Universal Mentors Association

Collaborating With SMEs: 5 Tips For Exceptional eLearning Courses


Maximizing Collaboration For Effective eLearning

In the realm of eLearning, Instructional Designers often collaborate with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to create courses that truly resonate with learners. However, this partnership can sometimes present challenges, as Instructional Designers and SMEs have distinct perspectives and expertise. To bridge this gap and maximize the potential of collaborative eLearning course development, we present five essential tips for Instructional Designers. By implementing these strategies, designers can effectively tap into the wealth of knowledge SMEs possess and create engaging, learner-centric online courses that drive real results.

5 Essential Tips For Instructional Designers

Tip 1: Building Strong Relationships

Developing a strong relationship with SMEs is the foundation for successful collaboration. Taking the time to understand their domain expertise, establishing trust, and cultivating open lines of communication are critical. Engaging in active listening, asking clarifying questions, and demonstrating a genuine interest in their insights will foster a sense of partnership. Regular meetings and face-to-face interaction, when possible, can also deepen relationships and facilitate a greater understanding of the subject matter. By building a rapport with SMEs, Instructional Designers can create an environment that encourages open dialogue, leading to more effective collaboration throughout the course development process. Building strong relationships also opens the door to ongoing collaboration beyond a single project, enabling Instructional Designers and SMEs to work together more seamlessly in the future.

Tip 2: Clearly Define Roles And Expectations

Setting clear roles and expectations from the outset helps streamline the collaboration between Instructional Designers and SMEs. By clearly communicating the responsibilities of each party and emphasizing their unique expertise and contributions, potential misunderstandings can be avoided. Defining timelines, deliverables, and milestones ensures that everyone is on the same page and working toward shared goals. This clarity of roles and expectations allows Instructional Designers and SMEs to align their efforts more effectively and efficiently. Establishing a mechanism for resolving conflicts or disagreements regarding roles and responsibilities is also important, fostering a collaborative environment based on mutual respect and understanding.

Tip 3: Effective Communication And Feedback

Open and effective communication is key to a successful partnership with SMEs. Instructional Designers should establish regular communication channels and formats, ensuring that both parties can easily share information, provide updates, and seek clarification. Clear and concise communication, using appropriate language for both technical and nontechnical stakeholders, helps bridge any gaps in understanding. Active listening is crucial during communication with SMEs, allowing Instructional Designers to grasp their expertise and insights fully. Additionally, providing timely and constructive feedback to SMEs on their contributions fosters a collaborative learning environment and strengthens the course development process. It is important to offer specific feedback that highlights strengths and suggests areas for improvement, maintaining a supportive and productive relationship. Regular check-ins and progress updates can keep both Instructional Designers and SMEs informed and engaged, facilitating a smooth course development process.

Tip 4: Leverage SME Expertise

Subject Matter Experts possess valuable domain knowledge that can greatly enhance the quality and relevance of eLearning courses. Instructional Designers should actively seek SME input during the course development process, involving them in content creation, reviewing, and validating learning materials. By leveraging their expertise, Instructional Designers can ensure the accuracy and authenticity of the course content, as well as enhance learner engagement. SMEs can contribute by providing real-world examples, case studies, and practical insights that resonate with learners, making the learning experience more meaningful and applicable. Collaborative brainstorming sessions and discussions with SMEs can lead to innovative and effective approaches to course design. Furthermore, SMEs can be ambassadors for the course, promoting it among their peers and contributing to its overall credibility and success.

Tip 5: Maintain Flexibility And Adaptability

In eLearning course development, unforeseen challenges and changes can arise. Instructional Designers should maintain flexibility and adaptability in working with SMEs. Recognizing that SMEs may have time constraints or changing priorities and being prepared to accommodate such situations is crucial. Regularly reassessing project plans and milestones and allowing for adjustments, if needed, ensures that the course development process remains on track. Collaboration tools and project management software can aid in tracking progress and facilitating communication in a dynamic environment. Additionally, Instructional Designers should be open to incorporating new ideas and suggestions from SMEs during the course development process, fostering a spirit of innovation and collaboration. Embracing unexpected opportunities for improvement can lead to more impactful and engaging eLearning courses. Flexibility and adaptability enable Instructional Designers to respond effectively to evolving needs and deliver high-quality eLearning courses that meet the desired learning outcomes. By maintaining flexibility, Instructional Designers can navigate potential roadblocks and changes in scope while still delivering a valuable and engaging learning experience for learners.


Collaboration between Instructional Designers and Subject Matter Experts is crucial for developing effective eLearning courses. By implementing the five expert tips discussed above, Instructional Designers can establish strong relationships, clarify roles, communicate effectively, leverage SME expertise, and maintain flexibility throughout the course development process. Embracing these strategies empowers Instructional Designers to create learner-centric online courses that effectively transfer knowledge and engage learners, resulting in meaningful and impactful learning experiences. By bridging the gap between Instructional Designers and SMEs, eLearning courses can reach their full potential and deliver exceptional educational value. With a solid foundation of collaboration, clear communication, and mutual respect, Instructional Designers and SMEs can create eLearning experiences that inspire and empower learners.

eBook Release: LearnWise Consulting Inc.

LearnWise Consulting Inc.

Learnwise Consulting Inc. offers customized solutions in instructional design, content development, and training programs, leveraging cutting-edge methodologies to create engaging learning experiences.


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