Not So Fast Learning Designers! The Rumors of ADDIE’s Death Are Premature

Instructional designers have been hearing for years that “ADDIE is dead.” Do “this” or “that” instead. I would be the first to admit that maybe a shortcut here or there is called for under certain circumstances. I have taken many of those shortcuts myself. But if you are serious about creating learning that gets results, you can’t avoid it: You need a solid design strategy no matter what you call it.

Let’s review the components of ADDIE and discuss which pieces, if any, are actually dispensable.

Analysis: You need to figure out the business goals for the learning to justify the cost, figure out what the learners know now so you can level set the learning, and decide what they need to know to close that gap.

Design: At this step, you decide what type of experience will most effectively and efficiently get you to goal which are the learning objectives – what the learner should be able to do after they have completed it.

Development: You have to create or curate your content, whether it is a series of 5 minute videos or a three day live training program.

Implement: You roll it out.  Learners need the freedom to access it anytime, anywhere.

Evaluate: You find out whether it hit the mark.

When you think about ADDIE in those terms, I challenge you to present me with an effective course that can skip any of these steps and still get results.

The Real World and Xtreme Instructional Design

A lot of instructional designers and trainers skip one or more of these steps, either consciously or unconsciously. Have I seen any of these steps skipped? You bet. The two steps most often overtly skipped are analysis and evaluation. The loss is literally inestimable when you don’t have those pieces. If you skip the analysis phase you haven’t expressed your business goals so you can’t have clear learner outcomes, and if you skipped the evaluation phase you haven’t reconciled the results you need with the results you got.

Realistically, when an instructional design team works together in a certain field or with similar types of learners, it is easy to shortcut a few steps because some things are understood. As an example, another ID and I were brought into a situation where we created 2 weeks of live training complete with call scripts and we had six weeks to fully develop it in a constantly changing situation. She was the ID/PM and I served as SME. With lots of ongoing meetings with the client over the period of a few weeks, we delivered it on time and within budget. At the end we laughed, celebrated with margaritas, and dubbed it “Xtreme Instructional Design”. Truly, it was a flash-whiz-bang process possible because we had a strong plan, established a workable design and process at the outset, and everyone cooperated on their turnaround times. And it was fun.

Most importantly, we had a design process going in and we followed it through.

Adapt Your Design to Your Learners

You may create many pathways to designing and delivering customized learning including using an agile process of iterative continuous improvement or “Xtreme Instructional Design” as we called it, but no matter how you describe it, the effectiveness and impact still hinge on a great learning design.

“Every learner is completely different and best practice is to adapt to those learners. Regardless of how good the design work is initially, how can you adapt to the needs of the learner…,” said Nick Howe, Chief Learning Officer at Area 9 Learning on the Cognota webinar Design Thinking and Learning Advancements. “Learning design and learning engineering are good.”

The individual components of ADDIE can’t be ignored, no matter how you execute them and whether or not they are explicit or implicit in your design. Is ADDIE dead? No, but she may be incorporated into other methodologies to meet the needs of new kinds of learners and to adapt to the many delivery options available today.

Solid learning design has a lot to credit ADDIE no matter how many different incarnations she may have.

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Not So Fast Learning Designers! The Rumors of ADDIE’s Death Are Premature