The ADDIE Model of Instructional Design

The ADDIE model, developed by Florida State University in the 1970s, is the most well-known framework for designing instruction to improve human performance. ADDIE is an acronym representing the five key stages of the instructional design process: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.

Despite the acronym’s popularity in the field of learning and development, organizations rarely follow the ADDIE model as it was originally defined. Instead, organizations pull pieces from ADDIE and adapt them to use with other models as they see fit.

However, it’s still important for modern learning and development professionals to have a firm grasp on ADDIE because modern learning and development (L&D) professionals should exhibit mastery in each of the 5 phases.

In this article we’ll explore each phase of the model, then we’ll discuss some of its shortcomings. Let’s get started.

Analysis

During analysis, you gather the up-front information that guides the ensuing design of instruction.

Ideally, you begin analysis by conducting a training needs assessment. This tells you whether training is even part of the solution to the performance problem.

The training needs assessment must occur before proceeding with ADDIE, because you should only design instruction if you’ve determined that instruction will help resolve the issue.

So, once you’ve determined that training is necessary, you proceed with learner analysis, job-task analysis, and instructional context analysis. Conducting these analyses grants you rich information about the target audience, the behaviors that they must perform to do their jobs better, and the resources available for the training experience.

Read more about the 4 most common types of analysis for instructional design.

What does Analysis look like in organizations today?

When organizations do commission an analysis, it is often handled by an instructional designer, external analyst, or performance consultant.

Unfortunately, most organizations do not spend sufficient time on analysis. An oft-cited reason for this is lack of buy-in from organizations; supervisors tell instructional designers to create courses, and instructional designers do not have the influence to redirect the conversation.

However, influence stems from knowledge. When instructional designers comply with course demands instead of presenting themselves as experts and discussing needs, they reduce the likelihood that the intervention will actually help employees or the business.

This cheapens the reputation of training departments because it is unlikely to help the business as a whole move closer towards its goals.

So, while organizations often overlook analysis, analysis is the absolutely necessary foundation for any effective performance improvement efforts.

Design

The first D in ADDIE stands for Design. This is not graphic or visual design, but instructional design. When people talk about instructional design, this is the specific phase of the ADDIE model that they are referring to.

During this phase, you design the instruction itself using the results from the analysis to guide your design decisions. Typically, you spend much of your time during this phase speaking to subject matter experts (SMEs). You use this raw information to write content in a way that’s best suited for the needs at hand.

The content that you produce during this phase depends on the medium via which you decide to deliver the learning intervention. For example, if you’re planning on developing eLearning activities, then the output from this phase may include a script or production-ready storyboard. If you’re planning to implement a face-to-face intervention, then the output from this phase may include content for a facilitator guide and participant workbook.

Once the content is ready for development, it is moved into the development phase.

What does Design look like in organizations today?

Instructional designers usually have a wide and varied set of responsibilities within any given organization, but it’s safe to say that they will spend at least some of their time designing instruction. And, whereas some instructional designers specialize in face-to-face instruction and virtual webinars, others focus on self-paced eLearning.

Designers source content from internal SMEs, textbooks, online resources, and pre-existing courses. They also write objectives, craft the instructional content, and coordinate with teams (graphic designers, multimedia professionals, software developers, etc.) during this phase.

As we discuss further in the next section, instructional designers are often expected to develop the end product once they are finished designing the instruction.

Development

During the development phase of ADDIE, you develop the final instructional assets that will be delivered to the end-users. In a sense, this phase is about converting the output from the design phase into the final product. Here are a few examples:

  • Content for facilitator guide -> Formatted and printed facilitator guide
  • Storyboard for eLearning course -> Fully functioning eLearning course
  • Script for animated video -> Animated video with finished graphics and narration

When you’re devloping an eLearning activity or video, you likely need to pull assets from various sources: these include audio files (narration, sound effects, background music, etc.), images, videos, raw text, and more. Again, this depends on the type of deliverable that you are developing, but this is the phase where you bring the end product to life.

What does Development look like in organizations today?

Today, most development is conducted by the same instructional designers who design the instruction. For example, most organizations focus primarily on their online learning offerings, and the instructional designers are expected to use a rapid authoring tool, such as Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate, to create functional courses.

eLearning developers used to rely solely on programming languages to develop computer-based courseware, but in most cases this is no longer necessary due to the ease-of-use of rapid authoring tools.

However, many instructional designers do not keep their eLearning development skills up-to-par, resulting in end products that suffer from poor visual design and faulty functionality.

Some organizations recognize that it’s best to have specialists in each phase of the training design and development process. As such, they have instructional design and eLearning development teams who work alongside one another. Developers in these positions will likely spend all of their time using eLearning authoring tools to bring storyboards to life. They will also have a more technical skillset, including proficiency in HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript.

Due to a lack of in-house technical proficiency, many organizations outsource their eLearning development needs to freelancers or agencies, allowing their in-house instructional designers to focus solely on designing the instructional content.

Outsource your eLearning development needs to eLearning ex.

Implementation

During the implementation phase, you deliver the instructional interventions to the target audience.

For eLearning, this means putting the courses or activities on the learning management system (LMS), enrolling members from the target audience, and notifying them that the courses are available and / or required. For face-to-face sessions or virtual webinars, this means bringing the target audience together at a time that works best for them and having a facilitator lead the experience.

What does Implementation look like in organizations today?

Either instructional designers or LMS administrators typically deal with the implementation tasks necessary in organizations today. Also, organizations that offer face-to-face training experiences for their employees have trainers and facilitators on staff to deliver the instruction.

For smaller companies, LMS administration can be fairly straightforward and simple. However, as the course offerings become more complex and the number of employees taking training increases, it may make more sense to appoint a dedicated LMS administrator to deal with hosting and delivering the eLearning offerings.

It also may make sense for some organizations to designate a change manager — someone who can keep track of all ongoing training interventions and ensure that they are delivered on schedule.

Evaluation

During evaluation, you measure the effectiveness of your training intervention on multiple levels. The most common framework for training evaluation is Kirckpatrick’s model, which states that you should measure the following:

  1. Learner Reaction - How are employees reacting to the training intervention? Is it a positive experience?
  2. Skills and Knowledge - Are the employees becoming more skilled or knowledgeable as a result of the training program?
  3. Behavior / Performance - Are the employees performing better on the job as a result of the training?
  4. Organization - Is the organization operating more smoothly and / or profitably as a result of the employees’ improved performance?

This data gives you a rich overview of the impact that your intervention is making at the organization, but you can take it a step further and conduct a return on investment (ROI) analysis to determine whether the costs associated with the effort resulted in a net financial gain for the company.

What does Evaluation look like in organizations today?

Unfortunately, evaluation is overlooked just as much, if not more than, analysis. Modern learning and development practitioners lack the necessary skills to conduct proper evaluation, and they cite lack of organizational buy-in as a common reason for the absence of evaluation.

Because of this, evaluation is limited to looking at level 1 data (are employees satisfied with the training?) and limited level 2 data (what scores are employees earning on the knowledge checks and assessments?).

As a consequence, there is a lack of data regarding whether or not employees’ performance is improving and whether or not the training is helping the organization meet its goals. It is up to learning and development professionals to help bridge this gap and collect more valuable data that informs the success of their interventions.

Organizations can also commission the assistance of external evaluators to measure the impact of a given intervention, and their reports will include the information listed above.

Does ADDIE support performance improvement?

If ADDIE were followed precisely, it would likely lead to improved performance.

However, ADDIE falls short in highly agile environments when there is no time to move through each phase one at a time. Because of this, the model has been adjusted to be more iterative: phases can overlap, and you can rapidly jump from analyzing the issue to developing a prototype to designing a full set of performance objectives.

The larger issue, though, is that organizations and instructional designers alike fail to conduct proper analysis and evaluation. These two pieces are essential for a successful performance improvement initiative, and ignoring them leads to extreme waste of time and money.

The lack of analysis and evaluation in modern training departments is problematic in the same way that it would be problematic for a doctor to prescribe whatever medication a patient asks for, and proceed to never follow up with that patient to determine whether it was effective or not.

As learning and development professionals, we need to help re-incorporate elements from this classic instructional design model into our daily practice.

Read more about the ethics of designing training.