Subject Matter Expert: Definition & Role

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  • 0:01 Subject Matter Expert
  • 0:35 Role
  • 2:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Peggy Olsen
A subject matter expert (SME) provides the knowledge and expertise in a specific subject for a project. The SME ensures that the content is accurate. Learn more about subject matter experts and test your knowledge with quiz questions.

Definition of a Subject Matter Expert

When an organization needs to create training materials, a subject matter expert (SME) is an important part of the team. An SME has proficiency in his or her subject and guides other professionals on the project to ensure the content is accurate.

The proficiency generally comes from education and experience. SMEs come from academic, technical, and vocational fields. They may work on different types of projects and have slightly different duties, but their role is essentially to ensure the facts and technical details are correct.

Role of Subject Matter Experts

A variety of educational projects require a subject matter expert, including, but not limited to, training videos, manuals, courses, and assessments. In the case of developing a course or training, the SME will select the objectives and content, in addition to reviewing the final product to ensure editing did not change the content, but others on the team will determine the presentation of the information. Others working on the project may not have expertise or even knowledge of the subject area, but may be experts in instructional design and presentation. Technical accuracy is the primary goal of the SME.

SMEs may be used on educational publishing projects to check the accuracy of test questions. Depending on the requirements of the project, the SME may be responsible for writing the questions or just review after they are written by assessment writers.

SMEs may also take on writing roles for a course, a manual, textbook, or resource guide. For example, a textbook may include an instructor's guide that an SME may provide content for, based on experience and knowledge about which techniques and strategies work best for students and teachers.

Subject matter experts know their topic well, so others on the team review to make sure no steps were skipped or jargon used without full explanation, so it can be understood by the audience it is targeting.

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