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How To Achieve A Successful Collaboration With Your SME

If all goes well, SMEs become part of your extended team. You can call on them for future projects to impart their wisdom and ask for help in identifying the takeaways. But it all begins with a clear understanding of goals, expectations, and roles. Subject Matter Experts need to know their part in the project and how much time they need to invest. Just as your organization needs to verify their level of experience and which resources they require. Schedule a pre-launch meeting to ensure the expert’s skills and work habits are a good mesh for your team. Then ask your eLearning SME these 7 questions prior to your next eLearning project.

1. What Is Your Experience With This Niche?

How long has the SME been involved in the online training industry? Are they knowledgeable about your niche or is this their first time dealing with the topic? The expert may not know every compliance regulation or policy. But they should be aware of the core ideas and concepts of the online training topic. If there are still some hazy areas, ask them about research methods and how long it will take to fill in the gaps.

2. What Is Your Usual Workflow Or Practices?

Everyone has a different way of doing things. While one online training SME might spend the first week surveying your team, gathering info, and evaluating LMS reports, another might jump right into the process and use references as they go along. So, ask your SME about their workflow and common practices. How do they usually approach a project of this scope? Does this mesh with your team’s approach? Or will you have to completely readjust your work practices to accommodate the SME? It’s important to be flexible, but they must also be willing to do the same.

3. Do You Already Have A Timeframe In Mind?

Of course, the SME probably won’t be able to give you an exact delivery date. There are too many unknown factors to consider. For example, it may take a bit longer to summarize the content or a collaborator is out sick. There could even be an issue with evolving objectives or goals that causes the SME to adjust course. However, request a general timeline for completion that includes individual tasks and milestones. This also helps with the next question on your list because you can map out the milestone payments in your contract.

4. What Is Your Fee Structure?

How much does the SME charge for their services and what does that include? Request a detailed estimate of their fee structure and payment terms. For instance, do they require payment after each phase of the project, or do they charge half up front and half upon completion? You should also clarify their payment preferences and whether any follow-up consulting sessions are thrown in. For example, they’re willing to meet with your team during the revision round to ensure all the info is accurate or guest-host a live event to share their expert knowledge with employees a month after the project wraps up.

5. Which Resources Do You Need To Get The Job Done?

You shouldn’t treat your eLearning SME like an encyclopedia. They still need resources to research certain areas and compile a list of key takeaways based on your online training objectives and desired outcomes. Some SMEs even double as custom content developers, which means they’ll need authoring tools to get the job done. Ask for a list of all the support tools they require and if that’s included in the price or comes at an additional cost.

6. What Should Employees Take Away From The Online Training Experience?

Ask your SME about what employees should know by the end of the course. What must they be able to do to display their knowledge? How should you evaluate their performance and proficiency in online training? The Subject Matter Expert should be able to sum up a few of the main discussion points in a way that’s easy to understand, instead of using technical jargon to explain the topic—and confuse learners. You can even give them this question ahead of time so that they have an opportunity to prepare a list.

7. What Are The Most Common Myths Or Misconceptions You Want To Dispel?

Every online training topic has some myths that surround it. Employees misunderstand certain elements or have certain preconceptions. Does the SME know about these knowledge transfer challenges and how to overcome them? Can they name a few of the most common untruths about the compliance issue or task? How are they going to dispel those myths and facilitate real-world application? Even if they don’t create any content, they should be able to offer recommendations. For example, they suggest using personal anecdotes and simulations to show employees how to use the skill in practical settings, as well as stress the importance of abiding by the compliance rule and why it’s not “just a bunch of red tape.”

These questions help you determine if an SME is the ideal partner for your eLearning project and set the tone for your continued collaboration. They will help you ensure that you respect their time and that you don’t waste yours on a content provider who lacks the necessary skills or experience. Of course, this list is just a starting point. Feel free to add your own questions based on online training objectives and team concerns. Give SMEs a chance to ask questions of their own to verify that your organization will uphold its end of the bargain.