tem serves as a central repository for all
information related to the project, such
as training outlines, drafts of participant
manuals, video scripts, and most importantly, SME comments crucial to development work. “The ability to have threaded
SME discussions in Blackboard helps provide a history for the feedback provided
and decisions made,” Niday says.
The last option can be particularly
effective, as someone who has experienced
the thrill of a dynamic learning environment sparked by a good activity can convince peers of their value. When developing
a new course on Low Income Housing
Tax Credits, an affordable housing program, IREM curriculum developers
counted on the one faculty facilitator
among a team of nine SMEs to achieve
buy-in on several activities. “LIHTC
requires a close observation of essential
steps necessary to comply fully with the
program,” says Steven Kerens, an IREM
faculty member for 26 years. “Through
activities, students have an opportunity
to demonstrate to themselves, and to me
as the instructor, that they know these
steps. I was concerned that others on the
team were visualizing a lecture format,
which does not achieve this objective.”
HELP SMES UNDERSTAND THE
Without sinking into adult learning theory,
you can help SMEs understand what is
effective in reaching students. For example, adult learners get the most from
training when they are able to share and
apply their experiences. Good learning
activities facilitate that process by placing ideas in realistic contexts, setting the
stage for lively discussion and allowing
students to demonstrate understanding.
However, SMEs often view activities
other than the conventional assessment
as time-consuming “fluff,” especially
when you suggest cutting content to make
time for the activity. Engaged association
members are passionate about their
profession and its practices. They may •
see the activity as the elimination of •
information essential to the professional •
development of their colleagues rather
than a more effective way of transferring
To help SMEs envision how a good •
activity will facilitate learning, run through •
a similar activity with them, incorporate •
an activity into the design process at a
SME meeting or enlist a SME with facilitation experience as your advocate.
UNDERSTAND WHAT MOTIVATES SMES.
Consider the following volunteer SME
• To obtain value from membership.
• To serve a profession by assisting in
the transfer of knowledge.
To demonstrate expertise.
To gain expertise.
To influence the association and its
• To influence the profession and its
To network with peers.
To compete with peers.
To achieve recognition and prestige.
You can engage SMEs by what motivates them, increasing energy and the
likelihood of quality contribution. Say an
SME argues for the inclusion of a particular professional method in a course,
but the information she provides is unfocused — a series of stream-of-consciousness e-mails. A gentle suggestion that the
method will reach hundreds of emerging
professionals each year, and thus permeate
the profession, may cause her to refine
the information so that you can sequence
it in a way that reaches the student.
Understanding what motivates volunteer SMEs also helps when various
approaches to training content are in dispute. For instance, if two SMEs are clashing in competition, they may not be taking
the most rational approach to development. In this case, appeal to another
motivation, as most SMEs have not volunteered on one motivation alone, or seek
the input of another SME.
Always keep in mind that what motivates a volunteer at the beginning may not
endure. As a failsafe, try to get what you
need from SMEs as early in the process
as possible, when energy and motivation
are at their highest.
Nonresponsive, ineffectual and quarreling SMEs are a fact of training development. As much as we want them to be
perfect, volunteers are busy professionals
with other obligations. They have responsibilities to family and friends. They have
aspirations and ideas that do not always
translate into learning objectives or training outlines.
By dreaming away the reality of our
volunteers, we not only make our jobs
more difficult, we discount the collegial
and respectful relationships we are able
to foster in the association environment.
Those relationships perhaps best facilitate the training development process.
When volunteer SMEs view those of us in
association and corporate education as
partners and allies rather than task masters, they are more likely to provide us
with what we need to develop the quality
education our members demand.
Todd Feist is curriculum developer, Institute of Real Estate
Management. He may be reached at email@example.com.
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