Collaborating With Content Experts

Hello E-Learning Heroes,

This is my first time posting on here.  My agency recently purchased Articulate Storyline and we're beginning to develop our own custom, online trainings.  One of my tasks in the Training Dept. is to work with content experts, throughout our agency, to get the content for the trainings, that I will then build.  Most of the content experts will be people who are our in-person training facilitators and are unfamiliar with developing e-trainings.  Does anyone have any suggestions on how to best work with content experts on developing e-trainings?  Any thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated!


2 Replies
Joe Waddington

Hi Jonathan - Welcome!

The SMEs don't necessarily have to have any knowledge about how to develop or design elearning. Their job in this process is to know the subject, and help you bring it to the screen.

If they are already teaching the course, but in a classroom setting, that's a great start for you. It means they've put some thought into how the content should be shaped, and maybe even started to identify what's important. 

Get a copy of their lesson plan and curriculum. That will give you the building blocks for your course.

If you have the chance, go and watch them teach the course. That will give you an idea of how the students deal with the information. What questions are the students asking? What is the instructor saying (anecdotes, tips, etc) that is not in the curriculum.

Meet with the SMEs and ask them what they think is important. And if they could do things in a perfect world, how would they deliver their training. What exercises or drills would they incorporate? What are some real world situations that can be incorporated into the training?

Work with them through the design process. Show them the course as it develops. Bounce design ideas off of them.

Relevant Articles:

How to Overcome the Challenge of Working with Subject Matter Experts

How To Work With Subject Matter Experts

7 tips for working with subject-matter experts

Good Luck!

Bob S


If I understand correctly, your SMEs are also the current training Facilitators? If that's the case, I might suggest the following...

  • Have them focus on the WHAT needs to be learned, not the HOW they train it in currently.  This is an easy trap for stand-up trainers to fall into and you will need to help them separate it out. Remember what works in the classroom, doesn't always translate well to e-learning.
  • Have them tell you what content/concepts the group struggles with currently and WHY.  Then (as above) try to isolate the training approach from the knowledge gap.
  • Finally, have them tell what the GROUP typically asks for more of in the evaluations, not what the facilitator wishes he/she could do.

Managed correctly, you have amazing resources at your disposal.... SME's that also understand the actual learner needs and knowledge gaps.  This is an ID's dream; make the most of it! :)