The Role of Subject Matter Expertise (SME) Through the Lens of Ormrod’s Definition of Learning

Subject: Psychology
Type: Process Analysis Essay
Pages: 2
Word count: 728
Topics: Human Development, Communication

Learning has been defined in varied terms throughout the history of development of education. However, one particular definition of learning by Jeanne Ellis Ormrod places a harsh judgment on the role played by the subject matter experts (SMEs) in designing and developing new courses for learners, especially when writing about course development on new products or data. Ormrod “define learning as a long-term change in mental representations or associations as a result of experience” (Ormrod, 2015). Therefore, according to Ormrod, unless experience has been gained over the long-term, learning cannot be said to have occurred. Indeed, Ormrod goes ahead to emphasize this point by stating that “learning is a long-term change: It isn’t just a brief, transitory use of information” (Ormrod, 2015). Ormrod does not only require that learning be based on an experience that has been developed over a long period of time, but in addition requires that such learning should be assessed and measured to establish indeed if it has occurred. Ormrod therefore introduces the scale on which learning should be measured by stating that “regardless of how we define learning, we know it has occurred only when we actually see it reflected in a person’s behavior” (Ormrod, 2015). The outcome of the Ormrod’s definition of learning is to create a major contradiction on what ought to be the effective role of the subject matter experts in developing new courses and the existing practices. Therefore, applying the fundamental principles of learning as defined by Ormrod, the effective role of subject matter experts (SMEs) in designing and developing instructional courses for internet-based and technology education disciplines should be modified to reflect true learning.

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The role of SMEs is defined as that of providing “the core knowledge upon which training is built, the content and the details” (Gumienny, 2017). The fundamental question that arises is whether the subject matter experts really undergo the required learning before acting as the core knowledge upon which content, details and training on different educational subjects. In many instances where the subject experts are required to write new courses on new products or data, the SMEs have to learn about the content while they are developing the course and creating possible strategies for organizing the information and presenting it for the learners. The concept of learning about the content while developing the course by the subject matter experts was established in the Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology and is especially relevant for internet-based and technology education course instructional designing (AECT, 2008). According to this handbook by the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT), a body guiding the educational uses of technology by devising the best instructional practices in technology-based education, “in case of moving to internet-based learning environments, significant design and redesign work must be done to prepare face-to-face courses” (AECT, 2008). In this respect, the subject experts must keep learning the new internet-based education technologies, techniques, applications and diverse uses throughout the process of developing the course. 

Learning while still developing the course content is very important for the subject experts considering that internet-based and technology education tools and platforms advance, transform and reform rapidly (AECT, 2008). However, contrary to the AECT guidelines and best practices in internet-based and technology education course designing, Ormrod requires that learning should be long-term and not just transitory, and should be based on real experience that is reflected on an individual’s behavior. Based on the Ormrod’s requirement for learning, it is therefore apparent that the subject matter experts involved in learning the content while still designing the course instructions have not acquired true learning. 

In conclusion, the subject matter experts might not be truly experts at the end of it all. The instructional courses designed by the subject matter experts for internet-based and technology education subjects are not based on true learning and experience that should be manifested in their personal behaviors. Therefore, the role of the subject matter experts in designing internet-based and technology education instructional courses should be modified to reflect true learning, experience and personal behaviors by ensuring that they first learn adequately and over the long-term, before finally designing the courses.

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  1. Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT). (2008). Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology. Mahwah, New Jersey: Taylor & Francis. 
  2. Gumienny, K. (August 23, 2017). The SME Role in Course Development. Micro Assists. Retrieved from:
  3. Ormrod, J. E. (2015). Human Learning (7th Ed.). Pearson Education
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