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When you’re new to the world of instructional design or eLearning development, or if you’re trying to get into it for the first time, it can be hard navigating everything that we do on a day-to-day and project-by-project basis.

And, if you think about the theories and processes of instructional design, regardless of what your role or title might be as a learning professional, it goes far beyond simply creating training or learning content—it involves analyzing performance issues, identifying knowledge and skill gaps, ideating on solutions to solve those problems, actually building and developing those solutions, implementing then with your learners, and evaluating the effectiveness of them at the end of the day.

It’s a lot! And figuring out how to do all of that stuff in a repeatable and scalable way is enough to make anyone overwhelmed, especially if you’re new to it all. But this is where different instructional design and development models can come into play, and I can’t think of any model that’s more widely known and used in our industry than the ADDIE model of instructional design.

So, in this post, I’ll provide an overview of each of the five phases of the ADDIE model, along with the tasks and processes that go along with each one.

What is the ADDIE Model?

Let’s start by asking and answering this simple question: what is the ADDIE model?

Well, to put it simply, the ADDIE Model is a sequential process or framework, designed to guide instructional designers, eLearning developers, and other learning professionals through the process of designing and developing training and learning solutions.

The ADDIE Model is a sequential process or framework, designed to guide instructional designers, eLearning developers, and other learning professionals through the process of designing and developing training and learning solutions.

It’s pretty simple! However, within the ADDIE model, consists of various steps or phases that define the ADDIE acronym:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

Now, before we dive into each of these steps in more detail, I have to point this out: while ADDIE, and similar models, like SAM, are often defined as instructional design models, it’s important to know that there’s nothing inherently special about ADDIE that results in better learning or performance outcomes. And as such, the ADDIE process shouldn’t be viewed as something that’s going to help you design better learning content—it’s the actions you take within each step of the ADDIE process that really matters.

What’s important to remember is that ADDIE is just a process or framework that makes it easier for us to get from point A to point B in a repeatable and scalable way. And you could theoretically apply the ADDIE model to anything from designing and developing a training or learning experience, to designing and building a house—it’s just a process to guide you through the steps. And, in that sense, I often say that ADDIE or SAM are more akin to project management models than anything else.

But, speaking of building a house, that’s actually a fantastic analogy to help us better understand each step of the ADDIE model. So, let’s start by looking at the first phase: Analysis.

The Analysis Phase

The first phase of the ADDIE model is Analysis. When you’re tasked with a new learning project or when you receive a new training request from a stakeholder or subject matter expert, the first thing you need to do is determine why a performance issue exists and whether or not training is actually the solution for fixing that issue.

And typically, during the analysis phase of the ADDIE model, this is done by conducting some sort of needs analysis to help you evaluate and understand the who, the what, the when, the where, the why, and, the how of the issue or issues you’re trying to fix, that way you can gain enough context to determine why those issues exist and then make informed recommendations as to how to fix them.

So, if we think about our analogy of building a house, the analysis phase is all about determining the needs of the future homeowner. We’re not ready to start building the house; we’re just starting to understand what type of house they might need, so that we can design one to meet those needs.

The Design Phase

This brings us to the second phase of the ADDIE model, which is Design. Now, in this step, after you’ve done a needs analysis and determined if a training solution is needed, you begin to ideate and design your proposed solution. This includes determining your desired performance goals, your learning objectives, the delivery methods and modalities, the structure of the training, along with how it will be implemented and measured.

Again, we’re not building the training just yet; we’re just ideating on the specific details of that training solution.

And to do all of this, you might create an Action Map to make sure you’re aligning your training efforts toward measurable business goals, along with drafting a design document, which outlines the training solution or solutions you’re proposing to build, whether that’s a single training object or a blended training solution.

The Development Phase

Next, we have the third phase in the ADDIE model, which is Development. After you’ve analyzed an issue, designed and proposed a solution, the development phase is where you actually start building the thing or things you’ve designed.

And so, for example, if you’re creating an eLearning course, that would include drafting a storyboarding, developing a prototype, and developing the full course with an eLearning authoring tool, like Articulate Storyline.

Or, on the other hand, if you’re building an in-person workshop, that might include creating slides in PowerPoint, writing a participant guide or other handouts, developing activities, and everything else.

And, as I’m sure you can already imagine, thinking back to our house-building analogy, development would be like the actual construction of the house—we’re taking that blueprint we drafted in the design phase, and now we’re actually building it all.

The Implementation Phase

The fourth phase in the ADDIE model is Implementation. From a training perspective, implementation is where we actually deliver our training and learning solution to our target audience: our learners. However, implementation is going to look different depending on the nature of the training solution you’ve designed and developed.

So, for example, if you’re implementing an eLearning course, implementation might involve publishing your course into a learning management system, perhaps in collaboration with an LMS admin; that way, you can assign and distribute the course to your learner and track completion.

Or, if you designed and developed an in-person workshop, that might mean collaborating with a team of facilitators to conduct a train the trainer, scheduling training sessions, and assisting with the delivery of the training.

Or, if you built something as simple as a job aid, implementation might simply mean publishing that job aid online or emailing it out to your learners. My point is, it all depends on what you built.

The Evaluation Phase

And finally, the fifth phase of the ADDIE model is Evaluation. This is where you dedicate time to evaluating and analyzing whether or not you met the goals you sought to achieve at the start of the project. And this is where you might use Kirckpatrick’s Levels of Evaluation to determine whether or not you were able to fix the performance issue you analyzed during the analysis phase, and to what extent.

  • How did your learners react to the training?
  • Did you increase your learner’s knowledge?
  • Did you increase your learner’s skills as a result?
  • Were you able to achieve any sort of measurable business goal?

These are all questions you might want to answer as part of a thorough evaluation process.

The Bottom Line

So. that’s an overview of the ADDIE model of instructional design: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. And what I want you to remember is that the ADDIE model itself doesn’t result in good learning outcomes—it’s the instructional design principles, theories, and best practices that you utilize within each of those steps that result in the creation of effective training and learning outcomes.

And, as I’ve already alluded to, the ADDIE model isn’t the only model out there you have to follow. There are other models and processes out there, like SAM and many more.

So, what do you think? Do you use the ADDIE model when designing training or learning? What do you or don’t you like about it? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

Tim Slade

Hi, I’m Tim Slade, and I’m a speaker, author, and founder of The eLearning Designer's Academy. Having spent the last decade working to help others elevate their eLearning and visual communications content, I have been recognized and awarded within the eLearning industry multiple times for my creative and innovative design aesthetics. I’m also a regular speaker at international eLearning conferences, a LinkedIn Learning instructor, and author of The eLearning Designer’s Handbook.

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