Create a Better Course by Interviewing a Subject Matter Expert (SME)

How do you create an awesome eLearning and
microlearning video course? You’re an experienced
eLearning professional.

But while you’re well-versed on instructional design, you still need an outside, expert perspective on your course content. A subject matter expert, or SME, is a critical part of creating an effective eLearning and microlearning course for your organization.

The SME could be someone within your organization who’s well-versed in a particular software. It could also be an expert in the field, like an author or researcher. No matter where you find them, SMEs add a level of credibility, depth, and relevance to your course. They’re also critical to keep your course on track during the planning phase.

The Benefits of Video Training

Every eLearning course needs an SME. But SMEs are busy, and that means you need to make the most of your time with them. Treat SMEs as the valuable resource they are without monopolizing their time. Follow these 3 tips to get the most out of interviewing an SME for your eLearning course.

1. Identify the learning objective

Do your homework before you approach an SME. As an instructional designer, you should already have an idea of your learning objectives for the course. Once you know the learning objectives, you can work with your SME to advise on the best behaviors, activities, and information to focus on in your course.

2. Ask the right questions

You need to prepare for working with your SME before reaching out to them. This will give the SME an idea of how they can best help you, as well as keep your discussions with them relevant and useful.

Before you ask the SME for a meeting, brainstorm an in-depth questionnaire first. It’s important to distill your questions down to the most important information. Anything superfluous is a waste of your SME’s time and won’t add any value to your course Remember, this questionnaire should be just long enough to glean good information from the SME. Eliminate any questions that won’t add value to your eLearning video course.

When writing your questionnaire:

Be very specific: If your questions are too vague, you won’t get helpful information for your eLearning course. For example, instead of asking, “What’s the biggest hurdle healthcare workers face today?” you should say, “What’s the biggest hurdle healthcare workers face when it comes to patient safety?” If the SME’s response is too vague, clarify what they’re saying and ask for specifics.

Ask open-ended questions: Let the SME’s expertise shine here. Ask open-ended questions that provoke longer, more thought-out responses. You’ll get interesting insights you might not have considered.

Ask for resources: Always ask the SME for resources or visuals that explain complex ideas. These are great resources to hand off to your scriptwriting team and animators.

Consider asking questions like:

What 3 behaviors should learners be able to do after completing this course?

What activities do you recommend for learners so they can practice these behaviors?

What information will learners need to practice?

Do you know of any scenarios, role plays, or activities we can integrate into the course?

3. Prepare an agenda

Once you’ve prepared the learning objectives and a questionnaire, write an agenda for the discussion. This will honor the SME’s limited amount of time and help you stay on-task during the meeting. The agenda should show:

The length of the meeting, including what you’ll discuss and when.

The questionnaire.

Action items needed after the meeting.

Agenda in hand, now’s the time to ask your SME for a meeting. This is easy if the SME is within your organization, but if they’re not, you’ll need to email them to request a meeting. The agenda can help you secure the meeting because it gives SMEs a great idea of what you plan to discuss. If they agree, the agenda preps the SME so they can give you better information.

Before the meeting, make sure you brush up on industry jargon. Your expertise is in learning design, but if you’re designing a course for medical staff, you might not be familiar with those professional terms. Ensure you know just enough to facilitate a good conversation with the SME.

For the meeting itself, invest in a screen recording software like Screencast-O-Matic. Always ask permission to record the meeting. This is critical because you’ll want to refer to their expertise while designing the course itself; written notes from the interview will only get you so far.

The Bottom Line

An SME helps you get into the mind of your learner. Designing a course is an art unto itself, but you can improve the substance of your course with an SME’s insight. But if you want to make the most of an SME’s expertise, you need to structure the interview carefully.

Get better results for your organization. Design a course that changes learner behavior for the better with an SME’s real-world insights. You’ll boost employee satisfaction and your organization’s success in the process.

But what if you want to include an SME in the course itself? We’ve got you covered. Ninja Tropic specializes in SME-driven eLearning and microlearning courses.

Get in touch now for your FREE brainstorming session with our team of video pros.

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