to More Effectively Work
with Volunteer SMEs
THOSE OF US IN ASSOCIATION AND CORPORATE EDUCATION DREAM OF THE PERFECT SUBJECT MATTER EXPERT (SME): AN AUTOMATON THAT PROVIDES INFORMATION ON DEADLINE, IN PLAIN LANGUAGE AND DIRECTLY RELATED TO LEARNING
OBJECTIVES; AN EXPERT NOT ONLY IN THE SUBJECT MATTER OF WHICH THE
TRAINING IS BASED, BUT ALSO IN ADULT LEARNING THEORY; A SELFLESS PROFESSIONAL MOTIVATED ONLY BY THE DESIRE TO MEET A TRAINING NEED OR DEVELOP
AN EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT FOR THE GOOD OF THE PROFESSION.
And then we wake up. Multiple messages
via e-mail, phone and skywriting go
unanswered. Not one SME can envision
the training from the perspective of the
student. A war of egos rages.
This is an exaggeration, of course. A
perfect storm of training development
challenges is yet to occur. But with volunteers — the usual variety of SMEs in
the association environment — the challenges can be greater as volunteers are
not directly accountable for training
development as part of their jobs.
Contrast the challenges with the
importance of providing the best training
possible. Respondents in a 2007 study
conducted by the American Society of
Association Executives & The Center for
Association Leadership ranked “
providing training/professional development to
members” first among nine survey items
offered as the most important functions
of an association.
Your members demand quality education, and SMEs are essential to providing
it. So rather than waste time dreaming
of the perfect SME, develop strategies to
work more effectively with them. Three
such strategies are described below.
GIVE SMES OPTIONS FOR PROVIDING
At the Institute of Real Estate Management, an international association for
real estate management professionals
with nearly 10,000 students annually,
the curriculum development team allows
SMEs to provide information and feedback via e-mail, Web conference, phone,
fax and snail-mail. The team recently
began providing another option for SMEs
to contribute via the Institute’s Blackboard online learning system.
For each development project, the
team works with the Institute’s online
knowledge management staff to establish
modules in Blackboard so that SMEs can
log in and discuss approaches to concepts
and activities, track milestones and
deadlines and download and upload files.
Use is encouraged but not required.
“Some members prefer to talk
through comments over the phone while
waiting in an airport, while others prefer
to use the track changes feature in Word,”
explains Rebecca Niday, IREM’s manager of curriculum development. “Others
enjoy the process of helping us think
through realistic case study information
in a live or virtual meeting. The variety
of options for providing feedback helps
ensure that participation in a training
development team remains a manageable
and rewarding volunteer experience.”
Manageability of the development
project is a key benefit of the Blackboard
system for the curriculum development
team as well, according to Niday. The sys-