Building a synchronous connection with a SME into an asynchronous course

Does anyone have any experience with building functionality into an asynchronous course that allows a learner to connect with a SME in (almost) real-time? I've seen courses use discussion threads, which is great, but the asynchronous nature of a discussion thread means that a question the learner has will not be answered within the window of the "teachable moment." I'm thinking of functionality similar to a "live chat" on a website. 

Naturally, there are a lot of variables at play here (SME availability, how SME(s) are notified of a question in a timely manner, how the student is notified when their question has been answered, technology that facilities all this, etc.), but I'm just looking to hear if anyone has any experience implementing or facilitating a solution like this. 

Or, if this is something that just sounds intriguing to you, is it something that you could see being implemented within your courseware? What limitations do you think would keep it from being successful?

Thanks in advance for sharing your opinion on this. It's a solution that I'm exploring and I haven't seen anything like this in the e-learning market. 


3 Replies
Diljith Kannan

Dear Erich

We have used google community and google hangout the implement the same. It works quite well. The challenge will be bring everyone on board on the same platform. Some many not have google accounts. 

But I can tell you that the system works seamlessly ones implemented and give clear ground rules on how to run it.  

Bob S


The one time we tried to go down this path there were issues regarding SME time that proved insurmountable.  Even after agreeing to establish set "calling hours" for each SME to be available, invariably some other imperative would come up for them and the just-in-case time set aside would get over ridden by pressing matters/projects that were more tangible.

As you say, technology and mechanics aside... this issue with having on-call SMEs dedicated for certain hours is going to be your biggest hurdle.  Otherwise, you will need to move back towards asynchronous methods. That is where we landed, and as I recall each SME was score carded on the number of posts they responded to and the results posted publicly so they could be recognized by management.

Curious where this lands. Thanks for opening the discussion!

Erich Renken

Thanks Diljith and Bob for responding. 

Bob, it's great to hear that you "road tested" this solution already and your limitations aren't surprising. May I inquire how you, at a high-level, technically implemented your solution?

I'm thinking of having some kind of push notification that goes to a SMEs phone. From your perspective, Bob, could there have been a technical solution that would have been more widely adopted or was the SME unavailability just unavoidable?