The ADDIE Instructional Design Model

If you’ve been around e-learning a little while, chances are you’ve heard of the ADDIE model, the most commonly used instructional design model and the go-to process most training designers use when crafting learning experiences. The acronym stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. If you’re designing training or e-learning, it’s important that you have a solid grasp of what ADDIE means.

The five steps that give the ADDIE model its name are the steps you should follow to create training from start to finish. Now you might be wondering, Why should I follow this ADDIE process? The reason is simple: The ADDIE model, which has been in use for more than 30 years, provides a logical, step-by-step “roadmap” for building training that ensures learners will have to meet specific objectives. New designers have a tendency to want to jump directly into “development” (I totally get it; that’s the fun part!), but they need to be careful not to skip steps, because each one is critical. Let’s take a closer look at what each phase of ADDIE entails.


According to the ADDIE model, the first thing you should do when you’re handed a new training project is a detailed analysis. What do you need to analyze? Three of the most critical analyses carried out by instructional designers are:


Training Needs Analysis: This should be the first type of analysis you complete because it identifies whether the training is needed at all. This analysis identifies what performance improvements are expected and how they will be measured, which is critical in identifying whether training has been successful. Read more: How to Do an E-Learning Needs Analysis.

Audience Analysis: Once you validate that the training is indeed needed, it’s time to analyze your learners. Knowing key demographics and background information about your learners will help you identify the information they need to know and the best way to present it to them. Read more: How to Do an E-Learning Audience Analysis.

Task Analysis: Now that you know what your course is about and who will be taking it, it’s time to take a close look at the specific processes and tasks you’ll be training learners on by breaking them down into step-by-step chunks. Read more: How to Do a Task Analysis Like a Pro.

Once you’ve completed these analyses, you have a much better idea of the who, what, where, and why of your e-learning. A good idea is to compile these findings into your first deliverable: a project plan. Read more: How to Plan E-Learning Courses Like a Pro.


With the analyses out of the way, you’re ready to start development, right? Wrong! Don’t skip the first “D”! Starting to develop your course without completing the design phase is like building a house without a blueprint. It makes much more sense to start with a clear plan of how everything in the course will be laid out and how the text, multimedia, and navigation will fit together. Exactly which deliverable you create as a result of the design phase depends on your time, budget, resources, and what you’ve outlined in your project plan, but typically one of two deliverables comes out of the design phase:

Storyboard: This document lays out the elements of the course that will appear on each slide, including the text, imagery, and narration script. Exactly what’s included in a storyboard depends on the project. For example, if your project includes audio narration, you’ll need to add a script to your storyboard. If you’re building a storyboard that you will hand off to a developer, you’ll need to add detailed notes for the developer. Read more: Storyboards for E-Learning: What to Include?

Prototype: This is typically a model or sample of a course that is created to test and identify whether specific features or concepts work. The prototype lets a stakeholder get a feel for how the course looks and functions before developing the entire course and all of its features. Read more: E-Learning: Storyboard vs. Prototype.

Once you’ve got your blueprint for your course, you’re ready to jump into the fun part: development!


This is the phase where you (finally!) get to build out your e-learning content in an authoring tool. The development part of the ADDIE process typically contains two sub-tasks:

Content Creation: In this phase you choose and add the final graphics, multimedia, colors, and fonts to make your course look polished and professional. You’ll also use your authoring tool to build out activities, quizzes, interactions, and functional navigation to create an engaging course. Read more: Overview of E-Learning Authoring Software.

Testing: Once you’ve created your content, you need to test it. Things that need to be tested and reviewed include spelling, grammar, learning objectives, navigation, and flow. Testing is typically done during the development process instead of after, so that as testers identify problem areas, the developer can make changes to the final product. Read more: Top 3 Tips for E-Learning QA Testing.


Once your course is fully developed and thoroughly tested, you’re ready to share it with your learners. Typically, during the Implementation phase, the materials are shared in one of two ways: by uploading it directly to the web or to a Learning Management System (LMS). How do you decide between these two implementation methods? It depends on whether you need to track and report on learner behavior.

Web: If you don’t need to track learner behavior, you can upload content directly to the web and provide a URL link for your learners to access the training. However, since learner activity isn’t tracked, you won’t know whether they completed the course, how long it took them to do so, or if they went wrong somewhere. Read more: How to Get an E-Learning Course Online.

LMS: If you do need to track your learners and their progress, your best bet is to share your content through an LMS. Every LMS offers different features and functionalities, but they share some tracking capabilities, such as whether learners completed a module and how long it took them. Read more: An Introduction to LMSs.


When you progress to the evaluation phase, you need to go back to the very first step of the ADDIE process, in which you (hopefully!) completed a training needs analysis. During that step, you identified specific performance improvements that your training would address as well as how to measure those improvements.

The evaluation phase is where the rubber meets the road: Did your training result in the real, measurable performance improvements you identified in your needs analysis? While the learner’s opinions and feedback about the e-learning matter, it’s most critical to ensure that your training achieved the goals you set at the start. Read more: Post-Course Evaluations: What E-Learning Designers Need to Know & How to Measure the Satisfaction of Learners Taking Your Online Courses.

And there you have it, the five steps of the ADDIE model! Following each step will ensure that you end up with a high-quality course that meets the needs of your learners. Interested in learning about other instructional design models? Here are a few related articles:

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Alexander Salas
David Ward
Alexander Salas
Terry Coe

I think that SAM is a very direct way to get the Stakeholders, SME's and developers on the same page. Everyone is basically notified that while the project is in development, their timely feedback is important to creating the best module, with the least amount of setbacks, almost like creating constantly evolving design period for the entire project. Working on the entire project (SAM) in a program like Articulate, instead of a module at a time (ADDIE), is way more efficient, because changes can be made almost instantaneously. It seems to give the Stakeholders and SMEs more of a sense of ownership in the project, too, urging them to be more responsive and vocal on the things that matter without having the financial burden of the setback. (By the way, I agree about the bad wrap Pow... Expand

Angie Carter