Controversial SME Topic: Do You Ever Ignore Their Feedback?

Feb 10, 2022


I should start by saying I work full time and am not a freelancer in case that makes any difference to your thoughts on the matter.  Okay, that's out of the way. I often get feedback from SME's that is totally out of their area of expertise and as such I often want to ignore it and sometimes I do. Yep, I said it. I do that.

For example,  in one case the SME said that they thought one of the images from the Content Library should be replaced because it looked "kind of weird". I disagreed and I didn't change it.  In another, the SME suggested combining some information and I didn't agree because it made the concepts a bit confusing and hard to differentiate from one another.  I asked for a meeting and explained why from an instructional standpoint, and I didn't change it. Ultimately, she agreed.

Am I going too rogue here? I'm interested to hear if and when you respectfully decline to make certain suggestions or revisions from SME's.

4 Replies
Hianna Sabo

Totally not! I work for an agency as well, and we make “executive decisions” all of the time. Sometimes design wise we let them have their say because that is their brand and they know it best, however, when it comes to presenting the content in a way that learners can benefit from, that’s your expertise and YOU are the SME 🧐

Kandice Kidd


Thank you for weighing in! I defer to them about the content or anything that would distract from the learning, but I tend to stand my ground when it comes to instructional principles and even visual design. I'm learning a lot about graphics design, images, etc. and sometimes the feedback violates some of the best practices.


Karl Muller

Hi Kandice,

We have come across this type of situation. 

SME's are essential team members, but project roles and responsibilities and expectations need to be carefully managed.

At the outset of each new project, when we first meet with our team of SME's, we make it clear that final decisions about which SME recommendations will be implemented, rest with the course development team.

When it's a technical issue, we typically go with the SME. However when  a SME expresses an opinion about instructional methods, online course design and media use, we will listen, but as this is outside of their expertise, we have no problem saying thanks, but not implement the suggestion.

Occasionally we have the situation where two SME's cannot agree about certain issues. That can be fun....

Kandice Kidd

Thank you, Karl. This really gives me food for thought. Your point about meeting and communicating who makes certain final decisions.

I thought I made it clear what type of feedback is expected during the review stages, but people still add information that doesn't align with their role.  However, I think I need to improve my communication in this area after reading your comment. It's really helpful.