Insights Gained from Subject Matter Expert (SME) Programs

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Presentation by Guillermo Ortiz de Zarate, President and Chief Innovation & Information Officer of Lineup

Written by Gerry Mimick, Pearson VUE 

The ITCC October Member Meeting featured guest speaker, Guillermo Ortiz del Zarate from Lineup, who presented the topic of Insights Gained from SME Programs. Guillermo launched Lineup to help certification programs find, recruit, assemble and manage their SME experts to optimize outcomes for certification program exams. The rapid pace of change in today’s testing industry is making the intersection of the life cycle of the products and related certifications extremely short lived. The challenge that this sets up for the certification programs is the ability to maintain large and healthy item banks by having a deep bench of high-quality subject matter experts.

Several industry best practices for SME programs were covered. For building your SME network, one way to expand your pool is to search beyond your program’s employees to include customer and partner employees. An online tool can be used to start a vetting process for these prospective SMEs. Using this online application form, you can vet prospective SMEs based on their certifications, work history and sample item writing examples. Another best practice discussed involved curating your groups. This involves pairing existing SMEs with your program’s writing experience together with newly recruited people. This helps build content within your program’s requirements while ensuring that a diverse set of demographics are supported within your item banks. A third best practice was a post-workshop SME evaluation. Within these, SMEs can be evaluated on their participation, feedback, contributions, collaboration and approach. Indicators on attendance, items written and items reviewed can be tracked in combination with a group evaluation of soft skills to provide a holistic assessment for future SME needs.

Finally, current SME workshop trends were discussed. Pre-COVID, it was typical to use in-person workshops for item writing. However now, during the pandemic, workshops have gone virtual and go on for a few hours spread over many days. Multiple days of long group calls on a screen are contributing to “Zoom-fatigue” which is adding challenge to maintain SME engagement. In order to combat this, rewards are being provided to SMEs including badges, merchandise and even cash to keep the work exciting.

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