Should we use the ADDIE model in instructional design?

Hand holding lens up to see view more clearly to demonstrate how we evaluate projects in instructional design.

We’ve all been there. Whether as instructional designers, teachers or students, we have all sat in a classroom and thought: something just doesn’t feel right.

You may find yourself skipping slides or producing additional resources due to errors in the material or slides which don’t serve a purpose.

When you’ve reported the issue to your line manager and requested the materials to be corrected or adapted, you may have received a standard answer — that they would take your feedback into consideration when they review the material in 6 months or two years’ time.

This is a systemic problem in instructional design and we believe it is due to the prevalence of the ADDIE methodology. So, is there an alternative or will poor design continue to prevail?

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The ADDIE model

The ADDIE model was created by Florida State University in 1975 for training the US Army to complete repetitive tasks. It’s a top-down waterfall methodology and each relies on the successful completion of the previous step, like a production line. The ADDIE model is ideal for industries such as manufacturing or construction but poses a significant challenge for innovative industries such as instructional design.

The Addie Model

As the ADDIE model is not iterative, it is not possible to revisit a stage once it has been completed.  Poor designs aren’t recognised as such until it’s too late. If you strictly follow the ADDIE model, (which almost no one actually does), your training methods or content could be at risk of instant obsolescence.

For example, a new feature might be released during your development phase and this may require redesigning your content to incorporate this feature, such as the recent addition of breakout groups in teams.

In another example, a client might ask you to add references to a third-party website to your content and then later terminate their partnership during your later phases and ask you to remove references to their material.

Rather than avoiding and fearing change, instructional designers need to accept that change is inevitable; we need to expect it in all our projects and welcome change to design better content.  The truth of the matter is that everyone is learning more about the project as it unfolds and progresses. The more we learn, the more we request changes.

We are no longer in the year 1975; instructional designers need to be proactive, anticipate and embrace change to gain an edge over their competitors.

We need to be agile.


Beyond ADDIE

We need to move beyond the ADDIE model. We need iteration. Instructional design is an innovative process and this requires instructional designers to not only respond to change but anticipate and embrace change as a challenge to create even better learning experiences.

Sometimes this change happens when we are in the development or implementation stage; we need to respond, and this isn’t possible with a rigid, top-down, waterfall methodology.  We need a different approach.

Introducing LLAMA

Software developers have been using Agile methodologies for over 20 years. Granted, instructional designers are not software developers, but these two roles have more similarities to each other than to a production line. Just look at the slide decks in your organisation and compare them with slide decks from 2, 3, 5 years ago. There may be changes in colours, fonts, animations, style and some of these changes may be dramatic.  Changes also happen as a result of technological upgrades.

A true agile methodology will not work in an instructional design context; however, in her 2019 book ‘Agile for instructional designers: Iterative project management to achieve results’, Megan Torrence describes an instructional design methodology that she created specifically for Instructional Designers in 2012.  Torrence’s methodology is called LLAMA (Lot like agile management approach).

Agile Management Approach

Torrence’s approach adapts the ADDIE model to include iteration and encourages instructional designers to evaluate their content while they design and develop materials, rather than relying on an end-of-project evaluation.

Let’s face it, the reason why poor design prevails is because we leave it until it’s too late to make changes and we run out of time or budget and then plan to update our materials with these changes in 6 months or 2 years’ time — and this simply doesn’t need to be the case anymore.

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