10 Mistakes to Avoid When Working with SMEs in E Learning Development Projects

Mistakes to Avoid When Working with SMEs in E-Learning Development Projects

Damian Hehire-learning

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Working with SMEs in E-Learning Development Projects

It is often important to collaborate with SMEs (subject matter experts) during an e-learning development project. SMEs not only provide vital knowledge, but they can also improve the quality of the course, the relevance of content to learners, and the accuracy of information. You can also often get better buy-in from learners when someone they know and respect has been involved in the development.

At times, however, working with SMEs can be tricky. They are protective of their knowledge and want to make sure it is used properly, and they often don’t have much spare time. Therefore, it’s important to work as efficiently and effectively with SMEs as possible.

Avoiding the following 10 mistakes is a good place to start when working with SMEs in an e-learning development project.

Claiming the SME’s Content Can Be Improved

SMEs often take great pride in their knowledge and expertise and can react negatively when someone without their experience claims improvements can be made. Instead, the focus of any collaboration with an SME should be on learners, i.e., not altering the content but making it more engaging and accessible for learners.

Not Communicating Effectively

Good communication is central to any collaboration with an SME in an e-learning development project. Therefore, establish good communication from the earliest possible stage and keep the SME informed throughout the process.

Failing to Explain the Objective

It is beneficial to give SMEs an understanding of the e-learning development process and the objectives you want to achieve. This includes the project objectives – milestones, deadlines, etc – but it also includes learning objectives. Explaining the learning objectives includes defining the target audience and what learners should be able to understand and/or do after completing the course.

Leaving the Collaboration Until Late in the Process

SMEs are typically among the busiest people in an organisation, so their availability should be a key consideration when planning an e-learning development project. The best approach is to include SMEs at the start of the process. Not only will this help with securing time with the SME, but it will also get them more involved. They will also feel their contribution is more valued rather than being tacked on at the end.

Not Being Clear About Timelines

As mentioned previously, SMEs are often busy, and the reality is that collaborating on an e-learning development project is unlikely to be at the top of their priority list. Therefore, it’s important to be clear about the timelines involved and why those timelines are important. This will make it easier to secure the time that is needed from the SME.

Not Respecting the SME’s Time

Following on from the last point, it is important the SME’s time is respected and isn’t wasted by not being prepared or focusing on areas that are not directly relevant. Meetings, for example, should be fully prepared and should be conducted professionally and efficiently. And if the SME is not truly needed in a meeting or collaborative document, don’t include them.

Not Making It Easy for the SME to Collaborate

The best approach is to make the collaboration with the SME as easy and hassle-free as possible. When the collaboration is being planned, key considerations include location, the technologies that will be used, particularly if participants will be joining meetings remotely, and who will be involved.

Not Doing Background Research

An SME won’t expect an e-learning design and development team to know everything or even a lot about the subject. However, they also won’t be happy if the knowledge is next to zero. As a result, it is important to do background research before collaborating with the SME so there is some understanding of the fundamental principles of the topic.

Doing so can give confidence to the SME in the development process as well as making the collaboration more efficient.

Not Asking Questions

It is true that no question should be treated as stupid or left unasked during a collaboration with an e-learning developer and an SME. It is only by asking questions that the developer will get a sufficient level of understanding of the topic.

There is a caveat, however, and it goes back to the previous point. It is important to ask questions, whatever those questions are, providing proper preparation and background research has been done beforehand.

Not Giving Feedback at the End of the Process

There might be a need in the future for the e-learning developer and SME to work on another project, so it is beneficial to maintain the relationship. This includes providing feedback to the SME, including giving them access to the finished e-learning course and outlining the results and goals that were achieved. Asking the SME for feedback on the process is also beneficial.

SMEs Can Make Your E-Learning Project a Success

Many of the points above apply to the e-learning developer you appoint for your project, but internal teams can also benefit from avoiding the most common mistakes when working with SMEs. By getting the relationship and communication right, your e-learning project will be on a path to success.