How Subject Matter Experts are the key to successful elearning production at scale

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are essential to L&D’s success. From understanding the context to developing the content, they shape your learning solutions. But their role doesn’t have to end there. With skill gaps and training needs on the rise, many L&D teams are looking for new approaches to meet demand. We spoke to L&D leaders from a number of large, global organizations to find out how they involve SMEs in successful elearning production at scale.

How-Subject Matter Experts are the key to successful elearning production at scale

Why SMEs are essential for elearning production at scale

Changing customer expectations, digital transformation and increased regulation have left many businesses facing skill gaps. L&D is key to overcoming these issues, keeping pace with change and making sure businesses and employees have what they need to thrive. But L&D teams are struggling to keep up with the demand and the list of training requests continues to grow. If they want to avoid becoming a bottleneck, a new approach is needed.

For many large, global organizations, this has meant SMEs playing a bigger role in learning projects. Rather than just providing content, SMEs are becoming elearning authors. And the L&D teams we spoke to were seeing lots of benefits to this approach:

  • Directly harnessing specific expertise areas
  • Ensuring learning is relevant
  • Responding to emerging skill gaps more quickly
  • Unblocking L&D workflow so the team can focus on strategic oversight
  • Supporting truly scalable elearning production 

Interested to learn more about how you can keep up with demand, without sacrificing quality? Register for our upcoming ‘smart processes’ webinar.

What to consider when getting SMEs involved in authoring elearning

Of course, it’s not just a case of handing out authoring tool licenses and waiting for the results. Before you get your SMEs producing elearning, you need to set them up for success. 

Here are three key factors you should consider:

  • How can you best use your SMEs’ time?
    SMEs need to do their day job alongside their new elearning author role. Some may only produce elearning once a year. If you’re going to sustain their interest and keep to project timelines, you need to provide the right level of support and avoid overwhelming them.
  • How can you help SMEs produce effective learning?
    SMEs are content experts not learning designers. They’re also used to sharing their expertise face-to-face, rather than digitally. No one wants to rework unengaging and ineffective elearning, so you need to provide a framework that empowers SMEs to produce quality straight away.
  • How can you maintain oversight and quality?
    Getting lots of different people from across your organization involved in authoring elearning can lead to a wide range of results. If you’re going to maintain consistency, you need to put a robust process in place.

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How are other organizations setting SMEs up for success?

Whether starting out or well on their way with SME authoring, the L&D leaders that we talked to had many shared experiences, challenges and successes. Every industry and organization may be different, but all these L&D teams highlighted the same four steps to help keep SMEs and elearning production on track.

  1. Decide on your approach first

Don’t rush ahead and get SMEs creating elearning before you’ve decided on the approach you’re taking. Whether it’s design principles or a governance model, all the learning leaders we talked to said deciding on their approach upfront made it a smoother journey to elearning production at scale.

  1. Provide an onboarding package

Get off to the right start by onboarding your SMEs. The aim is to get SMEs engaged and feeling comfortable with the project, rather than overwhelmed with technical details. From a short kick off meeting to a design hub full of inspiring best practice examples, these L&D teams used a full range of onboarding tools to do this. 

  1. Take steps to maintain quality

Onboarding is just the start. You need to provide SMEs with the right level of support throughout the project to make sure quality and consistency are maintained. Many L&D leaders were directly involved in key approval stages, but they also used templates, guidelines and peer reviews to keep SMEs on the right path.

Check out these 3 design templates that will save you (and your SMEs) hours

  1. Create momentum

L&D leaders who were further along in the process of scaling up elearning production found that their SME successes organically fed back into the process. As the number of elearning champions and author community grew, so did L&D engagement levels and their learning culture.

Explore more ways how you can transform the way you work with your subject matter experts.

In summary

If you want to stay ahead of training demand by scaling up elearning production, you need to involve SMEs. Getting SMEs onboard, engaged and producing effective learning isn’t straightforward. But the effort you put in at the start will pay off with a smoother production process. And, ultimately, this will lead to your team better meeting your organization’s current and future learning needs. 

We spoke to L&D leaders from a variety of industries who have put this approach into practice. Although they used different models and tools, they all highlighted four key steps to setting SMEs up for success:

  • Establishing a clear approach from the start
  • Getting SMEs on board without the overwhelm
  • Providing the right level of support to maintain quality
  • Enabling your SMEs feed back into the process with peer support

Want to hear more examples of how these L&D teams set their SMEs up for successful elearning production? Download our SME best practice guide.

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