Is ADDIE Still a Relevant Model?

Posted on March 15, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

There are times when the tried and true is no longer the “best practice” that it may have been in the past. A good example is ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation), the model that is the bedrock for most learning professionals.  As recent as two years ago, I would have been solidly in the camp that ADDIE is the absolute best approach for creating a course.  I’m not so sure anymore.  In fact, I don’t believe the traditional ADDIE model is right for much of the training development that happens now.

Now before you think ol’ Jeff has gone off the deep end, let me explain.  I emphasize the traditional ADDIE model for a reason.  The ADDIE model typically is depicted as a waterfall method, with each phase complete or mostly complete before moving to the next phase.

As noted on Wikipedia:In the ADDIE concept, each step has an outcome that feeds into the subsequent step.

Traditional ADDIE Model

Traditional ADDIE Model

While the progress between phases is sequential, many industry professionals see the overall model as iterative, in the sense that you complete the full process and then use evaluation results in the Analysis phase of the next project or next revision of the existing project.  Some suggest that analysis is ongoing and impacts on each of the other phases.  Others have proposed variants of ADDIE that vary widely in practicality, with some being quite intriguing.  For example, Catherine Lombardozzi has given a lot of thought to changing the ADDIE model in her LearningJournal blog.

I challenge the usefulness of the traditional ADDIE model in today’s training world.  Based on conversations with colleagues and my own experiences, very few learning organizations have the time, resources, and flexibility to take a waterfall approach to developing content.  Most of us in corporate training are faced with SMEs who have other priorities and little time left over, small budgets, tight deadlines, and a constant challenge to prove that the training we provide is timely and relevant to the business needs.  Our process requires that we spend little time upfront on analysis and design so that we can get right into development.

Does this mean we forgo those first two phases?  Absolutely not!  Instead, the entire process is iterative and ongoing.  Analysis continues to happen while we develop.  Same thing with design.  Even implementation can lead back to any of the other three phases.  I can’t speak for everyone, but I believe you should “release early, release often” and continue to refine your product based on the feedback you get from stakeholders and learners.

Here’s an “Olympic rings” model that illustrates what I mean by iterative throughout the process:

Iterative ADDIE Model

Iterative ADDIE Model

However, even my crude model above is based on trying to adapt ADDIE.  Is that the right thing to do or should we throw out ADDIE altogether and start anew?  I know a lot of industry thought leaders and pundits have shared their ideas on this, but I want to hear from you, the professionals creating learning every day.

So I ask, is ADDIE still relevant?  What do you think?

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3 Responses to “Is ADDIE Still a Relevant Model?”

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Great story Jeff! I think that like most things, it doesn’t quite boil down to either/or. I absolutely agree that a linear approach is redundant and much less effective, and that todays preferred course development methodology has more in common with SCRUM than ADDIE. Of course I am sowmewhat prejudiced because I am firmly committed to the idea that web based tools make that kind of collaboration much easier as well as stimulating the creative process, shortening timelines, and dramatically increasing end-user buy-in.

But the part of ADDIE that shouldn’t be thrown out is the Analysis. The most common error I see with rapid development techniques is a failure to have clearly defined the desired learning outcomes before they began.
Because more players are involved in a fast moving collaborative environment there is more tendency to get carrieds away by great ideas, and to lose sight of the objectives if they were not clearly defined at the outset.

ADDIE is a re-work of the Inter-Service Procedures for Instructional Systems Development, originated by Robert Branson and his team from Florida State back in the 1960s. It is a systems-based approach to designing and developing instruction. As a systems-based model, it was never intended by its developers to be a linear process for any purpose other than teaching novices the basics.

Yes, I believe ADDIE is still one of the best models out there. I still use it successfully! I think the reason so many people throw it out is that the first diagram above fails to include a “Revision” phase after each of the stages. This is a popular, yet poor, representation of the ADDIE model. When I was in grad school studying Instructional Design, we used the Dick & Carey approach. See: Dick & Carey Diagram The Dick & Carey model stresses that the ADDIE process should be a systematic approach that is fluid, flexible, and iterative. It illustrates this using the ‘Revise Instruction’ block in the diagram. When looking at this diagram, it’s important to realize that the ‘revision block’ is linked to six of the other stages in the process. Since this is the ADDIE model I learned, I’ve always taken the view that Revisions & Iterations are a CRITICAL component to the ADDIE approach. And in essence, revision takes place more often than any other stage of the process! Again, I think the over simplified ADDIE model is to blame for much of the confusion and bad press…as it leaves out any hint of revisions. Here is a better ADDIE diagram that illustrates the need for revisions and iterations: Improved ADDIE Diagram However, I really have to say I like the second diagram you posted above Jeff! The circular representation really helps get the point across…thanks! At the end of the day, when people tell me that ADDIE is not iterative, and that it is not flexible, I’ve always interpreted that as an admission that they never really studied the process in detail. It’s sad that a poorly designed diagram causes so much confusion. It seems like whoever created it, failed to follow the ADDIE process. Because if they had, they would have received feedback from their users…and been able to make revisions before releasing it to the public!


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