Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are valuable partners for instructional designers. SMEs are on the teams of many training and performance improvement efforts. At times, it is a SME who is facilitating an online or in-person training session. Other times, you must collaborate with SMEs to understand the knowledge and skills to include in your learning design.
- SMEs may be too busy to provide the help you need
- Experts often have difficulty explaining basic topics because they forget what it is like to be a novice (the curse of knowledge)
- They may have trouble verbalizing the wealth of tacit knowledge that makes up their expertise (see Strategies for Tacit Knowledge Transfer)
- They may insist on including more content than is necessary to reach the agreed upon performance goals
Working with SMEs: A Guide to Gathering and Organizing Content from Subject Matter Experts by Peggy Salvatore
This book demonstrates another practical approach to optimizing the designer-SME relationship. Salvatore creates a framework of tasks you will want to accomplish with SMEs during different phases of the ADDIE model. Readers can probably make this approach work with other instructional design models too.
Although the book covers topics like the traits of different SME personalities and ways to capture their knowledge, the main focus is on a methodology for achieving successful results. An added bonus are the templates included for documenting and managing the SME collaboration.
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