SMEs Are from Mars, Instructional Designers Are from Venus

Conference Archive

Learning Solutions Conference & Expo 2019 - March 26, 2019

Tara Holwegner

Learning and Performance SME
Life Cycle Engineering

Course design is a partnership between subject matter experts (SMEs) and instructional designers (ISDs). The process has a technical side and a “people” side. Although the technical component can be rigorous, the people issues require SMEs and instructional designers to work together and produce a result. SMEs know their area of expertise, but they are not always familiar with the learning process. Likewise, instructional designers are well versed in the science of learning but often unfamiliar with the subject matter for which they are designing a course. Creating a common language between SMEs and instructional designers is possible if you have the right techniques to combat issues that arise.

This session will explore techniques to facilitate a productive SME/ISD relationship, including how to apply a partnership agreement, and you’ll learn about a four-step design process that increases accountability. The session will begin with an activity to connect to your experience and build a learning community. You’ll learn about motivators for SMEs to participate in course development and a partnership agreement, which you will complete. The session will continue with a virtual role-play as you observe a dialogue between an SME and instructional designer characters. Next, you’ll examine the four-step design process to increase SME/designer accountability. The session will conclude with a key learning review and action planning exercise to help you create a true partnership and productive relationship with SMEs.

In this session, you will learn:

  • Techniques to facilitate a productive SME/ISD relationship
  • How to apply a partnership agreement to an SME/ISD relationship
  • A four-step design process that increases accountability
  • How to apply four principles of learning to the SME/ISD relationship


Designers, developers, managers, and subject matter experts

Technology discussed in this session:

Video, virtual meeting tools, and document collaboration sites



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