Dr. Luke Hobson
Author, Senior Instructional Designer & Program Manager @ MIT, Founder of Instructional Design Institute

Collaborating and Building Relationships with SMEs

Interactive learning experience • Self-paced • Get feedback directly from Luke

The most effective online courses are designed by instructional designers and SMEs who are on the same page. When these two parties both feel that they have an equal voice in the conversation and a partnership is established, the best possible learning experience is achieved.

It is worth emphasizing the use of the word “equal”. If you successfully establish boundaries and guidelines, the project will run more smoothly. Common struggles, such as tension due to disengagement from SMEs or conflict around the validity of online courses as effective teaching methods, can lead to chaos in the design process. While most instructional design courses will teach about designing curricula, utilizing theories, and applying concepts, the topic of collaborating with SMEs doesn’t receive as much attention.

"A true instructional designer is a relationship manager. I believe that my ability to collaborate with SMEs is a significant reason why my courses receive high student praise and feedback. In this course, I’ll describe everything I know about working with SMEs that have different kinds of personalities." - Dr. Luke Hobson

By the end of this course, you'll develop actionable steps to ensure that you can build strong professional relationships from the instructional designer perspective. You'll learn from real-life examples from other instructional designers, and receive personalized feedback from Luke about cultivating a collaborative relationship with SMEs that you currently work with now as well as in the future. By the end of this course, you’ll be able to have a mind-meld connection with any SME.


We're amazed by the diversity of our past participants. Some of our graduates were just transitioning into instructional design, while others work at noteworthy organizations like Tesla, Johns Hopkins, University of Alabama, and Mass General Hospital.

Working with SME's was just what I needed. As a new instructional designer, it helped me understand how to build and maintain relationships, how to influence with soft power, and how to research a SME in preparation for a kick-off call. Come for the content but stay for the community! I met great instructional designers at all levels of experience and it was great having feedback from not only Dr. Hobson but from peers as well. This was an incredible learning experience. I will be using what I have learned in this course on the job right away.

Gina Johnson, Instructional Designer

Many ID courses focus on the hard skills that someone needs to possess (e.g., experience with Storyline) in order to be a successful ID or land their first or new job. While building expertise with these tools is certainly important, they will only get an ID so far if they're unable to work well with SMEs. Dr. Hobson's course on Collaborating and Building Relationships with SMEs highlights the importance/value of this skill and provides practical ways every ID can grow/develop it. It shows that working with SMEs does not always need to be difficult, but when it is, there are ways to address it well! Through live Q&As, peer & instructor feedback, personal reflections, and articles, the course not only provides immediate value but also puts you on a path for continued growth.

Daniel Park, Learning Liaison

Course outline

🗓 Module 1

Establishing a relationship

During this module, Luke shares his tips for building a solid working relationship with a SME.

💡 Learn about

∙ Getting to know the SME

∙ Explaining your role

∙ Managing preferences

⚡️ Engage

∙ Meet and greet call

∙ Discussion about empathizing with a SME

∙ Discussion about feedback

∙ Peer review submission where you describe your role and get feedback

∙ Reflect on your own style

🗓 Module 2

influencing and caring about the experience

Luke introduces strategies and tactics for a more successful collaborative experience during the development of a course.

💡 Learn about

∙ Demoing a course

∙ Removing barriers and explaining the design process

∙ Setting deadlines and expectations

∙ Giving feedback to the SME

∙ Working with challenging SMEs

∙ Celebrating achievements

⚡️ Engage

∙ Submit a demo for peer review

∙ Practice giving feedback

∙ Discuss listening skills

Meet your instructor

Hi 👋

I’m Luke, a Senior Instructional Designer and Program Manager at MIT, an Online Instructor for SNHU, and the Founder of Instructional Design Institute.

My life is online learning and I love sharing my experiences with other instructional designers and teachers! My philosophy on learning comes from MIT, which is mens et manus or mind and hand. I believe in providing you with practical applications and helping you develop real tangible skills. I’ve been told that my super power is being able to take complex ideas and translate them into simple lessons.

No matter what course I’m designing, I follow Universal Design for Learning as a framework to overcome barriers and provide flexibility. What I care about the most is the online learning experience and providing every opportunity for students to learn.

On a personal note, I’m a husband, dog dad, musician, and a health and fitness nut.

Looking forward to meet you!



💬   Discussions

🤝   Peer reviews

🙌   Instructor feedback from Dr. Luke Hobson


🔍  Learning More About SMEs

💬  Explaining Your Role

🤝  Understanding Their Preferences

🛠  Providing Examples

📄  Creating Templates

🗓  Setting Deadlines

👥  Providing Feedback

⚡️  Knowing When to Push Back

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