort and Organize Later
Be intentional with how you use your time with your SME. If you get any time in front of a SME, count your blessings. They are usually very busy, and training is often the last item on their To-Do list. Respect their time by being prepared and ready to capture the information they share.
This is the time to ask clarifying questions about things you don’t understand. This is not the time to sort and organize your information. You can do that later after the SME interview.
SMEs are extremely valuable to your instructional design process because they are incredibly knowledgeable about their subject area. This can be a plus and minus if you aren’t careful.
Going into your SME interview, you need to know exactly what information you are looking for. Your Learning Objectives can help you keep the focus on the Need to Know content.
The Need to Know content is the information that the learner will need to know in order to perform specific activities or demonstrate a change in behavior.
Because SMEs are such rich sources of information, many have the tendency to share everything they know. This isn’t helpful if it is off-topic. One of your responsibilities is to ensure the SME knows what the Learning Objectives and the scope of the training are.
If the conversation gets off topic, reel it back in.
How do you know if something is off topic? If the content does not cascade up to a Learning Objective, the information might not be what you need for the course, no matter how interesting it may be. If you are unsure of the connection between content and a Learning Objective, ask the SME which Learning Objective the information shared relates to.
When someone takes the time to help and share information, it is a generous act. Be generous in return with your gratitude for their generosity. Doing so will make the experience more enjoyable for all.
Try It & Share It!
If you found value in these tips for Using a Subject Matter Expert to Build Content Rich Trainings, please help me share this information with others by pinning it, tweeting it, leaving a comment below, or posting it to your social pages.
Until we meet again, take care!
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The Testimonials are In:
Working with Shanwtay and Katie at the Instructional Design Company was a dream come true. Their creativity, expertise, and professionalism throughout the entire process was beyond top notch. I engaged them to help turn my first book into a training course, and I could not be happier with how the final product turned out. If you have an instructional design project and you’re considering which company to work with, you can stop your search and thank me later. They are truly the best in the business.
I joined the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program because I struggled to find jobs in instructional design beyond the development phase. I’ve done a couple of training programs with lots of random projects, but I was overwhelmed, not connecting the dots, and not good at structuring my writing to hit learning objectives. I was looking for motivation and direction at beginning a better Instructional Designer.
After taking the Instructional Design & Tech Certificate program and joining my fantastic team for support, I found the structure and approach to be what I need to take my next steps, evening improving my skills in the development stage.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I love how this course let’s you work at your own pace. I got great tips and learned many things. The ongoing support for multiple people and groups is what I love the best. You are never alone in this process. I have been able to adjust my resume and began creating a portfolio of work I’ve completed to add when applying for jobs. I use many of the PowerPoint skills in my lessons and trainings. I would highly recommend this for anyone wanting to become an instructional designer.
Teacher, Future Instructional Designer
I have searched for the last few years to find some suitable career change where I wouldn’t have to earn another degree and where I could use the talents and skills I already have as a teacher. When I came across the Instructional Design Accelerator course, I loved the fact that Shawntay was a former teacher and could relate to a teacher’s need to transition from the classroom. This was what sold the course for me. Her experiences are invaluable especially when translating teacher duties to instructional designer duties. I would (and have) recommended this program to other teachers I know who are looking to transition out of the classroom. I do appreciate ALL of her feedback on my projects!
L&D Project Manager
The Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator certificate program is one of the most comprehensive ID programs out there for beginners. If you’re looking to grow your schools in ID and development then I highly recommend this program. Not only will this program give you an overview of theory, but you will receive a thorough walkthrough of how to apply what you have learned. Although I had already secured a position in Learning & Development when I bought this course, it helped me to move up into a new position as a Learning & Development Project Manager!
Future Instructional Designer
If you have any interest in ID, sign up for this program NOW! Shawntay and her team are top notch! The course content exceeded my expectations in a big way and the encouragement and support continues to be so valuable. You will not feel alone going through this course, you will learn so much, you’ll have many cheerleaders, and you will have fun!
Future Instructional Designer
I am really enjoying this program! It’s prerfect for someone who is thinking about a career shift to Instructional Design and does not have a lot of experience. This is my first real introduction to Instructional Design and it’s been the perfect beginner course to help me get my feet wet. The modules are broken down well and it’s great to go at your own pace and at your own time. The modules themselves are very comprehensive and you learn a lot from all of them. I really like how each one build upon each other and you’re working towards the bigger project of designing your first training course from scratch. I’m learning so much from going through this course! I was provided great feedback from Katie and Shawntay through the process via Trello Boards, comments on the Google documents, and Facebook group. This course has been well worth the time and effort and I appreciate the fact that I will always have the resources available to me after I complete the training (just in case I’m not quite ready to transition yet).
Future Instructional Designer
I can’t say enough great things about the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program! The length of the program is perfect; it doesn’t feel rushed and there’s just the right amount of structure to give you the accountability you need. There are so many opportunities to get live answers to any questions you have related to the course content or anything ID-related! This program gave me the support and structure I needed to both feel affirmed in the relevant skills I already had coming in and to fill in the gaps I had as a career-changer going into ID. Shawntay, Katie, and all the coaches are super helpful and supportive. I now feel confident that I have the tools and access to resources I need to apply for ID jobs without wondering if there’s something I’m “missing” in the preparation process. I’d highly recommend this program to anyone wanting to transition into ID or who just wants to brush up on their skills in the field.
Krista Johnson Awomoyi
Freelance Instructional Designer
I’d highly recommend the Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program. I’m blown away by how much I learned in just 12 weeks. I had ID experience prior to taking this course and was just looking to get a better understanding of applying adult learning principles. This course well exceeded my expectations! Not only did I gain a clear understanding of adult learning principles, I was also able to apply those principles by creating assets for your portfolio using PowerPoint, Adobe Premiere Pro and Storyline. The hands on support that we received was top notch.
This program is one of the most robust yet fulfilling L&D programs I’ve seen. I learned so much about the industry and about the limitlessness of my own capabilities. I am so appreciative of Shawntay and all of the trainers who took part in the program. They went above and beyond with not only guiding, but communicating live and working one on one or in small groups. If you are on the fence, I say take the leap and you will not regret it! There’s so much to learn, not only from the trainers, but also the learners in your group. Everyone comes in with their own skills and can be additional support and guidance for you. Thank you for creating this program!
Instructional Designer Training Facilitator
Shawntay is an amazing individual. She is very knowledgeable in all aspects of ID and eLearning. She is also very compassionate and loves to help and see everyone around her grow and prosper. Shawntay has been a great mentor to me and she has helped me mature as an instructional designer and eLearning developer. She has provided me with opportunities when others have overlooked me. I am very grateful to have met and built a lifelong relationship with Shawntay.
I recently got hired into my first instructional design / training position and Shawntay was one of the first people to congratulate me!
Freelance Instructional Designer
My teacher-to-instructional-designer journey began two years ago when I left my teaching comfort zone and started my first freelance ID job. Now, I’m stepping out of the classroom and taking my freelance work full-time, so I’m thrilled to be joining the Tech Accelerator program. Adding technologies like Articulate 360 and Adobe Premiere Pro to my qualifications will help me take my courses to the next level and attract more clients!
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I am genuinely grateful for this course. I wanted a real-world perspective and feel like I got it. I’m teaching now, but nearing retirement age but can see myself working as an instructional designer well into my retirement years. My other goal is to take as many courses in statistics as possible in hopes of bringing some mathematical precision to the ROI question. Like you say, getting accurate metrics to measure ROI can be a challenge, but I intend to work on that part. That’s unimportant right now, what is important is the fact that I feel like this course was well worth every penny I spent and I would to it again in a heartbeat. I have too much going on right now, but as soon as I get some time freed up I intend to take your course in project management.
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The IDC team has been my secret and special weapon of success. They have delivered above and beyond with every single project out in front of them. They have met and beat timelines. They have been Uber responsive every step of the way. I keep them on speed dial and have and continue to recommend them to friends and clients. If you are in need of instructional design and plenty more, this is THE ALL-STAR team that will more than deliver and help make you and your project soar above the competition.
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Working with Shawntay and the Instructional Design Company has allowed our university to meet the growing demands of our programs. Shawntay’s expertise allowed for the course development to be completed on time and met all of the university requirements. Shawntay’s project management skills were phenomenal and allowed my team to work on other areas while she completed this project for us. Her work is of high quality and her professionalism and willingness to help made her a tremendous asset to the project team.
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Shawntay is a creative and highly talented instructional designer. She brought a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and leadership that enabled her to own the design and creation of a full scale facilitator curriculum and train-the-trainer program. It was a pleasure to partner with Shawntay, her project management and communication skills ensured the project was on time and on budget.
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Author, Speaker, Strengths Coach
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Top Notch Professional
Working with Shawntay has been an immense pleasure. She is atop notch professional who brings enthusiasm and extensiveexpertise to professional curriculum development and execution. Her knowledge of tried and true techniques to maximize the effectiveness of presentations is invaluable.
Nancy Drapeau, PRC
Vice President of Research, CEIR - Center for Exhibition Industry Research
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“I was fortunate to find Shawntay when our organization was looking to expand and update our educational offerings. Shawntay proved herself to be an educational and personal development expert who immediately made an impact with our clients throughout Europe. Everyone who came into contact with Shawntay was immediately impressed by her level of expertise and willingness to share her knowledge with those around her. I would not hesitate to recommend Shawntay to anyone looking for an education subject matter expert.”
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Dave Beeman, CPP
Vice President, Andy Frain Services
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“Working with Shawntay you will immediately notice her professional presence and poise, but over time her tenacious pursuit of excellence and her skills in instructional development and adult learning will really impress you. I worked with her at Mary Kay, and was able to experience firsthand her great rapport with regional partners in Europe, understanding their unique sales force training needs. In addition, Shawntay consistently exhibited grace under pressure, made executive decisions to move business forward. If you are looking for an expert who consistently delivers and goes the extra mile to get things done, contact Shawntay!”
Marketing Director, Academic Partnerships
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“I had had the pleasure of knowing and working with Shawntay on more than a few occasions. I found her to be a very good business partner and very committed to delivering a quality product or solution in a timely manner. I have always had a positive experience in partnering with Shawntay and would recommend that you consider leveraging her talent.”
Judy Owen, CPC
Transformational Leadership Coach
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Get yourself signed up for Shawntay Skjoldager’s Instructional Design & Tech Accelerator Certificate Program today and be on your way to success! Within the first week of taking her course, you will experience growth! Be sure to plug into her Facebook Q&A sessions for personalized help, too. This is THE course to take if you are new to instructional design or have landed on the training team and need help getting started.
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“Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!”
Shawntay has exceptional knowledge and experience with all aspects of creating and implementing effective, performance based training for adults. She is exceptional at needs analysis – identifying target audiences and collaborating with business owners to keep training focused on business needs. And she is great to work with – always providing great support to get projects done on-time and on-target. She is always on the look-out for new and more effective ways to engage learners. Her enthusiasm for adult learning is contagious!
eLearning Developer/Instructional Designer, Vivos Therapeutics
I have known and worked with Shawntay as a education program director and use the expertise of ShawntayMichelle for the development of my presentations. The service has always been “spot on” with professionalism, care and attention. Shawntay’s recommendations to my ideas make me look good to my clients.
Al Lomas CMP, CEM, CMM, CFE
Owner, Certified Consulting Services
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I am new to the training design and development world and I was SO excited to get in there, but I really lacked the real-world knowledge that would set me apart from my peers. And, then Shawntay Skjoldager walked into my life with an outstretched hand and a seemingly endless list of ways to knock every training out of the park. From the Training Analysis Form to the Tay Tay tips, this course made my life so much easier and even ironed out the review process that I had been struggling with for months.
Take time to invest in your own learning and make sure to put Shawntay Michelle at the top of your personal development list!
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