The ADDIE Design Model for eLearning Success

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Since its inception in the early 1970's, the ADDIE model has provided a framework for designing adult learning programs. In fact, it is our model of preference when we design learning programs here at Media Learning Systems, and has been employed for over 25 years for all of our online projects--with great results.

There are many instructional design models around so why does ADDIE remain popular after all of these years? This blog post will attempt to shed some light on this model and propose some reasons for its enduring popularity among course designers more 50 years after its initial publication.

ADDIE is an acronym for the five stages involved with designing and developing an educational program for the adult learner. These letters stand for the following words:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

Each stage of the model has deliverables that informs the next stage. The overarching goal is to create an effective online course with measurable learning objectives. Let’s review each step in greater detail before getting into some advantages of using ADDIE.

Step 1: Analysis

Before commencing the development of content (or even devising a training strategy), the very first step is to analyze the current “lay of the land” in terms of training, knowledge gaps, course objectives, target audiences, etc. to deliver maximum learning efficiency. It is my belief that fully scoping out the training needs produces a more effective learning program that better meets the needs of the target audience.

Prototyping is also done in this phase, where you refine your content and modify your design needs (navigation and user interface) based on client/SME approval. Once the project stakeholders are satisfied with the direction you have chosen, you can green-light your Instructional Designers and Developers to create the course.

Analysis helps you gain a clear understanding of:

  • Who is the Target Audience of the course?

For Successful course creation, it is important to think about:

  • What is the demographic profile of your target audience (e.g., age, gender, education level, computer literacy level, etc.)?
  • Who will be using the learning materials – job role?
  • Do the learners possess domain expertise or are they newcomers?
  • What factors influence their learning behaviour?

Identifying and understanding everything about target audience to uncover their needs is the best way to create engaging eLearning courses that ignite interest and keep learner attention. Apart from target audience, this phase also addresses the following questions:

  • What are the desired learning objectives?
  • What type of learning constraints exist?
  • What are delivery options?
  • What is the timeline for project completion?

Therefore, in analysis phase the instructional problems are clarified, learning goals and objectives are established, and learner knowledge/existing skills are identified.

Step 2: Design

The second phase of ADDIE is design. This stage aims to create the structure of the course in two ways: 1) By the systematic use of storyboards accompanied by mind map or bulleted sketches (if creating explainers); and 2) a detailed plan of the learning modules using skeletal outlines and branching (if creating learning paths). The more detailed you are in your design outline, the easier it will be to get through the development phase.

Another main goal of this phase is to develop education strategy that comprizes of learning interactivities, assessment activities, resources, and gaming elements to help learners better understand and retain the course material. Therefore, be mindful of creating the opportunities for learners to practice the desired skill or behavior. After all, they learn from what (and how) you teach!

Things to consider during this phase are:

  • How much time will learners be able to dedicate to the course?
  • What tools are available for course development?
  • Does the design of your course engage learners?

The steps of this phase (lesson planning) include:

  • Setting up learning objectives
  • Determine sequence (course structure)
  • Apply instructional design strategy
  • Design the navigation and user interface
  • Apply visual or graphic design
  • Designing quizzes or assessments

This phase plays a very important role in course creation, as it simplifies the task of imparting knowledge to learners, motivates them by using ample of examples, refines their skills, and increase the effectiveness of the eLearning course.

Step 3: Development

In the previous stages, we were primarily concerned with analyzing and planning the course creation process; In this third phase, we focus on effective course development.

Development is the building phase where you put your designs and created content into action using an authoring tool such as Articulate Storyline.

During course creation, functionality should be developed to match the design phase. Carefully employing these functionalities presents the course in a manner that will appeal to the audience.

Testing (alpha and beta) are essential to ensuring a quality final product. Involving the client/stakeholders in all aspects of testing ensures they are on board once the product is delivered and released on the Learning Management System (LMS).

Step 4: Implementation

Once you have completed your course development and the product is deemed to be acceptable by you and the client, it is time to implement which usually means uploading the course to an LMS. Testing for this phase includes ensuring tracking is being processed correctly by the LMS and flow control/certificates of completion are being generated once the user finishes all aspects of the course.

Step 5: Evaluation

The final (and I would argue most important) phase in the ADDIE model is evaluation. After the eLearning course is designed, developed and implemented, you can look at all these qualitative and quantitative course results you gather from surveys and exit interviews with learners to improve both the performance of the current course as well as inform future course development practices within your organization.

Advantages of ADDIE Model in eLearning

  • It provides you with the structure and flexibility to achieve analysed objectives
  • It informs effective course development
  • It contributes to the organization and implementation of training for engaging learners at their own pace and time
  • It is commonly used and widely accepted over the course of 50+ years
  • The model is versatile and can be used for online, face-to-face and blended learning
  • The model enables you to correct any design errors made in previous iterations, thus improving the quality of the end product and future products you develop


ADDIE is an effective learning model that works based on its five-step process – Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and, Evaluation. The model encourages eLearning designers to continuously evaluate and refine their work to deliver quality courses with which learners are engaged. If you would like more information on Media Learning Systems’ detailed design process and our 140-point checklist we use to ensure our learning products exceed your expectations, please contact us.


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