Systematic Training of Subject Matter Experts for Online Course Development

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Do you have trouble conveying your expectations to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in your online course development process? Come and see the Colorado Community Colleges Online (CCCOnline) process for training our SMEs on our processes and expectations in the development of high quality online courses.


I'm an Instructional Designer II at Colorado Community Colleges Online. I've been here about a year and a half, and have been developing online courses for the Colorado Community College System. I have an M.S. in Instructional Technology from the University of Wyoming. I've been working in the field of instructional design for over 25 years, and have been developing online courses for education (mostly for higher education) for about 15 years.

Extended Abstract

During this presentation, we will cover the following information. It will include a demonstration of the current version of the Subject Matter Expert (SME) Orientation.

 Colorado Community Colleges Online (CCCOnline) is a centralized organization for the design, development and delivery of online courses to the Colorado Community College System. We have been serving the Colorado community colleges for 20 years, in designing standardized online courses that are used to ensure student success across the state. We are continually working to improve our processes to design and develop high quality courses for students throughout the state of Colorado.

 The Instructional Design team works with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to design and develop all the courses for CCCOnline. Throughout our experience, a big challenge we faced was preparing potential SMEs to understand the processes, procedures, and expectations for developing online courses. Many of our potential SMEs have taught online or have developed their own courses, but most have little or no expertise in the design and development of a standardized course. This issue led to misunderstandings of what the expectations and responsibilities were for a SME, and miscommunication with the Instructional Design Team.

Three years ago the Instructional Design Team developed a self-paced Subject Matter Expert Orientation course that we required potential SMEs to participate in to better prepare themselves. While this gave the SMEs a basic understanding of our processes, there were still areas where many of the SMEs struggled. The roadblocks presented were concepts of backward design, creating outcomes, and scaffolding content. In an attempt to alleviate these issues, last year we developed a facilitated SME Orientation. The facilitated orientation is one full week, and includes discussions, interactive activities, and assessments. In the facilitated SME Orientation, we challenge our participants with a Course Map assignment where they create the outcomes, and outlines of the assessments and learning activities for the first module of content to give our SMEs a jump start for the class they are going to develop.

The following topics are covered in the course:

Module 1: The Course Development Process provides an overview of the CCCOnline process for developing a course. This is a high level view of our course development process.

Module 2: Creating a Course Structure provides the process for creating the structure of the course. We introduce the SMEs to backward design, scaffolding of course level competencies, and writing module level outcomes. During this module, the SMEs start working on the course assignment, which is the first module of the Course Map. This is our blueprint for the course, and having the SME start on this document provides them with a firm foundation for the course development.

Module 3: Assessment and Rubrics discusses different types of assessment, explains the concept of rubrics, and introduces our rubric template to the SMEs.

Module 4: Creating Content provides information on the creation or writing of original content of the course. This includes information on copyright, accessibility, universal design for all content used in the course. It also introduces the SME to Creative Commons licensed materials.

Module 5: Open Educational Resources introduces the SME to the concept of Open Educational Resources (OER) course development. We provide SMEs with the definition of OER, and information on what is involved in creating an OER course.


Question and Answer session:

We will have a facilitated discussion. We will ask the following questions of the participants:

  1. What do other organizations do for SME training/Orientation?
  2. What obstacles do you face when working with SMEs?
  3. How do you prepare your SMEs for the amount of time and effort required to develop an online course?
  4. How do you hold your SMEs accountable for meeting deliverable deadlines?