Adapting ADDIE into a Quicker and Sustainable Process


In recent and ongoing arguments in the eLearning industry, the question “Are models like ADDIE still up to the challenges of modern day development?” keeps appearing. (ADDIE is an instructional design model that stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.)

While parts of ADDIE are helpful, the model on its own lacks efficiency and sustainability.

ADDIE is expected to be completed in a waterfall method, which means each step is dependent on the previous one. This can prevent teams from being rapid and working on multiple elements of the course at once. With the sheer number of steps (primarily the expectation of repeated formal reviews), the process can get quite lengthy. Many argue that it no longer fits the need of corporate initiatives and project time frames. Instead, it's a model based only on the ideals of perfect circumstance (quick and easy conversations, personnel being available for long periods of time and frequently, highly talented and willing individuals, etc.).

Some may also argue that ADDIE is not repeatable (and therefore not sustainable) because you're expected to take a fresh approach and never reuse content. Reusable content like worksheets and templates are not provided, so it's up to the individual using the model to create material. It also assumes your desired intent is an eLearning course only instead of one that can be applied to eLearning, instructor led training (ILT or vILT), and blended approaches. The delivery methods are so vastly different that the expectation of being a universal application is a far reach.

The following process is a hybrid model that I used to combine the best aspects of ADDIE, Rapid Development, Project Management, and SAM to achieve a repeatable (and therefore quicker) process. By also including the step of recycling content, the process also becomes sustainable.

Kick Off

A kick off is a series of conversations that ensure a project is defined. This is where you have the opportunity to share basic project information like why the course should be built, who will be playing the various roles, and establishing a timeline. Topics can be curated using a template or presentation, but conversation should flow freely and openly until everyone is comfortable with the basic information. This should not be a conversation where the instructional designer or course developer meet with the subject matter expert (SME) to “dump” knowledge or teach the subject. There are six people (at minimum) who should be involved in the whole process: an instructional designer, eLearning developer, graphic designer, SME, stakeholder and pilot participant. In some cases, the instructional designer, eLearning developer, and graphic designer may be combined into one or two people’s responsibilities.


The first step is to analyze any existing information and issues and come to an educated conclusion on how to continue. Having a worksheet or presentation ready with these questions and additional considerations will help speed along the process. During this step, it’s important to ask yourself Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Specifically:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What is your objective and how will it be quantified?
  • When will content be delivered and for how long?
  • Where will training be conducted?
  • Why was the training created?
  • How does the training resolve an issue or help to achieve an initiative?


The design phase is when you combine the information gathered from analysis and place it into a systematic and specific manner. This is where the instructional designer will apply instructional strategies, the graphic designer will create a visual design, and the eLearning developer will determine a technical design. The most common application of these strategies is for the instructional designer to create a storyboard or prototype with the help of the graphic designer and eLearning developer. A prototype is a roughly constructed course which includes placeholders for tentative content but still gives everyone an idea of how the course will look or behave. By developing in an authoring tool right away, you can save time and efforts when transferring content from one medium to another. If this isn’t a possibility, then having a storyboard template and design sheet helps to decrease the amount of time necessary to collect information. The stakeholder, SME, and pilot participant will act as advisors while completing the process.


During the process, it’s important to continuously revise content until it perfectly meets your objective (determined during the analysis phase). However, there are two key areas during the process where dedicated time should be set aside to take a step back from your project and reconsider anything discussed. The first is after the design and analysis phase. During this revision, you should focus on answering your key questions and reviewing content created during the design phase.


The development phase is when the eLearning developer will use the storyboard to create a course or expand on the prototype. Using a developer with knowledge of the tool will help to make sure content is created within a timely fashion. The graphic designer acts as a working partner providing additional material as needed. The instructional designer is available to provide advice or answer questions during the process regarding instructional strategies. The SME is also available to answer questions about the specific topic or process.

Revise (Again)

Once content has been constructed the whole team will meet to review the content together. At this time consideration should be taken for less than optimal viewing settings and situations like multiple browsers or devices. Feedback is then gathered and implemented.

It’s also important that at this time you enlarge your group of reviewers. After the initial group review it’s important to open the course to a new group, which could include team members of the pilot participant, people within the same department as the SME, and other stakeholders. The course should be placed into a testing environment to ensure there are no problems that arise during implementation. Once again feedback is gathered, discussed, and implemented.


The implementation phase is when the content officially becomes available to anyone within the curriculum focus or audience. The eLearning developer places the course where it will be accessible to all who need to view it, such as a learning management system (LMS). Knowing the requirements and being familiar with the LMS will help make sure upload is seamless. The course is monitored for a short time to ensure no problems arise. All relevant documents and copies of the course are placed into a location for safekeeping.


The evaluation phase is when the material is evaluated for its effectiveness on the overall objective that was determined during the analysis phase. This can be done in multiple ways but the most common is looking at key pieces of data. In the case of a sales course, this could be reviewing the previous quarter to see if numbers have increased or decreased. It’s important to determine these benchmarks during the analysis phase, so data can easily be extracted. You can also provide a self-evaluation to the learners in the form of a survey to see how impactful the course was.


The recycle phase is when you’ll revisit the content after a certain amount of time or when a member of the project team feels the content is no longer relevant. Reusing content is a cheaper and easier alternative to creating new content. It’s also a sustainable process that ensures you consider the reuse of content instead of creating something from scratch each and every time a course needs to be developed.

Do you use an adaptation of ADDIE for your eLearning process, or something different? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Editor’s note: Jennifer Valley is Community Manager at Trivantis and an instructional designer with five years of experience in learning. She loves sharing and conversing on social media, blogging, and spending time with her family. You can read her blog here, as well as follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Trivantis Corporation.