We have heard the saying, “Team work makes the dream work”. This also applies in e-learning development. This team comprises the developer and the Subject Matter Expert or the material creator and the Subject Matter Expert.

Let’s explore the important role that the SME has in the development of an e-learning course.

For those who may not be familiar, a Subject Matter Expert (or SME for short), is the key person involved in the creation of course material as they have in-depth knowledge of the subject. The course material may be compiled by a training instructor or a learning and development specialist, but it is the role of the SME to confirm that the content is accurate and relevant and will meet the deliverables.

When a course is in development, the active presence of an SME is important. Since developers are mainly responsible for the creation or conversion of the course into a format that is more suitable for e-learning, being able to get in touch with the SME as needed is important to the development.

In some cases, the SME may be involved from the beginning, before the content is handed over to the developers, but they are not involved throughout the development phase. This creates problems and delays for both the developers and those responsible for reviewing and signing off on the content.

The SME’s role in the review phase is crucial. Yes, the learning and development specialist or the training instructor can review the course and provide feedback, but the SME’s role is to check for accuracy, technical functionality and to provide detailed feedback making it much easier for the developer to implement any changes.

The SME helps to prevent a constant back and forth of changes that are fixed but not fixed correctly, as this is tedious and can quickly become expensive.


While a course can be built without an SME, it can create a great deal of work for the content creator and much more back and forth to implement changes and ensure that everything is as it should be.

Having a Subject Matter Expert involved at each step of the process from planning to delivery, will result in a much more effective and efficient development and delivery of an e-learning course.

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