Building a Relationship with your SME’s

As an instructional designer we are often dealing with a high number of Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) at any given time. We work closely with them from the very early stages of a project right through to the completion stage.

It is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job, enabling us to really understand the subject and produce successful outcomes making everyone involved happy.

Here are some tips on how to make your eLearning successful and getting the best out of your SME’s:


I know it’s a cliché and maybe even common sense, but the most important thing is to ensure good communication throughout the whole process. This keeps everyone on the same page and also gives your SME’s confidence you understand what they want and need. Having an open-door policy is also helpful, letting them know it’s okay to call or email with a question. Ask them what form of communication works best for them, do they like long emails or would they prefer using instant communication tools such as Microsoft Teams. Many SME’s will be fitting the work they do on the eLearning course around their full-time role, so to have a productive relationship, it’s helpful if you can be flexible.

Support them through the journey

Very often the SME you are working with has never been involved in an eLearning course. They may have written numerous books on the subject, or have many years’ experience, but might not necessarily know how to get all that wonderful information out of their heads into a formulated eLearning plan. That’s where we come in. We help you define and develop your learning objectives, deciphering what information is important in order for the learner to achieve those objectives. As an Instructional Designer, we have no expectation that the information will be a perfectly formed document in the right order. We know that developing eLearning takes time and we will work with you to help shape your course. We can help identify areas that might need a little bit more information, or we can help you cut content down. We are there every step of the way.

Set expectations early on but be flexible

It can be very easy to get excited about an eLearning, it’s a wonderful tool, but we also need to consider what’s possible early on, so when the course is built the end result is as expected. We have to think about scope, timeframe, budget, and resources.  Setting out the process early, which includes discussing what’s in scope and out of scope is vital. As instructional designers, we want to help take your idea and turn it into reality. If you don’t have any idea of what you want, we can help you shape that. We are here to make sure your course is as engaging as possible and that your learner comes away with the information that they need. We take everything into consideration and offer ideas and solutions to achieve that goal.

Build trust and value your SME’s

Your SME’s insight is invaluable to the success of the eLearning.  Building trust and letting your SME know you value their expertise will make way for a more fulfilling relationship. This doesn’t mean you can’t ask tough questions or have tough conversations about the inclusion of content. It’s important to not dismiss any concerns or ideas they may have, always listen.  If you disagree over something that is okay, worth remembering a compromise goes a long way.

Remember that an SME’s is your teammate and is key to the success of a project. Lastly, have fun. You will be working with this person(s) for a while, possibly months and you want to enjoy your time together.

Get in touch

Thinking about eLearning for your organisation? Why not get in touch and see how we can help you? Contact us Online or by phone on 01383 630032we’d love to help you achieve success.



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