New idea. Research. Create. Launch. New idea. Research. Create. Launch. New idea. Research. Create. Launch ... Getting a bit tired of the same old learning-content-creation-song?

Mix up your flow and start reaching out to both internal and external subject matter experts (SMEs) to create learning content that stands out and will tune up the experience for your learners. 

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Why Is SME-Content a Good Idea? 

We hate to break it to you. But: You don't know everything. Now: Breathe. And realize: Yes, that is true. Even though it sometimes might seem like you should know everything to create brilliant learning content for your employees. 

Two heads are better than one, it is said. And in the case of SME-content, it is definitely true. SMEs hand over their specialized expertise to you, and you use your magic editing and distribution skills to create lasting value for your learners. Big applause to both you and your co-working SME. 

And if you choose to collaborate with an external SME, you will get a maybe even bigger applause to add something new from the outside that can create value on the inside of your organization. 

The Great SME-Content and Process 

Now, stop. Because you can easily mess up the content creation process, if you rush it.  Both you and your SME might have different approaches to work, so, if you do not communicate well about responsibilities in the process, you will lose great new inputs in the future, if the relation between the two of you gets knotted. And it will be too bad for your learners, who will not be able to harvest the delicious fruits from your SMEs. And bad for your SMEs as well, because they will not get to shine as they should. 

So, do not rush. Set up meetings with clear agendas and specific tasks, and who's responsible for what. You should also ask the SMEs how they would prefer to play a part in the creation process. Maybe they only want to provide feedback on the content you already did and/or be included in all meetings and emails. Furthermore, if the SMEs think they have to both create the content, put it in the right format, or maybe just deliver a draft, then the process might get dragged if you have not agreed on the terms for the partnership.  

Usually, it is a good idea for you as an expert of your learner audience to use your nice editorial skills, and be the one who picks the right format for the SME knowledge, so, the content is feasible for your audience. Whereas, it is often great if the SME stays in the role as (surprise:) SME and just provide the knowledge. This is the case for, especially, internal SMEs.

But sometimes, you do not even have to think so much about the process with an SME, if the SME knowledge comes from an external source, such as a podcast or a Youtube video (more about this in the examples.) But if the external SME is someone outside your organization, who needs to participate in the learning content creation process, then it is even more important to set straight guidelines for the partnership.  

A great relationship with your SME is key both in the ongoing project, but also if you want to use the SME in the future for new learning creation projects. That's why the above is so important to build a shared understanding of the process and responsibilities. And when the nice relationship is established, you can unlock more of the SME's knowledge and improve the learning content by using these questioning tips: 

  • Ask open questions using 'what, why, and how' to unlock longer and more in-depth answers. 
  • Use only yes/no-questions for confirmation. 
  • Dig into what's most important to the SME about this particular topic
  • Think in examples. Get the SME to speak about the topic in examples that your learners can relate to. 
  • Ask about the current status of this topic. Meaning, what trends do we see right now, and what does the future hold? 

Examples of SME-Content

You might have discovered an overlap between SME and User-Generated Content (UGC). And yes, you are right. They are similar. The difference is that UGC does not always come from SMEs, but can be content used in one case that can be beneficial for another department, group, or individual in your department. As well as SME-content also can come from external providers, whereas UGC always comes from your internal people. So, with that in mind, let's move to some of the examples of SME-content:

  • YouTube-videos with an external expert
  • Podcasts 
  • Powerpoint-presentations 
  • Articles online 
  • Webinars internal/external 
  • How-to-video with an internal expert 
  • Lecture

This list should be quite enlightening, that is, if you were confused before about the differences between internal and external SME-content, and what types could be implemented in learning paths and as modules.  

Sum-Up

  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can add extra value to your L&D-programs
  • SME-content can both come from internal and external SMEs
  • The process is everything. Set up clear meetings, tasks, and responsibilities to keep up a good relationship with your SME - now and in the future 
  • When a great relationship is established with your SME use specific questions to unlock more and better knowledge to feed your learning content
  • Examples of SME are: Podcasts, PPTs, and lectures
Guide to digital learning