This week we’ve discussed another avenue for online adjuncts–Subject Matter Expert jobs. Subject matter experts provide academic content for distance education companies and universities who are creating standardized, accreditation-worthy online courses. If you are a member of the AdjunctWorld community, you are likely a very qualified Subject Matter Expert!
Yesterday’s article, 4 Benefits of Being a Subject Matter Expert, listed some of the perks of being an SME. The benefits don’t stop there–my gears kept churning and I’ve got four more for you!
1) You amass a great deal of content YOU can use.
When you help an instructional designer generate online “lecture” content for a course, you are essentially writing a mini-textbook on the subject. I’ve written about 10 online psychology courses in various sub-domains, which means I have 10 huge Word documents on my computer filled with current, well-written material. No, if you sell your work to a company or school you do not “own” that exact content. They do. Legally, you can’t repurpose that for your own financial gains. It certainly breaks a contract. But the fact is I have still amassed my own content and I can use this information (although not the exact form) for my own ventures. For instance, I’m currently trying to self-publish a book inspired by my work as an SME for a counseling course. I have not used any of the exact content, but my book is, in a sense, a product of my SME work.
2) Staying current in the field.
When you sit down to write content for an online course, you also sit down to do a lot of research. You go to the virtual stacks and review the most recent literature in the subject area. This is something a lot of us do anyway, but when you are an SME you have concentrated (and, I’ll mentioned paid) time doing so. You are more motivated to stay current and are rewarded for doing so.
3) Connection with a university for future jobs
Universities and colleges who buy or create professionally designed online courses usually like to know who the SME was. They want to see the SMEs CV. It’s a form of due diligence. If they like the course—if its well-written and accurate—they put a name to good work. You can make a connection here for future adjunct teaching opportunities! You are not another CV deep in the pile. You rise to the top. Before pursuing this opportunity, though, you need to make sure you are not breaking any clause in your SME contract. If you aren’t employed by the content-generating company, but instead work on a contract basis, this usually isn’t an issue. But check first.
4) Create a reputation as a quality SME.
From what I have gathered from conversations with instructional designers, there are two types of SME: An SME and a good SME. It’s not usually the level of expertise that separates them—its factors such as timeliness of submitting lessons, quality of writing, and flexibility in working with the instructional designer. If you fall into the “good” or “reliable” SME category, you are usually asked to do more SME work. Instructional designers don’t like to fight with, wait for, or clean up after SMEs. They want to focus on their own work and trust you to do your job. If you work well together, you may get personal emails with future work opportunities rather than having to go out and look for and apply for it.
Subject Matter Expert jobs don’t often cross our minds as we search for traditional and online teaching jobs, but consider looking at these as they pop up on AdjunctWorld and in your job search. Its paid work and offers these and other benefits to the adjunct. I’ve worked as an SME for a distance learning company for several years now, so if you have any questions, please email me or comment below! I’d be glad to chat with you about it!