There are a number of reasons why we, as designers and leaders, seem unable to reshape the conversation with SMEs. Although our businesses demand that learning must be shorter, more useful, easier and affordable, we consider ourselves helpless. We succumb to producing long courses (sometimes never deviating) from the SMEs’ PowerPoint slide decks.
Far Removed from the Realities of Content
When a designer receives a PowerPoint from an SME, he/she usually has no experience relevant to the content. The designer immediately faces a wall. This makes him/her feel incapacitated if the goal is to rewrite the materials into instructional courses.
On the other hand, if there is an immediate recognition that the subject is “foreign” to us and our goal is to use a process to make the content useful, shorter, relevant and easy to deliver, our focus shifts from merely converting content to making it immediately useful.
When thinking of converting content, we often fall back upon our traditional role and knowledge. We tend to organize content into a linear presentation with learning objectives, expounding points and testing learners for retention. The need for immediate content accessibility and usefulness oftentimes, runs counter to the linear teaching mode.
Designers’ Thinking and Questioning Minds
By reshaping the conversations with SMEs, we have an opportunity to extract the value from the content into a useful lesson or course. Admittedly, some SMEs are inaccessible and rigid, but many are earnest in making their expert content add value to the learners.
I often use the following set of questions.
- Let’s review the PowerPoint deck and review the modules and lessons.
- What is the lesson trying to solve or improve? Where and how are the impacts in the business? (Ask for specific records from company data and also for anecdotal information, e.g. high rejects, high risk in lawsuits, high injuries, high customer complaints, etc.)
- If you were to rank the most important to the least important content in terms of impact on solving and improving the item, how would you rank them? (This is finding the must-learn)
- What are the key or essential knowledge and skills that the learners must learn to avoid this problem or improve this item? (Cite the specific problem or concern. Drill down to the details.)
- What example, story or real-life event may help the learner understand this content faster? (This is adding stories.)
- What parts of the content will learners likely learn or refer to while on the job? This will be provided as reference and nice-to-learn later on the job. (This is finding the learn-on-need)
It is my contention that in certain instances, we missed making our content useful, short and easy to use because we provide SMEs with no alternatives away from or to improve linear content presentation. When we shift the conversation to the business impacts, the discussion changes from the courses per se to helping learners do their jobs faster and better. This goal, SMEs and all of us can agree on.
Our purpose should change and so should our mindset and questions too.
Tip #52: Are Your Learners as Intelligent as They Can Be?
Tip #61: Case Study- Reducing eLearning Cost to 50% by Using Must-Learn Lessons and Micro-Learning
Tip #82: Role of Stories in Learning - A Map
Ray Jimenez, PhD
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"