top of page

AHH, The Pain. Outlining, Scripting, and SMEs.

Approaching a new learning project is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. There are so many variables that go into the success of a project: access to information, scope, time constraints, etc.. One of the biggest challenges for an ID is to analyze the current information, create an outline, and create a script that will be used to create the training. You might be saying, oh Cory, that’s easy. But ask yourself, when was the last time a SME wanted to change something during the first prototype review? Or after the voice overs have been placed? No matter how good you are at SME wrangling, the successful navigating of the outline and script can be the deciding factor for you to hit your deadline.

Let’s face it, SMEs are busy, and they have projects of their own that they’re working on. I’d love to say that I can force a SME to sit down with me for a day (Or a Week) and not leave the room until everything is done, but that’s not how every situation works. The way to approach outlining and scripting depends on the external factors involved. Do you have SOP’s and documents you can analyze? Is the SME committed and will they have time to meet with you? Has the SME gone through SME training? (Yeah, I train my SMEs) Will you let the SME see the same script as your developers see? Here are a few things to think about while going through your process.

The Outline

If you’re lucky, you will get access to the scope of the project and relevant documentation before your meeting with the SME. In the best case, you can make an overall outline before your meeting. This will allow you to discuss the outline with the SME and look professional by coming prepared. When I speak about outline, I don’t mean the scope and job tasks, I mean the outline of each module. Here is an example of an outline.

SME Training

Controlling expectations is key to any relationship. Some SMEs have never worked with an ID or know what ID is. Take the first meeting to introduce the SME to ID, the process of making content, what’s expected, how you’ll work together, and the timeline of events. If a SME knows that it will only be a lot of work at the beginning, they may be more receptive to delivering on time. I personally use SME training I made on storyline so the SME can see what their learners will see and I combine that with a SME job form when possible.

The Script

This is normally where the pain comes in. SMEs must sign off on the scripts and they do, but do they go through them? How can you ensure that they looked at the detail? Should you make complex scripts detailing everything? For me, no. I have two scripts that I make. One for the SMEs, and one for the developers. The SME scripts only have narration information. This is the simplest form I can provide that is understood by someone who isn’t an ID. Do you really expect a SME to understand all the triggers and commands that go into a complex dev script? In order to make sure they confirm the scripts, I will have a meeting and narrate the scripts to them and explain the learning path to the SME. That way both of us can know that the information is accurate and correct before the prototypes get built. I will go more in depth on dev scripts and the use of templates in a later article. Here is an example of the two different types. You can tell a difference in simplicity from the look.


I will be the first one to admit. I’m always changing my processes depending on the situation. On a current project, the SMEs hate reading scripts and prefer for me to piece together a wire frame and they then fill in the content while I record the conversation. There are lots of ways to get things done. Don’t be afraid to try new things and adapt.


bottom of page