Your most important resource

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Instructional designers are not usually experts on the topic they are designing learning for. Instead they are specialised in applying learning theory to solve problems and improve performance. This is why it is so important for Instructional Designers to work in partnership with Subject Matter Experts (SME), who are the experts in the learning topic.

When developing choices and consequences in a branching scenario, utilising your SME’s expertise will make the difference between a good branching scenario, and a great branching scenario!

Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of working with your SME:

Tip 1: Explain what a branching scenario is

If your SME can visualise what you are going to do, they will find it much easier to provide you with useful content. You can show what a branching scenario is by drawing a diagram on the board, show an example of a branching scenario you have done for another client/customer, or send them a good you tube or blog link that explains a branching scenario.

Tip 2: Get role clarity

Brief your SME on what you need from them. This helps prevent any role confusion and makes it easier for both you and your SME.

You’ll need your SME’s help to identify the specific behaviours the learner will need to perform to achieve the learning outcome. Help to source what potential mistakes the learner could make at each decision point. An understanding of the environment that the learner works i.e. where they will put the learnt behaviours into practice

It is not your SME’s role to do any design of the branching scenario, though suggestions and ideas from your SME should always be gratefully accepted. It is also not their role to spend time on wording or the flow of the scenario. It’s the Instructional Designer’s role to translate the content sourced from the SME into learning activities.

Tip 3: Workshop the branching scenario with your SME

I’ve found it useful and time effective to workshop branching scenario content verbally with the SME (whether by meeting in the same location, over the phone, or video conference) rather than asking the SME to provide the scenario content in writing. This takes the pressure off your SME; after all they are sacrificing their valuable time to help you! It also gives you more opportunity to ask questions and get clarity from your SME.

Tip 4: Plan questions to ask your SME

If you use your time wisely it takes very little time to gather content from your SME for a branching scenario. Plan the questions you will ask your SME to source all the scenario content you need. Here’s a few questions I use over and over again for different projects:

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Tip 5: Make sure your SME is involved in reviewing

To check for accurate content and a realistic branching scenario make sure your SME is involved in reviewing at multiple stages, including the storyboard, draft and final stages.

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