Tip #612: Moving SMEs to Interactive Learning

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.” Sue Grafton

An international organization asked for suggestions regarding how to move their highly technical subject matter experts (SMEs) from reliance on lecture and PowerPoint to interactive learning in 1.5 hour modules.

These were my recommendations:

  1. Ask the SMEs exactly what they want the participants to know or be able to do when they leave the session. This will give you the content portion of the goal- what the participants will learn.
  1. Make sure you also find out why the participants will want to learn this- what will they do with the information or skills imparted?
  1. Provide a reality check- there is only so much information people can absorb in 1.5 hour. Help the SMEs recognize what is reasonable to do in the given period of time.
  1. Ask the SMEs to indicate the slides that contain information that is not essential to achieving that goal. This may be somewhat of a struggle because they may feel that every piece of information is essential.

You can help them through this by assuring them that all of the information will be in the participant manual as reference- you need to know what information they will actually have to work with during the 1.5 hours

  1. Take everything that remains on the PowerPoint slides and put them (text, photos, graphics) into a participant manual.
  1. Chunk the information into small sections, so that the participants are not overloaded with information.
  1. Decide what level of learning is desired so you can decide what type of learning activities would be appropriate for each section.
  1. Decide what learning activities will be most useful. The SMEs may be able to answer this very easily if you prompt them (or they are already familiar) with different interactive learning activities.
  1. Create the necessary worksheets and directions for each activity.
  1. Determine exactly what information the participants need for a specific activity.
  1. Decide where a graphic would be more effective than text.
  1. Create a questionnaire/quiz to check for retention by pulling the key content and providing multiple-choice options for the answers.

 None of these recommendations are new to the SMEs, since they’ve all had training in adult learning and interactive learning techniques. However, moving from the familiar to something new is typically challenging. We’ll see if they take these recommendations to heart and actually execute them!

May your learning be sweet.


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