While SMEs have several distinct duties in the world at large, SMEs play special roles in our training environment that deserve our attention and emphasis. We put them into five groups for our purposes: technical, hybrid, instructional, functional, and sentinel SMEs. Each of these classes has distinct traits that contribute to our job. Not all SMEs are made equal, which is a significant benefit for trainers.
- SMEs in technical fields
The technological SME comes first in our list of SMEs. This group is primarily concerned with technical content and is unconcerned with other areas of the instructional design process, such as execution. Technical SMEs are brought in to give content understanding and ensure that all content-related details are right. These SMEs frequently collaborate in groups, and the higher the scope of a project, the more of these professionals you may anticipate being involved.
OEM (original equipment manufacturer) representatives, engineers, scientists, attorneys, medical experts, skilled crafts employees, and others are examples of technical SMEs. This group is supposed to have shown expertise in the subject matter, and these SMEs typically have certificates, degrees, or other professional status.
- Hybrid SMEs
A hybrid SME is someone who is both a content specialist and an implementation expert. These SMEs are expected to give assistance with both the content of a course or programme and the best methods for delivering it. Of course, this implies extensive documented knowledge in both fields.
This combination is beneficial in most, but not all, circumstances, however there are certain caveats to consider when evaluating a SME’s qualifications. If you are developing online college courses, for example, a college professor who has never taught or created a course for online implementation may not be a viable fit for both content and implementation competence. In fact, a SME’s combination of depth in content and lack of practical implementation skills might be a source of friction when planning implementation, because his or her opinions on online course design would likely differ from those of the more experienced design team members. In these instances, use caution.
- Instructional SMEs
The instructional subject matter expert category includes the positions of facilitator, mentor, coach, and instructor. While this group may have some subject matter knowledge, its major job throughout implementation is to improve the instructional features of the training. A technical course will almost certainly be taught by someone who did not participate in the conception, development, or administration of the training. Having this group’s opinion on the best approach to execute the material is frequently beneficial.
An instructor with extensive online course experience but no related topic understanding is an example of an instructional SMEs. There are also a number of competent trades instructors available to help with classroom and shop-level course development. Both of these professionals contribute significantly to the course design process.
- Functional SMEs
Experts in areas other than content or execution are frequently present on your design team and are critical to the success of your project. This might include programmers, software designers, photographers, artists, authors, and a plethora of other non-content knowledge. In most circumstances, we do not consider these important assets to be SMEs, but they are subject matter experts in their fields. Treating them in the same way as our content specialists will nearly always benefit the design team.
- SME sentinels
The fourth level of SME categorization is allocated for people in our world who manage and supervise many of our initiatives but may have less relevant or up-to-date subject expertise. These sentinel SMEs are often members of governing boards, grant committees, or high-level organizational executives, although they may also serve on oversight or technical committees. While they may not be directly contributing to the material, they may feel obligated to remark on certain elements of a content area’s technical side.
Sentinel SMEs may sit in on programme and course evaluations and expect their expertise to influence content selections. If they insist on influencing choices that the design team and other SMEs are in a better position to make, their contribution may be a distraction to the process. In other cases, technical and hybrid SMEs may act as sentinels on projects, where they may be a great asset in terms of moving positive momentum and direction as both a technical expert and a sentinel leader for the project.
Don’t get stuck believing that one person can only play one SME function in your business when you identify the many sorts of SMEs in your company. There are a few unique and gifted individuals who can contribute in a variety of ways. Just make sure you’ve recognised their duties in each circumstance so you can make the maximum use of their strengths.
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