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SMEs From the Ground Up

By  Chuck Hodell

SMEs from the Ground Up cover

Read a sample chapter.

Subject matter experts are at the heart of many instructional design projects. Yet there seems to be a vacuum of best practices and approaches to working with SMEs. Since instructional designers and trainers thrive on getting their content correct, there is no realistic way to do this efficiently and productively without finding the best way to work with SMEs.

This book will show you how to define the different SMEs and their roles for you and your learning and development teams. Learn how to develop plans for SME selection, communication, evaluation, and problem solving to ensure that tasks move along smoothly. No matter your level of experience in training, this guide provides the basics of building a productive working relationship with SMEs.

You will learn how to:

  • Select SMEs based on measurable, customized criteria.
  • Define and communicate SME roles and responsibilities. 
  • Manage SME committee structures and define roles and responsibilities.


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(*) The following formats are included with a purchase of this E-Book: PDF, EPUB, Kindle.


Chuck Hodell

Chuck Hodell is the author of the bestselling ATD book ISD From the Ground Up and has been involved in the worlds of training and education for more than 30 years. He has written extensively on instructional design and training-related topics for ATD, including several Infolines. He has enjoyed stints as a musician, police officer, telephone company repair technician, trainer, teacher, and academic administrator. Like many talent development professionals, his first exposure to training and instructional design was as a subject matter expert. He currently serves as associated director of the graduate program in instructional systems development at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. He is also the senior program director for instructional design at the Transportation Learning Center and academic adviser to the International Masonry Institute. Hodell has an undergraduate degree from Antioch University and an MA and PhD from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.


Effectively partnering with subject matter experts in instructional design projects is one of the critical skills a designer must develop. Yet most instructional design training programs place far less emphasis on this competency than they do on issues like objective writing, the ADDIE model, adult learning, and other ISD concepts. Dr. Hodell takes a methodical approach in defining and developing the various SME relationships and successfully incorporating them into the ISD process. As with all of Dr. Hodell’s books, this provides tools and specific processes that are immediately useful. The discussion question/case study construct at the end of each chapter is something we will use for our ongoing training of staff development.
Todd Brace
Director of Corporate Learning
Dr. Chuck Hodell strikes gold again! Recognizing the critically important role of subject matter experts (SMEs) in today’s increasingly complex training and instructional design field, Dr. Hodell provides a highly practical resource. A veritable buffet of goodies, this text begins with an introductory chapter on the types and roles of SMEs. Subsequent chapters tackle important topics such as managing SMEs, introducing SMEs to instructional design, and more advanced topics such as evaluating the performance of a SME and solving common problems that may arise. The last chapter is a gem all by itself—a robust discussion of what to do, and not to do when working with SMEs. As promised by the title, this text provides a “no-nonsense approach” to partnering with SMEs. A must for the bookshelf of every instructional designer!
Dr. Mary Lynn McPherson
Professor and Vice Chair for Education
University of Maryland School of Pharmacy
In today’s fast-paced, digital age society where face-to-face and online collaborations grow increasingly challenging and diverse, Hodell once again presents a practical and much needed guide for instructional designers. Trainers, designers, and subject matter experts will all benefit from Hodell’s expert advice and proven strategies that lead to efficient and successful partnerships between professionals.
Erica C. Boling, PhD
Associate Professor
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
SMEs From the Ground Up will change the way you think about incorporating experts into your training projects. The book is a practical guidebook for identifying, selecting, working with, evaluating, and above all getting the most from your SMEs. Chuck Hodell's approach to SMEs will have a big impact on your results.
Jenn Labin
Real World Training Design
SMEs play a critical role in instructional design projects, but managing this important relationship is not always easy. Dr. Hodell’s book offers a comprehensive and well-defined approach for building and maintaining a productive relationship with your SMEs. It provides insight into how to work with this important partner no matter your level of experience with the topic at hand.
Maura Walden
Director of Corporate Training & Organization Development
Johns Hopkins Healthcare LLC
SMEs From the Ground Up is an excellent resource for novice instructional designers and seasoned training project managers alike! In this very readable book, Dr. Hodell gives a systematic approach for creating and sustaining mutually rewarding partnerships with SMEs of all types. Hodell’s concise style provides actionable suggestions for fully incorporating SMEs into the ISD team.
Deborah Petska
Director of Workplace Learning
Danya International, LLC


Book Details

ISBN: 9781562868550

Pages: 160

Publisher: ASTD Press

Pub Date: May 2013

Formats: Paperback, PDF

Product Code: 111301

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