Involve your subject matter experts: 5 tips for learning organizations

Involve your subject matter experts in course production and training

What is a subject matter expert?

A subject matter expert, or SME, is a person with deep knowledge within a specific field. In a business context, this knowledge is usually associated with a business function, division, unit, or geographical location. Your organization is likely to have many valuable internal subject matter experts. Each contributing to your business' daily operations and long-term success.

Involve subject matter experts in course production

To leverage and scale internal knowledge, you can involve your company's subject matter experts in the production of learning materials.

L&D can collaborate with these individuals to source relevant information through interviews, documentation, and repurposing of original documents. Although rich in information, these traditional methods can be time-consuming and difficult to interpret and manage.

To boost efficiency, you can give your SMEs more hands-on course production responsibilities. With the right tools and skills, they can become skillful course designers. After all, SMEs are instrumental in producing, developing, and quality-assuring the internal course offering. They can also play an important role in following up, or taking full ownership of entire training interventions.


Involving SMEs in training provides plenty of benefits associated with learning experience and business value.

  • Relevant and company-specific training
  • A time and cost-efficient way to expand your organization's course offering
  • Leverage and scale internal expertise
  • Reduced dependency on individual employees
  • Fewer middlemen and production hours. Giving your SMEs course production tools, your organization becomes less dependent on external production resources, such as agencies, project managers, script writers, and producers.
  • Reduced need for external (often generic) off-the-shelf courses.


Despite strong benefits, there are some challenges associated with involving subject matter experts.

  • Maintaining quality and structure as the course offering grows
  • Less attention to the learning experience
  • Misalignment with business priorities (settings, follow-up, development, and updates)
  • Variations in course format and quality

Your ambition: quality and structure help you succeed

So what is the dream scenario when involving SMEs in course production? To enjoy all the benefits, while steering clear of common pitfalls, your organization should aim for quality and structure. As the number of course designers grows, so does the need for clarity. All course contributors need to have a mutual understanding of the learning goals and processes. Especially those without previous training or LMS experience.

Below, we have listed 5 prerequisites for involving subject matter experts in training.

5 prerequisites for involving SMEs in course production

1. Organizational maturity - secure a solid knowledge foundation before starting

Involving your SMEs requires a certain level of organizational maturity. Before getting started, your organization needs an established L&D framework. Academy owners, LMS admins, and super admins need knowledge in course production and administration.

Having a solid knowledge foundation is essential in order to expand and involve others in training. Start by gradually involving members of the organization. Not everyone can start at once.

2. Subject matter experts need good training skills

Alongside their specialist skills, your SMEs need good capacity to train others. Training skills and a learner-first mindset are key.

To support your SMEs, you can provide them with course production training. The goal is to increase the understanding of learning design and how to drive engagement and results.

3. The right attitudes encourage knowledge sharing

Attitudes are essential. A positive approach towards knowledge sharing is essential. Core values should include team success and collective learning.

It is also important to recognize your employees' individual characteristics and personal strengths. When organizations only emphasize individual performance and results, employees might refrain from knowledge sharing in a worry that they might lose their value.

4. A user-friendly LMS lowers the barriers to knowledge sharing

To help your SMEs create courses, you need an LMS with a user-friendly authoring tool. It should be easy to design courses and other learning resources, regardless of previous training or LMS experience. Dynamic admin rolls give your subject matter experts customized tools and admin rights.

5. Company-specific guidelines improve quality and structure

Having a mutual understanding of goals and processes is key in order to create a structured, consistent, and high-quality course offering. Company-specific guidelines help clarify the look and feel of courses and how they should align with the company culture. Best practices could include your company's use of language, images, and other quality-improving elements.

Each course adds to your organization's internal academy, which is the go-to hub for acquiring and sharing knowledge. In other words, it is a key component in learning organizations. It is thus important to maintain high quality.

Key take-away: Use tools and frameworks designed for involving subject matter experts

At Learnster, we understand that your subject matter experts are essential to your organization. Involving them in course production helps you harness and scale internal, valuable knowledge. They can also help you make the learning material far more fit for purpose and useful to your learners.

Our Learning Designers and Customer Success Managers have extensive experience developing learning materials - both first-hand and from working closely alongside our 200+ customers. We have boiled down this knowledge and experience into a 5-step process. The goal is to help you coach your SMEs into becoming stellar course designers.

Together with Learnster's user-friendly LMS, this framework helps you ensure a high-quality and relevant course offering - by your organization, for your organization.

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