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Most of the time, the e-learning course development process is driven by instructional designers or e-learning developers working in partnership with subject matter experts (SMEs). But what if you’re an SME who’s been put in charge of driving an e-learning course and you need to partner with an e-learning designer or developer? What do you need to know to make the collaboration process go more smoothly? Here are four key tips to get you started:

  1. Focus on the key learning objectives. It’s human nature to want to communicate in a way that’s as detailed as possible—especially when it’s your job to train someone. But taking that approach with e-learning will result in a bloated course that leaves learners feeling overwhelmed.

    Instead, focus on what learners need to know and do to learn a new skill or improve their job performance. By prioritizing essential information over ancillary or “nice to know” content, you’ll keep learners focused on the core objectives. But don’t worry! That nice-to-know content doesn’t need to go to waste. You can ask the developer to simply move it to a glossary or “additional resources” section in the course so it’s still available for folks who want a little more information.
  2. Keep it real. Most people retain concepts better when they can relate what you’re telling them to their own real-life experiences. For instance, using a realistic scenario can help learners visualize themselves applying new knowledge and skills they’re picking up in your course.

    When you’re partnering with a designer or developer, it can be helpful to share the kinds of real-world experiences your learners are likely to encounter on the job, so those experiences can inform the design of meaningful interactions that will engage and challenge learners and get them thinking.
  3. Pay close attention to the details in storyboards and prototypes. In e-learning, it’s important to get things right before a developer completes a full-blown, detailed version of the course. Once the course is built, changes become time-consuming to address. That’s where the process of storyboarding and/or prototyping can be a huge win. If your partner designer/developer shares a storyboard or prototype with you, set aside time to focus in on the details. Doing so now will save you and your project team a lot of complicated rework later on.
  4. Keep the lines of communication open. The relationship between the SME (you) and designers and developers is critical. Here are a few tips that can help keep the lines of communication open throughout the project:
  • From the start, establish a mutually agreed upon timeline for major milestones and the final deliverable deadline. Have ongoing discussions throughout the process, so you can check in on those milestones. And of course make sure to meet your own deadlines along the way!
  • When you’re asked to review and provide feedback on the storyboard, prototype, or course itself, give specific, constructive, and actionable feedback that keeps the project moving forward. Want the developer to change an image, for example? Attach an example of the type of image you’re looking for to your comment. Avoid vague feedback, nonspecific critiques, or comments that don’t offer a clear call to action. These are distracting to the designer and developer and can bog down the review process.

    Learn more about streamlining the review process in this article: “Still Publishing to Word for Your SME Reviews? Here’s How & Why to Transition to Articulate Review.”
  • From time to time your designer or developer might come to you to make important decisions on things like the type of feedback they should provide on a quiz question, or how a specific interaction should look or behave. If you’re not the decision-maker for the project, make sure you know who is so you can get them quick answers to these questions.

Interested in learning more about the course creation process? Take a look at these go-to e-books:

What do you think? We’d love to hear your questions and comments about working with SMEs in the comments below.

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