What’s a Subject Matter Expert (SME)?
What’s the first thing that popped into your mind when someone told you to find the “ess, em, ee” to get the course content you need? Did your rookie self grasp at straws and think something along the lines of “small- or medium-size enterprise"? Or maybe your potential client actually said “smee,” which really threw you for a loop.
In the e-learning world, the acronym stands for subject matter expert. SME is really just a fancy way of describing someone who is an expert in his or her field. It’s the person in an organization who has the most knowledge or skill in a specific topic.
But don’t go looking for the SME department; there isn’t one. An SME might be an HR staff member, an engineer, a researcher, a product manager, a sales manager, or a finance person. Pretty much every department or business unit has a resident expert.
The SME has tons of content, experience, and insights that are essential to creating fantastic courses that your learners need in order to ramp up on a new skill quickly or improve their existing skills. And when you’re developing an e-learning course, the SME can be your best friend.
Your SME can help you define learning objectives, craft content, and give valuable feedback as you’re developing the course. In short, you can’t develop effective e-learning without an SME.
And if you’re an e-learning developer, your job is to partner with the SME to get the information, strategies, and content you’ll need to build an effective course. So, you need to build a collaborative partnership that’s focused on productive communication.
Effective communication is especially important during the course review process. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a (seemingly) never-ending cycle of iterations. But don’t worry, that’s why we created Review 360: a simple web app that makes collaborating with SMEs (and other stakeholders) super easy. And we didn’t stop there! We even created this great course to help you explain the review process to your stakeholders, so you can be sure everyone is on the same page.
And we’ve got tons of other resources to help you figure out the best ways to work with SMEs to create amazing e-learning:
- Learn more about engaging productively with SMEs by downloading our free e-book, “The Essential Guide to Working with Subject Matter Experts.”
- Read this article for some quick tips on working with SMEs.
- Discover the secret to turning a reluctant SME into an engaged team member in this article.
- Check out the top discussions and forum threads in our “Working with Subject Matter Experts” forums compilation in E-Learning Heroes.
We’d love to hear your questions and comments about working with SMEs in the comments below!
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