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Collaboration between instructional designers and subject matter experts in digital transformation projects

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

E-pub ahead of print
  • Amy Gottler
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>22/05/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Studies in Technology Enhanced Learning
Issue number2
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date22/05/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The rapid adoption of online learning during the Covid-19 pandemic and digital transformation associated with new tools and technologies has driven the demand for interprofessional collaboration within the education sector. It is now commonplace for Instructional Designers (IDs) and Learning Technologists (LTs) to work alongside Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) when creating online learning content. Although the professional practice of an ID may vary, the collaborative approach to working with SMEs is similar across sectors. Typically, the role of the SME is to impart expert domain knowledge, skills or behaviours. An ID captures this information and creates a learning experience using pedagogical expertise and design skills. This relationship is not without friction and can be complex and challenging to navigate. Research often focuses on the experiences of SMEs and suggests a simple resolution to avoid conflict; clearly define each agent’s role in writing. However, this is not a clear-cut solution. Detailed guidance for IDs is lacking, and conflicts still exist. This study aimed to gain a deeper insight into the interprofessional working relationship between IDs and SMEs. A series of semi-structured interviews were conducted, which looked through the lens of relational working theory and focused on the perspective of the ID. Key themes were identified and aligned with the core concepts of the relational working framework. Findings show that a communication breakdown can negatively impact a project, resulting in power struggles and the delivery of subpar content. The discussion highlights how the application of the relational working framework could be used to strengthen and ease tensions between SMEs and IDs.