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Working with SMEs: This IDer's Process Part I

As with other instructional designers out there, it is not uncommon to work with multiple SMEs. For a new IDer this process can be a bit difficult to get used to. In my own experience, I have worked with multiple faculty members on different projects but only had one supervisor. I've found the biggest learning curve for me (personally) is the quick adjustment of working with SMEs with different methods of communication, work ethic, schedules, and prioritization.

So, for some individuals I understand exactly what they mean with limited room for misunderstanding. Other individuals are super vague. Some analyze the problems so deeply that one misuse of a word calls for elaborate meetings to understand. Having to switch gears on my communication and design process so quickly between projects is turning out to be a difficult task for this new IDer. Today's blog is focused on what I can do as an IDer to help make this transition an easy (or easier) one.

Take the time to make your communication clear

In a previous blog, I discussed how I misunderstood my SME on a project. While I realized what my problem was after the fact, it really did make me think about my communication process moving forward. For example, while face to face meetings are important - I've found it even more important to follow up each meeting with a quick email ensuring both parties are on the same page. Equally important, I've realized the importance of sitting on emails and making sure to read them a few times before hitting that send button. Most recently, use of a word "required" caused for a major misconception with what I was trying to communicate to another individual. Looking back, I should have used the words "call for" or "may necessitate" rather than "require."

Become familiar with an alternate viewpoint

By understanding where an SME is coming from or why they value something as important, it can help you as the IDer know where you can push the limits and why an SME feels strongly about certain aspects of their materials. When you understand what matters to the SME, it makes the design process easier to understand what is of value. While you do not want to stray away from good design choices, knowing what content the SME finds important can help you piece together and create instructional materials that meet both of your

Set deadlines and make a schedule

While your work towards a deliverable for an SME may be at the top of your priority list - this does not necessarily mean it is for your point of contact. Therefore, it is vital to set deadlines and make a schedule that both you and your SME are aware of. Email, chat, call, texts, and other technology now allow for an easier way to track changes and keep projects on schedule. However, I've found that some contacts prefer lots of communication via email and others prefer face to face or scheduled meetings.

While this list is not at all set in stone, it is what I've experienced thus far in my journey of becoming a more effective instructional designer.

Until next week,


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