It’s All About the SMEs, The SMEs, No Troubles….

Subject Matter Experts
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    What Are The Skills of a Great SME?

    We love us some Megan Trainor around here – and so we are all about the SMEs today – and that is no trouble. 

    As we have talked about before, SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) are an essential part of the work we do as learning professionals – without them, we would have no domain knowledge, no real-world examples, and let’s face it – very little content. 

    So what skills do you need to look for in a SME to ensure they are together, that you can rock out a power ballad of courses or to ensure that your learning experience is as fresh of the must-hear summer jam? We have our list of big skills we look for when partnering with an SME:

    • Storyboarding 

    • Story Telling 

    • Assessment Development 

    • Facilitation Skills (Live and Virtual)


    In the Words of Envouge, “Now It is Time for A Breakdown”

    It might be tempting to think of storyboarding as an activity in the development of online learning but storyboarding is a tool that can be used for a wide range of learning experiences. Having SMEs breakdown (storyboard) the entire learning journeys provides an opportunity for the SME and the learning designer to stop, collaborate, and think about what modality is best suited for each part of the experience – and allow for the design of a multi-modal experience. You may wonder why this is so important – and may be surprised to learn that in a study conducted by Training Industry showed that in multimodal learning experiences if learners experienced just one of their preferred methods (modes) of learning, they were likely to view the entire learning experience positively.

    The Story of My (Professional) Life

    Face it, we all love a good story, whether being about overcoming a monster (surviving a bad boss), a quest or a hero’s journey (a lesson learned), or a comedy (the funny time in a client lunch) – storytelling has been a key tool part of the learning process since humans began to talk and it is a key skill for SMEs. As you are developing learning experiences, encourage and build in opportunities for SMEs to share stories – both personal and organizational stories – this is an excellent way to use video or podcast as part of the learning journey, particularly if the learning experience is being delivered primarily online.

    Don’t Put Your Learners Under Pressure…….with bad assessments

    While we all love a good story, assessments, quizzes, tests, well for most of us, not so much. That is why creating assessments – and specifically, good assessments is a skill set that we think is important for all good SMEs. As learning designers, we can provide the framework for assessments – but having our SME partners understand the foundations and strategies behind creating meaningful assessments to measure. 

    This is The Greatest Show

    This is where it all comes together, especially for a classroom or virtual facilitated experience. The live event and the SME’s facilitation skills are literally the show. Ensuring your SME had the right preparation for the modality – do they know the layout of the room? Are they familiar with the technology being used? Are they armed with the right strategies to engage the audience? There is a difference between a great facilitator and a presenter. After weeks or months of development – the skills of the SME when it comes to facilitation can make or break the learning experience. 

    We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic? What skills would you add to this list? Let us know because, as we say around here, together we learn.


    The Playlist of this Post

    Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass

    Envogue – My Lovin (Never Gonna Get It) 

    One Direction – The Story of My Life 

    Queen – Under Pressure  

    The Greatest Showman – The Greatest Show

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