Finding Great Subject Matter Experts – O'Donnell Learn

Finding Great Subject Matter Experts

Published by Cathryn Mattimore
on Sep 20, 2019

Creating great learning experiences requires a partnership between subject matter experts (aka SMEs), including great teachers, and learning experience designers. Here at O’Donnell Learn we seek to find, hire, and work with premium subject matter experts to ensure the creation of the highest quality learning experiences. Our practices around recruiting and vetting SMEs have evolved throughout the years; in fact, they’re over 25 years in the making. Our network of over 1500 SMEs, from all over the country, partner with our 300+ learning experience designers, contributing their domain expertise. Without SMEs the development of these projects wouldn’t be possible, and therefore, ODL seeks to recruit and work with only the highest quality SMEs. Here’s a look into ODL’s SME recruiting process and insight into why we prioritize giving support to SMEs to ensure they’re successful in cultivating exceptional learning experience content.

When staffing a project, our first stop is the ODL database. This software houses all of the subject matter experts and freelancers ODL has worked with. Our database allows us to search by subject, rating, university affiliation, and many other filters that help generate candidates specific to each project’s unique needs. This tool is necessary in our recruiting process because it’s proven ideal to work with SMEs who have already demonstrated their abilities, shown their reliability, and are in alignment with ODL philosophies and culture. Most of the time, this tool will produce a list of vetted qualified SMEs which helps staff projects quickly and effectively.

If the project needs lie outside our database network, then we reach out to experts from colleges, universities, and industry, asking them to send resumes (if they are interested) and writing samples. When going through the collected resumes we look for indications that a candidate will work well with ODL’s culture which emphasizes creativity, collaboration, and the ability to think in terms of learner centricity. In addition, potential SMEs must show a mastery of their subject and align with the specific and unique qualifications necessary to complete each project.

Before hiring a SME to work with us, we ask them to complete a brief assignment on a tight deadline. For example, if the project needs to develop assessment items, we would request the SME to write several questions that align with the project’s style guidelines and format. We look for timeliness, mastery of the subject matter, adherence to style guidelines, and that all items are well written and concise. Requesting these samples enables us to weed out inadequate candidates and to hire the best SMEs to work with ODL.

After we begin working with SMEs, ODL provides the support necessary so that SMEs can create successful learning experiences and cultivate exceptional content. To facilitate this, we train on things like Google Docs, LMS systems, and scheduling programs and other technical tools. We are here to help and to offer guidance and support as needed. As a result, SMEs are able to bring their expertise and strengths to the project and worry less about things outside their speciality.

Working with SMEs has been a huge part of ODL’s DNA. We value and emphasize the importance of finding new qualified SMEs so that we can create the highest quality learning experiences. We also recognize areas in which SMEs might need assistance and are quick to lend a helping hand. O’Donnell Learn hopes to continue to discover more constructive ways to work with subject matter experts and to grow our network and database.


The WOW Factor: Creating Faculty Development That Sparks Interest and Envy

Published By Carrie O'Donnell
on Jan 19, 2021

Imagine our surprise last summer when we reached out to 475 faculty and learned the online courses for nearly half were simply mirrors of their face-to-face instruction. In fact, only 22% were designing their courses differently for online. With all of the faculty development around online learning being offered, why weren’t more faculty designing courses specifically for this type of instruction? As it turns out, faculty weren’t engaging with development options at a level you might expect given COVID-19 and the rapid shift to online learning. Something we’d also learned in surveys and interviews with170 provosts and academic leaders a year earlier. The solution? The WOW Factor.

Purposeful Learning DesignTM – Why People are at the Center of Everything We Do

Published By Carrie O'Donnell
on Jan 15, 2021

I’m often asked why our company is so good at collaborating with  faculty. The first time I heard this question, I didn’t realize clients found this unique to O’Donnell Learn. We’ve always been great partners  because people are at the heart of everything we do. In fact, our entire design philosophy - Purposeful Learning DesignTM - is anchored around people.  It starts with this truth: learning is for people. As such, learning design should be grounded in empathy and it should promote success for both learners and faculty. Purposeful Learning Design is the philosophy we embrace to ensure we never lose sight of this truth. It is comprised of six key considerations.

2020 Reflective: Breathe Deep and Stay Agile

Published By Joana Jebsen
on Dec 22, 2020

While end-of-year survey results are still to come for how enrolled students are evaluating their 2020 college experience, I queried two of our staff, both students, about their overall experience and considered how these compared to what I was seeing with O’Donnell Learn clients. Kellie, our graphic design intern, just completed her Associates Degree in Graphic design. Prior to 2020, all of her courses met on campus. Cathryn, a Learning Design Associate is currently enrolled in an online Master of Education program in eLearning and Instructional Design. As this program was conceived as online delivery, it serves as a benchmark to compare against courses that were forced by COVID to switch delivery modes.