The Need for Subject Matter Experts in Higher Ed and Adult Education

The Need for Subject Matter Experts in Higher Ed and Adult Education

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, the role of industry Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in designing online learning experiences is gaining prominence. Unlike traditional approaches led solely by full-time faculty, incorporating SMEs offers a myriad of advantages that resonate with the dynamic demands of today’s professional world. 

What are Subject Matter Experts?

A SME is an individual with extensive understanding of their field of profession. They have an advanced level of education and experience using their knowledge in a professional setting. At Ease, SMEs contribute to the development of learning content by checking learning courses for accuracy, relevance, up-to-date details, or authoring curriculum. 

Designing online learning with industry subject matter experts (SMEs) rather than full-time faculty can offer several benefits:

Benefits for Higher Ed and Adult Educators

  • Market Reputation
    • Courses developed with input from industry SMEs may gain credibility and recognition in the market. This can be beneficial for attracting students and establishing the program as relevant and valuable.
  • Responsive to Change
    • Industry experts are often more responsive to changes and updates in the industry. This agility allows for quicker updates to the curriculum to reflect any shifts in industry standards.

Benefits for Learners

  • Practical Application
    • SMEs can provide practical examples and case studies based on their experiences, allowing learners to understand how theoretical concepts apply in real work situations. This enhances the practical application of knowledge gained.
  • Current Industry Practices
    • Industry experts are more likely to be up-to-date with the latest tools, technologies, and practices used in the field. This ensures that the learning content reflects current industry standards and practices.
  • Improved Academic Efficiency
    • SMEs can improve faculty bandwidth by taking on tasks such as updating curriculum and generating assessments. They can be a revenue-generating solution in building or transferring content to digital platforms. 
  • Real-world Relevance
    • Industry SMEs bring practical, current, and real-world insights into the learning content. Their experience in the field ensures that the curriculum is aligned with industry needs and reflects the latest trends and practices.
  • Increased Engagement
    • Learning from professionals actively working in the industry can be more engaging for students. The practical insights and anecdotes shared by SMEs can make the learning experience more dynamic and interesting.
  • Skill Development
    • SMEs can provide insights into the specific skills and competencies that are highly valued in the industry. This helps in tailoring the curriculum to focus on developing the skills that are most relevant for professional success.

A Blended Approach

While involving industry SMEs has these advantages, a balanced approach that also includes full-time faculty can ensure a comprehensive and well-rounded educational experience. Faculty members contribute expertise in pedagogy, curriculum design, and educational research that complements the practical insights provided by industry experts.

The marriage of academic expertise and industry insights creates a powerful synergy that fosters a holistic educational experience. While industry SMEs infuse courses with invaluable experience-driven context while supporting academic efficiency gains, the inclusion of full-time faculty ensures a balanced approach. 

The blend of pedagogical expertise, curriculum design, and educational research offered by faculty members complements the dynamic insights provided by industry professionals. This harmonious integration not only appeals to students looking to build practical skills but also positions educational programs as credible and responsive to workforce needs. Embracing both worlds, we pave the way for a well-rounded and future-ready educational journey that prepares learners for success in the professional arena.

Laurie Pulido: A Catalyst for Educational Transformation
Laurie Pulido is the Founder of Ease Learning. Her insights and expertise are often cited in industry publications on topics related to DEI principles and innovative learning design. Most recently, Laurie has been a driving force in best practices for skills-aligned learning.

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