Working as a subject matter expert (SME) in your field is a great way for adjunct instructors to supplement their income or widen their job search. When considering if a job as an SME is right for you, consider the following perks:
1) Course creation is fun!
I’m a teacher and I will admit that engaging with learners and watching them evolve from students into scholars is the most rewarding part of the job. But, creating the course is rewarding too, but something that I may consider a chore if I’m assigned a course the week before I teach it. To have creating the course content be the only thing we are focused on helps connect us to our subject areas and reminds us why we are so passionate about what it is we know, do, and teach.
2) Gives you “online job experience” even if you haven’t taught online.
The vast majority—okay, I’ll go ahead and say all—online adjunct positions require, or at least strongly prefer online job experience. It’s the age-old paradox the new employee faces—need experience in order to get experience. If you have never taught an online class before and want to break into distance education, being a SME is a good place to start.
When you create content for an online course, you begin to develop an understanding of the unique needs of the adult online learner and incorporate that understanding into your SME work. For example, adult learners tend to crave real-world applications for what they are learning. Therefore, you know to put more real-world, current day examples in your writing. Working closely with an instructional designer is yet another learning opportunity. Not only do you develop your own understanding of the “world of online education,” but the distance education companies or online university programs you write for look good on your CV.
To put it briefly, you don’t have to have been an online instructor to be an SME. But being an SME does give you the “online teaching experience” that online teaching jobs require. I’ve even seen some job descriptions say, “SMEs are contracted to teach the first run of their course.” What an opportunity!
3) SME jobs are remote jobs.
Nearly all SME jobs are remote jobs. You communicate with a point-of-contact (usually the instructional designer) over email and do your writing at home, Starbucks, wherever. Remote jobs are certainly attractive jobs, especially to the adjunct who may be already working online while teaching on-ground courses and running a busy household.
4) Its paid work.
What distance education companies or college-based online programs pay for SME work varies. In my experience as an SME, I’ve found that it pays roughly the equivalent of teaching one online course. My research has uncovered that many pay a little less, but some pay a little more, probably as a function of how immediate the need is or how niche the subject matter is. Some of the folks you work for will pay bonuses for on-time submissions, increasing the amount of money you earn.
So, if you are an adjunct looking to broaden your scope of work and financial landscape, consider looking into to SME positions. You’ll find some of them on AdjunctWorld.com now (under SME) and as we scour the web for adjunct job listings we will keep an eye out for more SME opportunities.
What are some other benefits to working as an SME? Comment from your own experience below!