Behold the Power of the SME Interview

Since February 2012, I have had the luxury of shadowing a colleague as she developed an ILT (instructor led training) program.  From start-to-finish, I was included in nearly all meetings, brainstorming sessions, walk-throughs, dry runs – you name it.  When the day-long training program was delivered, it was a huge success.  By the end of the year, this should become an online training program.

From what I learned from this training, I have applied it in a new project.  Prior to kicking off the session, I’m engaging in high-level “interviews” with SMEs (subject matter experts) and other personnel.  When it’s time for the kickoff, I intend to have an outline for them to review, just like what is done with the ILT.  It’s something that I feel I’ve missed doing in the past, but just getting organized makes me feel much more confident going into this new project.

When my boss first mentioned shadowing my colleague, it sounded like a great opportunity.  I was a little worried that I would end up with less focus on computer based training programs.  I have a programming degree.  Sure, there’s a lot to be learned organizing a training program; however, I love the imagination that I can add into an online training.  How much could I really gain from this experience?

After our kickoff meeting, we began meeting with our SMEs.  Over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.  We brainstormed analogies we could use.  We built a case study that was well received (and wonderfully illustrative, if I do say so myself).  At first, it was a little (boring? time consuming? repetitive?) hard to understand the purpose.  Towards the end, I realized that I could comprehend the material better and ask better questions to get ideas on content.  It allowed us to branch out and try a couple new things in the classroom that were exciting to me.

Most importantly, I realized something critical.  From  February to June, I was learning what needed to be done for any training, regardless of delivery.  When the interview stages are skipped, it’s very difficult to guarantee content is pertinent – or factual in a worst-case.  Without pertinent content, it’s harder to get a user to buy into an online training program (some of our online programs are 4-5 hours long!).  Having seen both sides of the coin, it has really opened my eyes to where my time initially should be invested.

So now I’m on two new projects, one of which is the web delivery of this training program.  I am very fortunate that most of the work has been done for me!  The content is in order.  With the feedback from the ILT and all of my notes from previous discussions, I have everything I need to make a successful web program.


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