SHIFT's eLearning Blog

Our blog provides the best practices, tips, and inspiration for corporate training, instructional design, eLearning and mLearning.

To visit the Spanish blog, click here
All Posts

Instructional Designers: How to Pick Your SME's Brain in an Interview


INTRODUCTION:

You may be an eLearning professional, but the subject matter expert or the SME actually flags off your course by providing the all-important content for you and your team to sculpt on. The SME may be a software programmer or a marketing analyst in your company, a professor, doctor, or a best-selling author who has penned books of encyclopedic proportions on the course matter. Whoever may be the SME, it is likely he is not your cubicle mate. You will probably get just a few opportunities to glean relevant content from him. So take the smart route to make the most of an SME interview. Here we will review the key steps you can take before and during, the interview to maximize its effectiveness.

SME-interviewv1


Preparing for the Interview

After you schedule a meeting with the SME, send him the agenda. Specify why you want to meet him and the kind of information you expect him to provide. If the SME knows what content you expect from him, he might bring along his notes or presentations to share with you. Your notes will also help him prepare mentally for the meeting; SMEs too can feel jittery at the thought of being interviewed!

Do your homework, so you ask the right questions and get the information that would be most helpful for your learners. Here's how you should prepare for the interview:

  • Read up as much as you can on the topic. You don't have to impress the SME; after all, he is the authority on the subject. But you can pack in much more within the interview duration if the SME doesn't have to explain every single jargon or concept to you. Besides, he will share his knowledge more enthusiastically when he realizes you share his passion for the subject.
  • Prepare a detailed questionnaire for the SME. This questionnaire will help you keep the interview focused and prevent your SME from turning it into an all-I-can-dump-on-you session. After all, you don't want to take copious notes on topics that do not align with the learning objectives of your course.
  • Carry a camcorder or Dictaphone to the interview. But ask the SME's permission before you record him. Here are some other tools for recording interviews.

Preparing the Questions for the Interview

Ensure you don't miss asking the critical questions. Asking the right ones can help you extract the "need to know" information you need to make a course meaningful.  Prepare the questionnaire keeping in mind the following pointers:

  • Ask specific questions. You know the learning objectives of the course. You also have an idea of what or how the learner is expected to perform after he completes the course. So you know what your learner needs to know. Now frame the questions for the SME. If you do not ask specific questions, the SME might go off track and end up giving you a lot of "Nice to Know" information that you cannot use in the course.
  • Ask open-ended questions. After you have guided the SME to a topic, let him take charge by asking open-ended questions. This ensures you can glean maximum information from the SME without having to learn about sundry other inconsequential topics in the process. You might even stumble upon interesting insights into the topic by letting the SME lead the way.
  • Ask about the difficulties a learner may face while learning. Because the SME has studied the subject, he knows all about the learning pain points. If the SME you will interview has training experience, ensure you ask him about his classes. Quiz him closely on how he explained certain topics—the examples or scenarios he used—and the common questions posed by the learners.
  • Ask about the performance mistakes that a typical learner may commit. The information you thus obtain might give you ideas about Job Aids that you can include in the course.

If you need some ideas of questiosn to ask read through this articles:

During the Interview

The SME will do most of the talking during the interview, but you must ensure that all of it makes sense. Afterwards, the SME will probably not be around to answer your queries.

  • Encourage your SME to explain with diagrams. If the SME is talking about processes or systems, request him if he can explain using simple diagrams. These diagrams will not only simplify the topic but will also serve as resources your graphic artists can refer to afterwards when developing the course. You might want to have a whiteboard handy. Ensure you photograph the diagrams.  
  • Request your SME to explain his use of terms like "check" and "ensure." As the SME explains processes or a sequence of events, he might use words like "check" and "ensure." These might be obvious to someone who knows the subject, but your learners may not know what to check. Clarify, so you don't leave out critical information in your course.
  • Clarify, clarify, clarify. Paraphrase what the SME has explained to you and repeat it to him. You cannot develop a course for your learners if you don't get a hang of the topic.


CONCLUSION:

Put yourself in the shoes of your learners when you prepare for your interview with the SME. During the interview, picture yourself as a student who is attending a lecture and has to reproduce the learning in an examination.

Free eBook: A Quick Survival Guide for Modern elearning Designers



 

Karla Gutierrez
Karla Gutierrez
Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT. ES:Karla is an Inbound Marketer @Aura Interactiva, the developers of SHIFT.

Related Posts

Redefining Your L&D Strategy In Disruptive Times: Enter Self-Directed Learning

Lifelong learning is now more important than ever. Technology has brought about many changes in the world of work, and those who don’t adapt will be left behind. This creates a problem for many business owners.  The Future of Jobs 2020 Report by The World Economic Forum revealed: Skills gaps continue to be high as in-demand skills across jobs change in the next five years. The top skills and skill groups that employers see as rising in prominence in the lead up to 2025 include critical thinking and analysis as well as problem-solving, and skills in self-management such as active learning and flexibility. On average, companies estimate that around 40% of workers will require reskilling of six months or less and 94% of business leaders report that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, a sharp uptake from 65% in 2018. A significant expansion of remote work is expected in the next few years— employers see the potential to move 44% of their workforce to operate remotely. Since the pandemic started, online learning is on the rise. There has been a four-fold increase in the numbers of individuals seeking out opportunities for learning online through their own initiative, a five-fold increase in employer provision of online learning opportunities to their workers, and a nine-fold enrolment increase for learners accessing online learning through government programs. 50% of employers will speed up the automation of tasks, while over 80% are set to expand the digitization of their work processes. In other words, jobs will disappear, and new jobs will surge. Specifically, they predict around 85 million roles are set to be displaced by automation and 97 million new jobs will emerge by 2025. All these shifts happening so fast require employees to take greater control over their learning journey and at the same time, require employers to act fast to ensure learners have the right information at the right moment.  A lifelong learning approach cannot be forced. That's why there's a huge opportunity for leaders in companies to focus their L&D efforts on empowering employees to embrace lifelong learning and promoting self-directed learning. In the end, not only companies are the ones that will receive benefits for this... lifelong, self-directed employees are the ones who will thrive in a rapidly changing world. Prioritizing self-directed learning is key to developing an adaptive and flexible workforce that is prepared to navigate the uncertain times and the "jobs of tomorrow." 

  • 12 min read
  • Fri, Dec 03, 2021 @ 09:13 AM

10 Types of Visual Content Proven to Boost Learner Engagement

Humans love visuals. In fact, we are wired to respond more to visuals than to words. That is why we are so hooked on Pinterest and Instagram. This is also the reason why Facebook posts and tweets with images get liked and are retweeted the most. But as an Instructional Designer, what should interest you more is the fact that the human brain can process visuals faster than text. So if you care about creating more engaging eLearning, you MUST include powerful and engaging visuals in your courses. Visuals take away from the burden of reading through tomes of text, navigating language ambiguities, and making sense of jargon and complex sentence structures. Learn the ten most useful tools that you can incorporate into your eLearning courses to get your content to stick and resonate with your audience: 

  • 17 min read
  • Thu, Nov 25, 2021 @ 04:44 PM

Strategies for eLearning Professionals to Maximize Employee Learning Time

In an age where continuous learning is widely becoming a mutual goal for both employers and employees, it is vital for a company to supply learners with a structured eLearning environment. Part of what conveys a stable structure of the learning environment is the ability to optimize the learning time and efficiency. Workers, in general, work hard and are consistently busy people leading busy lives. Taking time to learn something new, either concerning their work or for self-improvement, may also be consuming time where the worker could be actively accomplishing a key task.

  • 14 min read
  • Fri, Nov 19, 2021 @ 11:11 AM