Getting SMEs to Help in Stories and Scenario-Based Learning

Recently I viewed an archived webinar on creating scenario-based learning (SBL). I am not a stranger to this type of instructional development and am a firm believer in the benefits of using scenarios and stories to engage learners. Accompanying the webinar I found a discussion group on the topic of SBL. One of the threads posed this question to the facilitator of the program:

“How to get SMEs to help in Stories and Scenario Based Learning”?

Immediately I was drawn to this thread because in my own SBL experience I have found it difficult to get the SMEs to engage in the process. Here is what the facilitator, Dr. Ray Jimenez, had to say in response to the question.
We need to ask key questions to SMEs before we involved them in SBLs and stories.


1. What content would you consider areas for common errors and mistakes which impact the business or employee performance?

2. What content would you consider to be hard to learn? Hard to learn due to the nature of the content.

3. What content would you consider has a positive value to employee performance?

4. What content would you consider references and nice to have but can be learned later on the job.
The above questions help you and SME narrow down what truly matters for the learners to learn.
Focus your SBLs and stories on these types of content.

You may also ask the SME, “we only have so much time to train our employees on this topic, to save time and create business impacts, how would you prioritize that learners should learn foremost?

After identifying the above, do the following:

1. Ask the SMEs what stories, illustrations, anecdotes, examples, on-the-job real experiences do you use to answer these questions:

> How to I apply the ideas of the content?
>When faced with a problem, how should one approach solving it using the ideas?
>What would other people say regarding how they applied the ideas or the content?
>What situations tell us that the content made a difference on the employees job and the business performance?

> Please pick one or two scenarios, cases, real-life situations that will put the learner in a situation to decide and select the right options.
2. This is critical: Most SMEs are not the final beneficiaries or the stakeholders of the learning program.

Ask them: “With what you know of the target audience or the target internal client, what would the client consider to be the most important content the participants ought to learn”?
In conclusion, most SMEs are good in the knowledge they provide. Designers, developers, and trainers must be armed with the right questions; otherwise, SMEs will be controlling the training design.
In my book 3-Minute e-Learning I provided an SME Interview Guide to help designers manage the interview sessions with the SME.


Ray Jimenez, PhD is the Chief Learning Architect Learning and Technology Implementation at /

Many thanks to Dr. Jimenez and for this information.

Lisa M. Menke is the Associate Dean for Online Instruction at York College of Nebraska. Lisa is an avid fan innovation in learning design and transmedia storytelling. Lisa holds a graduate degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a graduate certificate in  online course development. Lisa and her family live in York, Nebraska.


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