The challenges of the Subject Matter Expert (SME): time is finite, expertise is scarce, demands are plentiful. When an SME is faced with the need to allocate time to share their knowledge, there is often a tension between educating and putting that expertise to other duties. In some situations, an SME can find their expertise being requested for consultation by coworkers and clients at a rate that interferes with their getting their own work done. It is the tension between “the job” and the typically secondary role of teacher or mentor that differentiates a SME from a full time teacher. (Knowing nod to all you full time teachers — yes, there is more to teaching than “just teaching.”)It is the tension between “real job” and secondary role of teacher or mentor that is what differentiates a SME from a full time teacher. Click To Tweet
So how does a SME scale beyond the limited resource that they truly are? A typical approach to scaling the education process is to create a learning setting where the SME is able to dispense wisdom to a multitude. This could be a classroom, conference presentation, webinar… Where this approach typically falls short is that that these one-off engagements don’t provide the necessary framework for deep learning. Even if someone is forward thinking enough to record such a session, think back to the last video you bookmarked for reference. How much digital dust has it gathered?
The challenge is not just capturing the knowledge or getting the knowledge out the largest number of people; but also making sure the knowledge is useable both from an educational and reference perspective. Webinars and one-off meetings don’t provide either very well. What is required is thought into not just the distribution of content, but providing structure to facilitate the learning experience.
The SME’s disbursement of wisdom is best embedded in a structured learning process designed to maximize both use of time and learning retention. Ideally, primed students have the appropriate level of knowledge prior to engaging with the learning material/SME presentation. They should then have the opportunity to engage in discussion to provide clarification (relevance) of the material. Finally the material that was presented needs to be not only available on demand, but structured in a way that it is a useful reference after the initial learning experience.The challenge is not just capturing the knowledge or getting the knowledge out the largest number of people; but also making sure the knowledge is useable. Click To Tweet Broadly this process is independent (student) learning, guided learning (discussion) and independent review. In a slightly more detailed form:
You are perhaps now thinking that this is an awful lot of work compared to just finding a spare conference room and letting the SME share some knowledge. However, consider the product of all this work. The end result is a work flow where it should now be possible for the SME to be excused from even giving the presentation. The SME could now shift focus the highest-value activity — Step 3: Discussion with students that are up to speed, have had time to digest and wrestle with the content, and will be able to maximize the learning opportunity of conversing with the SME.Building an appropriate structure around on demand content enables scalable student learning. Click To Tweet
Building an appropriate structure around on demand content enables deeper and scalable student learning. It also frees the SME from repetitive content presentation and rather allows them to focus their teaching tasks on the higher-valued topical discussions. Although it is a fair bit of work to develop this in the front end, the end result is a way for the SME to increase the scale and effectiveness at which they can distribute knowledge.