Moving SMES to Interactive Learning

An international organization asked for suggestions regarding how to move their highly technical subject matter experts (SMEs) from reliance on lecture and PowerPoint to the more effective facilitation of interactive learning in 1.5 hour modules.

These were my recommendations:

1. Ask the SMEs exactly what they want the participants to know or be able to do when they leave the session. This will give you the content portion of the goal- what the participants will learn.

2. Make sure you also find out why the participants will want to learn these skills or information – what will they do with the information or skills imparted?

3. Provide a reality check – there is only so much information that people can absorb in a 1.5 hour session. Help the SMEs recognize what is reasonable to do in this given period of time.

4. Ask the SMEs to indicate the slides that contain information that is not essential to achieving their desired results for their training sessions. This may be somewhat of a struggle because they may feel that every piece of information is essential.

You can help them through this culling process by assuring them that all of this information will be incorporated as reference in the participant manual. Point out that you need to know what information they will actually be able to work with within the 1.5 hour timeframe.

5. Take everything that remains on the PowerPoint slides and put them (text, photos, graphics, etc.) into a participant manual.

6. Chunk the information into small sections, so that the participants are not overloaded with information.

7. Decide what level of learning is desired so you can decide which type of learning activities would be appropriate for each section.

8. Decide what specific learning activities will be most useful. The SMEs may be able to answer this very easily if you prompt them (or if they are already familiar) with different interactive learning activities.

9. Create the necessary worksheets, handouts, participant directions and facilitator guides for each activity.

10. Determine exactly what information the participants need for a specific activity.

11. Decide where a graphic would be more effective than text.

12. Create a questionnaire or quiz to check for retention by pulling the key content and providing multiple-choice options for the answers.

None of these recommendations were new to the SMEs in this organization, since they all had previous training in adult learning and interactive learning techniques.

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