You MUST Do This When Designing Training

If you forget to do this one thing when you design your training, be prepared for potentially hours of rework and a lot of finger pointing.  In our field, it isn’t easy to get cooperation from subject matter experts (SMEs).

From what I can tell in my own personal experience, SMEs never have “the time” to be bothered with training; getting their input can be like pulling teeth – this can cause quite the dilemma.

Truth is, SMEs are needed in order to create quality learning, be it instructor led courses or computer based training.  We can’t be expected to know everything about all topics, and nor should we – yet we are judged on the overall completeness of the courses we create, so someone here has to give.

Personally, I spend a lot of time “just stopping by” my SMEs desks.  I often just talk to them casually about their day without any agenda.  This way, when I actually DO need something, then I don’t feel bad about stopping by and asking for it.

A word of warning here: just because you are making an effort to be friendly should not be mistaken for being a push-over.  If you need something and you’re on a tight timeline, don’t be afraid to put your foot down.

Besides this little trick, there is one more thing that you MUST do when designing training: get sign-off from the SMEs.  This soudns relatively simple in theory, but I have found that getting someone to sign their name to something is one of the hardest thing to do, and for good reason.

You see, by making SMEs sign-off on the content, it holds them accountable.  Their now is an audit trail leading straight back to their input.You should get multiple sign-offs from SMEs and other key stakeholders at multiple points.  Get one for the storyboard, the cosmetic design (PPT slides, eLearning template), and the final course.

What’s nice about having sign-offs is that you are essentially covering your own butt during the development process.  Should you be questioned why something is included in the training, you can now say, “this has been reviewed by person X, Y, and Z, all of which have reviewed and signed off on the material”.

Do yourself a favor, next time you are creating training and need SME input, set the expectation up front that you will be getting their sign-off when all is complete, you will find that they will take the review cycles more seriously, limiting the amount of rework upfront and it provides you a paper trail down the line if ever the content or methodology is questioned by stakeholders at a later point.


Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Twitter | LinkedIn

3 Responses

  1. A sign- off will be of little value if the training is a failure. Cover your butt by building effective training. Period.

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