Power to the SMEs!


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What key strategies can learning designers and training departments use to better engage SMEs and create better learning outcomes? Slides from a MyKineo presentation on September 15, 2010 by Cammy Bean and Steve Lowenthal of Kineo.

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  • We can broadly categorizse learning into these content types:Application of policies, processes and procedures Application of technical skillsApplication of soft skills (e.g. leadership and communication skills)Application of systems skillsWe can also categorize learners into:Low or no proficiency / prior knowledge in the subject matterAlready some proficiency or prior knowledge
  • And thus, you’re handed off an 8,000 slide PPT deck – oi! Think of all the SMEs time spent assembling that deck in the first place! Think of all the time you’ll need to take to break it down and understand it. Think of all the back and forth that you’ll have to do…
  • The ID/SME relationship is greatly in many organizations. Some companies are using rapid tools like Articulate to have SMEs author and develop content on their own. This has been a revolution of sorts, with many for and many against.In other teams, with time pressures and speed to market intensity increasing, IDs must work with a SMEs raw content and turn that rather quickly into a final training program – eLearning, classroom or some combination thereof.Regardless of how it plays out in your organization…what can you do to help the SME see the forest and th e trees? And what exactlyi s the forest vs. the trees? Well – often a SME, so steeped in his or her expertise just sees all of the details (or maybe it’s that they just see the whole picture) – either way, they’ve lost a bit of perspective.Today we’ll look at three things you can do as an instructional designer to bring the SME more into the process, making your job easier, their job easier, and the learning outcomes better.
  • Define the design and development process so the SME knows their role and how they fit in. The key to success in the SME relationship is getting them to understand clearly their role and what they are expected to do. SME’s most common complaint about participation in eLearning projects is that it takes far longer than they were told it would. If you start by describing the process and how they’ll fit in, the expectations are set to the proper level…
  • How are we – as a team – going to do what we need to do? How does that break down and who’s going to do what?
  • always try to be clear about time required upfront. When expectations are properly set, we avoid ugly surprises. Give the SME as much visibility on the project timeline – what their review points will be – how much time that should take. Be realistic!
  • Find ways to collaborate. And don’t dismiss the power of face to face! I find the best projects are the ones where we do sit down – at least initially – establish a human connection, build rapport and shared understanding.At the very least, make sure the kickoff meeting is f2f, then run virtual sessions, etc.Regular face-to-face meetings and workshops are ideal to create content. It also really helps the relationship between interactive designer and SME. But, this is harder to do with widespread SMEs. So, we advocate the use of online collaborative sessions and wikis to encourage ownership and involvement. With our work with the European Commission, we organise initial kick off sessions but then virtual gather content, create scripts and set up reviews of content. With SMEs often from 9-10 countries, this is essential and we find it works well
  • We try to show them the most similar piece of eLearning we can find and show them an example of a script/unedited PowerPoint for review.
  • Helping the SME see how you’re going to work with and/or massage their inputs will (hopefully) help them provide you with the right material. You may be asking your SME to create an initial draft of the program – if this is the case provide some good examples of scripts and/or PPT to give them something to model.Explain how the format works so when it comes down to the review period, your SME is not surprised! It can be really hard going from these scripts to an understanding of the final project. You may want to go back and look at samples of completed elearning while you walk through these documents.
  • Give them a starting point, don’t just send them off in the wild!
  • Even if your SME has thoughtfully prepared a 30 slide PPT deck for you as “the content”, you’ll still need to dive deeper, get context, and get to the real crux of the model. This is where an ID ‘s expertise can shine: knowing the right questions to ask to get to that sweet spot in the quickest time possible!
  • This point is a given. Subject Matter Experts are generally on loan to your project. In fact, they’re just squeezing it in between the bits and pieces of their full time job. Their time is precious and potentially critical to the operation of the manufacturing plant line or the trading floor. Handle with respect and care!
  • Even your superstar SME who is 100% behind your project and total digs all of the great work your team pushes out – even that person may only have a discrete chunk of time. Again, be mindful of that and use your time wisely.
  • Before you sit down with your Subject Matter Expert to review the content, come up with a list of the key questions you want to ask. We’ve got some suggested questions that we like to use., so let’s take a crack at ‘em. You may have something different in mind and that’s ok too 
  • This question is about prioritization. (about this subject, product/system/regulation/ issue)?
  • In a classroom session, the sidebar stories – the ones that don’t make it onto the instructor’s facilitator guide – are often the bits that make all the differences. Stories add a human element, putting the content into a relevant context that the learner can relate to. This question is all about diving more deeply into that context. For me, this is always the best part – this is the moment when I get it. So it’s a good exercise for the ID to go through to get the bigger picture – but then think about how you can make use of these stories in the program.Ruth Clark (something on research and examples here would be good)
  • This may not be a direct question you ask, but rather through a series of observations…gauging your SMEs level of interest in the learning process…If the SME doesn’t have any interest or inclination, then probably not wise to spend the effort and time in this step, but there may be some cues.
  • It’s hard to believe for us learning geeks, but some people just aren’t that interested in how people learn or in the fundamentals of designing effective instruction. You may just have to live with it, however!
  • If this is a one-time thing for this SME, spending the time explaining more about ID and learning may just not be worth it. If you do go down this path, you’ll becoming a coach and a mentor – it takes time, but will be worth it.
  • Explain the design model that you like to follow. If it’s ADDIE, go beyond the acronym of course, and gently explain what goes into each step and why.
  • Suddenly the tables have turned and now you’re the Subject Matter Expert! So remember that this person is a novice (most likely) in the area of Instructional Design. Don’t get bogged down in theory – you don’t even need to call it by it’s name. But do explain some key concepts and provide plenty of examples. Let’s look at a few specific ideas you can share now…
  • Explain your learning model. This is an example of our 6 step model that really works well. Explained simply, it often clicks with a SME who can now think differntly about how to organize the material.
  • Suddenly the tables have turned and now you’re the Subject Matter Expert! So remember that this person is a novice (most likely) in the area of Instructional Design. Don’t get bogged down in theory – you don’t even need to call it by it’s name. But do explain some key concepts and provide plenty of examples. Let’s look at a few specific ideas you can share now…
  • (for the novice, less is more)
  • One key principle to share with a SME is the concept of chunking. So often we’re handed hugely dense PPTs. Explain the basic principles of “chunking” – create short, bite sized sections of content that can be easily chewed off and digested. Working memory gets involved here and we’ve been told the human brain can generally handle between 3-7 new bits of information at once. Keep it chunky for easier digestion!
  • You may want to create a cheat sheet or job aid outlining your favorite ID theory or design process. Put this into terms that the SME will relate to – insert examples, make it relevant.
  • Adhere to your own best principles of instructional design. Don’t overwhelm your learner – in this case, the SME. Keep it short and sharp and in terms he or she will understand and relate to.
  • Offer up yourself as a resource. The role of the ID may indeed be changing to the role of a mentor. Some could see this as a bit disturbing – the SMEs are taking away my work! – but really it allows the ID to become more specialized and focused. As you coach and mentor, you hone your expertise and skills even more…and you become more indispensable than ever.
  • http://www.kineolearning.com/60minutemasters/
  • http://www.amazon.com/Source-Instructional-Design-Nathan-Eckel/dp/142763596XOpen Source ID by Nathan Eckel.
  • Be sure to check out the Working with SMEs section of MyKineo – including our rapid guide on “How to Manage Subject Matter Experts”.If you don’t already have access to MyKineo, we’ll make sure you’re set up after this session. We’ll be adding the recording of this sessions there along with other useful resources.
  • Steve
  • Started in 2005, now 60+ staff, $10M RevenueOffices in Boston, Chicago, (U.S.)Brighton, Sheffield (U.K.)Israel2008 WinnersUS blended learning solution of the yearUK e-learning company of the yearUK rapid e-learning awards
  • Power to the SMEs!

    1. 1.
    2. 2. Power to the SMEs! Empowering SMES to create better eLearning.<br />
    3. 3. Many of usstumble into this field because we were really good Subject Matter Experts with an aptitude for training. Is that you?<br />
    4. 4. Have you ever been a SME on an eLearning project?<br />
    5. 5. At a training department near you, SMEs are handing off their slide decks.<br />
    6. 6. You’re the ID who has to turn that dump into eLearning.<br />
    7. 7. You’ve got three short weeks to build it, but there’s too much to do! <br />*Time* ticking away: http://www.flickr.com/people/mike9alive/<br />
    8. 8. You want a more streamlined process and better eLearning outcomes.<br />
    9. 9. Help the SMEs see the forest and the trees with three key strategies.<br />
    10. 10. Define the design process so the SME knows their role and how they fit in. <br />
    11. 11. First, explain the design and development process. <br />
    12. 12. Provide a high-level view of the key project milestones.<br />
    13. 13. Clearly inform them what they need to do and how long it’s going to take.<br />
    14. 14. Emphasize the importance of face-to-face meetings and workshops.<br />
    15. 15. Second, help them visualize the inputs and the outputs.<br />
    16. 16. Show them examples of similar eLearning projects.<br />
    17. 17. Provide an example scoping document, script or PPT.<br />Initial scoping document<br />Storyboard/script in Word<br />Wireframe storyboard in PPT<br />
    18. 18. Provide templates for them to work with.<br />
    19. 19. Third, agree to your schedule and the way forward. <br />
    20. 20. Agree who is going to do what.<br />
    21. 21. Check availability and time and set realistic deadlines.<br />
    22. 22. Closely manage the SME and the process!<br />
    23. 23. Ask the right questions to get the right content. <br />
    24. 24. First, understand that your time with the SME is probably limited! <br />
    25. 25. Even the most committed SME may only have a short block of time.<br />
    26. 26. How can you get the most out of that time?<br />
    27. 27. Prepare the top five questions you want to ask. <br />
    28. 28. Question 1: What are the top five things people must know?<br />
    29. 29. Question 2: What key steps/processes people must follow to do this right?<br />
    30. 30. Question 3: What are the five most common mistakes people make?<br />
    31. 31. Question 4: Can you tell me five case studies or stories about the topic?<br />Storyteller: http://www.flickr.com/people/nickpiggott/<br />
    32. 32. Question 5: Where should people go for more help and information?<br />
    33. 33. What key questions do you ask a SME?<br />
    34. 34. Next, turn the answers into key teaching points. <br />
    35. 35. These teaching points will drive your design forward.<br />
    36. 36. Educate the SME on the basics of Instructional Design. <br />
    37. 37. First, determine if your SME even wants to know more about ID! <br />
    38. 38. Some SMEs may just not be interested in your ID mumbo jumbo.<br />
    39. 39. This may be their only training project, so it’s not worth your investment.<br />
    40. 40. If it is a good fit, proceed…<br />
    41. 41. If they’re willing, explain basic principles of ID and adult learning. <br />
    42. 42. Explain the basics of ADDIE (if that’s your model).<br />Analysis<br />Design<br />Development<br />Implementation<br />Evaluation<br />
    43. 43. Keep it practical with lots of examples.<br />
    44. 44. Share your learning model and explain why it’s a good approach.<br />This is one model we like to use, but do it your way!<br />
    45. 45. Share some learning tips.<br />
    46. 46. Tip 1: The expert no longer knowswhat he knows! Remember the novice.<br />
    47. 47. Tip 2: Content should be chunked to allow for the constraints of our brains.<br />
    48. 48. Tip 3: Providing context creates more memorable and sticky content.<br />
    49. 49. What learning theory or model or tip would you want to share with a SME?<br />
    50. 50. Create customized job aids.<br />
    51. 51. And of course, you’ll have more...but keep it simple!<br />
    52. 52. Finally, provide resources to learn more if they are so inclined. <br />
    53. 53. You’re a resource! Be a mentor!<br />
    54. 54. Check out the 60-Minute Masters.<br />http://www.kineolearning.com/60minutemasters/<br />
    55. 55. Read “Open-Source Instructional Design”.<br />http://www.amazon.com/Source-Instructional-Design-Nathan-Eckel/dp/142763596X<br />
    56. 56. Access useful tools and resources on MyKineo.<br />http://www.kineo.com/mykineo<br />
    57. 57. Define the design process so the SME knows their role and how they fit in. <br />
    58. 58. Ask the right questions to get the right content. <br />
    59. 59. Educate the SME on the basics of Instructional Design. <br />
    60. 60. Helping SMEs see the leaves…<br />
    61. 61. …the trees...<br />
    62. 62. …and the forest.<br />
    63. 63. I learned something new today that I think I’ll try out on my next project!<br /><ul><li>Yes!
    64. 64. No. I knew all of this already.
    65. 65. Maybe. But I need to know more.</li></li></ul><li>September 30: Build it fast, build it right – Product Knowledge e-Learning<br />October 14: Don’t be tone deaf! Creating tone of voice in e-Larning<br />Register at: http://www.kineo.com/mykineo/<br />
    66. 66. www.kineo.com/mykineo<br />
    67. 67. www.kineo.com<br />
    68. 68. steve.lowenthal@kineo.com<br />cammy.bean@kineo.com<br />