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Mind the SME (and process)

At the recent Distance Teaching & Learning Conference I keynoted at, I met up with Jon Aleckson who, among other things, provided me a copy of his new book MindMeld. As the subtitle tells you, the book is about “micro collaboration between elearning designers and instructor experts”. To put it another way, the book is primarily about how to work successfully with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).

Bsed upon Jon’s Ph.D. thesis work, this doesn’t read as an academic treatise for the simple fact that Jon’s run an elearning business for years now. While solidly grounded I good theory, the book is also focused very pragmatically on success factors. Written in a very accessible style, illuminated with case studies and hints and tips, this is a short and readable.

More importantly, the book is valuable. It talks about how to work with what the book calls instructor-experts in ways that increase the likelihood for success. Along the way, it provides useful coverage of topics like shared representations, process, and the value of project management. Along the way, the book isn’t afraid to touch upon the more intangible but real issues like culture and momentum.

The book is not without it’s flaws. Perhaps not surprisingly, situated in Madison WI, there’s a very strong emphasis on games as learning activities. Certainly I don’t disagree, but I would also emphasize collaboration equally. Also, despite not being academic, and admittedly also intended for academic designers as well as corporate, the examples appear to skew to the academic side. There also isn’t my favorite tip about where SMEs add extra value, finding their passion for the topic as a hint to designing the learning solution. These, however, are minor points.

Overall, I can strongly recommend this book to any individual or team that needs to be working to create a learning solution. The conceptual clarity around the practice of working as a team, and the practical advice, on a topic too seldom discussed, wrapped in a brief and accessible package, make this an easy recommendation.

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