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What Is ADDIE? 5 Steps to eLearning Excellence

measuring gamificationCrafting effective training content, courses or entire training programmes is difficult enough to hinder even the most seasoned L&D professionals. Luckily, there are frameworks and approaches you can apply to ease your path. And that’s where the ADDIE model comes in handy.

ADDIE is one of the stable frameworks in the instructional design industry. In fact, it has been used consistently ever since its creation, and it has gone on to inspire the creation of other popular frameworks.

Join us to explore the model in more detail. We discuss the background, its application and the five phases of ADDIE!

Ready? Let’s go!

What is ADDIE?

The 1970s was a colourful decade: roller skates ruled the world, and people were busy dancing to disco music and tending to their pet rocks. We also saw many exciting inventions, like Post-it notes and the first Apple computer.

The ADDIE model is amongst the great creations of the decade. It was invented by the Florida State University’s Center for Educational Technology for the US Army, who used it to guide their military training programmes.

Today, it’s essential knowledge for instructional designers and training developers. In fact, the modern ADDIE framework, like many other instructional design models, is based on the original 1970s model.

But what exactly is ADDIE, and what does it stand for? ADDIE is an Instructional System Design (ISD) framework that helps you to create effective training processes.

The name ADDIE is an acronym for the five stages of the development process. It includes Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. These five phases represent a dynamic and flexible guideline for building effective training and performance support tools.

ADDIE is meant to be completed in sequential order, from Analysis to Evaluation. Similarly, the model relies on instructional designers completing each stage for the process to be successful.

ADDIE is a flexible enough model that it can be used to create any type of learning experience for any audience. In fact, when used right, it gives you a streamlined and focused approach to creating the training programmes of your dreams!

Let’s explore each step of the process in more detail.

1. Analysis

LMS Features: Different types of reportsAll journeys must start from somewhere. When it comes to creating high-impact training programmes, analysis is an essential step to kick things off with. As such, the first step of ADDIE is all about analysis.

After all, before you start creating content or determining your training strategies, you should analyse your current situation. Understanding where you are at will help you to get a clear picture of the gaps your training needs to fill.

As such, this phase should include auditing your audience, reviewing your business goals, determining training methods, deciding on media types and so on. To analyse your learner audience, you should conduct an in-depth training needs analysis (TNA).

In addition, you can ask yourself and those around you some simple questions. You should consider your learning environment, your audience, the problems you are trying to solve, stakeholder and learner expectations and your learners’ preferred learning methods. For instance:

  • Who is your target audience, and what is their demographic profile?
  • What does the audience already know?
  • What are the performance gaps your learners are experiencing?
  • What is the desired outcome of this learning experience?
  • What tools are best to deliver this type of information?
  • How much time can your learners devote to training?
  • Are all learners required to take the course or training programme?
  • What do you want your learners to achieve?
  • How do your learners prefer to learn?
  • Where are you going to offer training?
  • What is the technical situation in your organisation?
  • Do your learners have access to all necessary resources?
  • Are there limiting factors, like resources, time or financial constraints?

Once you have completed the analysis stage, you can create a comprehensive training plan that addresses ‘Who, What, When, Where, Why and How’.

The finished analysis should then become the heart and soul of your online learning course. This is essential, as this phase influences a huge amount of decisions you need to make later on in the ADDIE process.

2. Design

Your analysis will inform and drive your training plan. Once you have completed this step, you can move on to the design phase.

This is where you take all of the learning from the previous phase and use it to make practical decisions about your strategy. In a nutshell, this stage is about creating a training masterpiece that’s brilliant by design.

For example, this step involves:

  • Determining your learning objectives
  • Creating content or course outlines
  • Developing scripts
  • Selecting your learning environment (e.g. face-to-face, LMS, mobile learning app or blended learning)
  • Designing the user interface and learner experience
  • Mapping out time frames for each activity
  • Determining how your courses progress
  • Deciding on the level of learner autonomy
  • Identifying the best assessment methods

Following this, you need to storyboard your idea to create a course prototype. This blueprint helps you to identify any areas that need improvements. It also helps to communicate the value of the training to your stakeholders.

Whatever you are seeking to achieve, you need to ensure your online courses address the key areas highlighted in your analysis. Similarly, your design needs to cater to your specific audience.

It needs to fit their preferences and training needs. In addition, your design plays an important role when it comes to holding their interest throughout the course.

As such, keep your learning objectives in mind throughout your design process. You need to remember who your audience is and then add a little creative magic to help bring your course to life.

This phase is often time-intensive and requires a lot of attention to detail. In fact, this is the phase where you need to put all your instructional design skills and knowledge to good use.

After all, you need to come up with an engaging but achievable design that meets the needs you identified in the last stage. A strong initial design will help you to forge your way to learning triumph!

At the end of your design phase, you should have made a series of important design decisions, created a clear course outline and completed your storyboard.

3. Development

You’ve got your analysis, and you’ve got your design. Your job in the development stage is to bring those plans to life. As such, the third phase of ADDIE involves gathering your plans and assets to create your courses.

In fact, this stage includes all activities that have to do with creating the actual end product for your learners. Make sure you stick to the plan you mapped out in your analysis and design phases.

Your previously drafted prototype and storyboard should guide you heavily. Looking back at the previous steps helps you to ensure you are focusing on your target audience and the best way to reach and engage them.

Typically, this is the trickiest and most time-consuming step in the instructional design process. However, there are now various tools that help you to create your content in-house and faster than ever before.

Authoring tools, like Growth Engineering Authoring Tool, make this step as effortless as it can be. Our tool, for example, produces high-impact, gamified training content 10x faster than its competitors.

As such, the outcome of this phase should be your training content and entire training courses. However, you can’t just pull your content together and hope for the best. Instead, you need to think through each unit, section and slide to ensure each element has a purpose.

You’ll also need to develop your course in line with your organisation’s brand guidelines (or in line with the specifications determined at the planning stage). In the simplest form, you should add graphics, choose colours according to your company’s branding and decide on fonts.

While this seems self–explanatory, little design details can have a huge impact on how polished your courses feel. This, in turn, will impact engagement and learner buy-in. After all, it makes the content familiar and appealing.

deep engagement induces the flow state

But great training content is so much more than just text and eye-catching graphics. High-impact training is interactive, engaging, useful and actionable. Your content should progress in a logical order, and navigation needs to make sense to all users.

And, of course, don’t forget to proofread your content to ensure there are no basic errors. In fact, you should test the course as a whole to check on the accuracy of the content and how easy it is to navigate.

4. Implementation

The fourth step is all about implementation. You finally get to see all your ideas come to life! After all, it’s time for your training initiative to go live.

With solid planning, your implementation phase will run smoothly. However, be ready for the unexpected. In fact, to prevent any hiccups, you could produce helpful instructions to ensure your learners get the most out of their training.

That said, even if you thoroughly tested your course in the last step and have created helpful documents or tutorials, you’ll still need to monitor the situation for any teething issues. Alternatively, you can conduct a pilot test before sharing the course with your whole learner audience.

Then, it’s time to share the end result with all your learners. Again, the decisions you made in the design phase will influence how your implementation is actually carried out.

For example, if you are creating an online learning programme, you will most likely send it straight to your learners’ learning management system (LMS). This can be done using tools such as SCORM. The delivery, tracking and reporting of this content is all handled within the LMS.

At the end of this step, your courses should be live, and your learners can begin their learning journey. But remember, the process is not over yet! As such, pay attention to any learner feedback so that you can make the learning experience even better.

On top of paying attention to your learners’ reactions, you also need to determine whether your chosen delivery method is working. For example, determine if there were any issues in accessing the learning platform, or if your instructions were adequate.

5. Evaluation

Congratulations — you are almost there! After you have planned, designed, developed and implemented your training programme, you need to make sure it’s doing its job effectively.

As such, your last phase is all about evaluation. This step involves gathering important information that helps you to determine if you need to revise or improve your training programme.

To evaluate your instructional design processes successfully, you can use two methods to gather feedback – one where you ask for user feedback and one where you assess your data:

  • Formative: Use informal and formal assessment methods to gather feedback throughout the ADDIE process. These formative assessment methods include, for example, interviews or questionnaires.
  • Summative: Once your training is live, use summative feedback to analyse the effectiveness of your training. You can gather summative feedback by exploring your learners’ test results, content completion and performance.

You should focus on analysing if you met the goals you set out in the analysis phase. Similarly, identify if you need to deliver extra training on any of the topics you cover or if you need to change your media types or approach. For example, determine:

  • Did your learners learn what you wanted them to learn?
  • Were your learners able to apply their new skills or knowledge?
  • Are your learners engaged on their learning platform?
  • Are your learners motivated to return to their learning platform?

While ADDIE’s main purpose is to provide a structured method for creating effective training programmes, this last stage is extremely useful in improving your future training initiatives.

The Evolution of ADDIE

The five phases we went through are part of the original ADDIE model. However, the model has not stayed stagnant throughout the years.

Instead, it has evolved to meet the needs of innovation in the L&D industry. As such, let’s explore the evolution of the ADDIE framework.

When the model was created, ADDIE worked well for the military, business and industry settings of the time. However, since its creation, industries and working environments have evolved, and workers and learners have changed in attitudes.

These changes led to the various revised ADDIE models. In fact, many instructional designers have made their own revisions to the original framework to make it more interactive, flexible and dynamic.

For example, Dr. Russell Watson introduced the first revised ADDIE model in 1981. In his model, the five steps are still the same. However, he modified each phase slightly to fit organisational needs better.

In the mid-1980s, the US Army, too, made changes to the model to change the process from a linear to a more dynamic model. They also shortened the last stage from ‘Evaluation and Control’ to ‘Evaluation’.

In addition, in 1997, J.J.G. van Merrienboer suggested that the model can be used together with other instructional design frameworks. This is when ADDIE became a ‘plug & play’ model.

Today, ADDIE is considered a cyclical process. This enables L&D professionals to iterate and pilot training initiatives while developing eLearning more rapidly and to a higher quality.

Advantages and Disadvantages of ADDIE

Like other instructional design models, ADDIE comes with both advantages and disadvantages. These include:


  • A commonly used and widely accepted model
  • Proven effective for human learning
  • Used as a foundation for other learning models
  • Easy to determine the impact in terms of time and cost
  • Can be used as a continuous or iterative cycle
  • A flexible model that can be revisited and refined
  • Gives a logical and straightforward starting point to instructional design


  • A linear process where each step needs to be followed in order
  • Time-consuming and often costly process
  • Cannot adapt to unforeseen project changes
  • The instructional design process is as weak as the weakest phase

Is ADDIE Still Relevant?

Ever since the model was created in the 1970s, L&D professionals around the world have modified and used it as an inspiration for other models. This raises the question if the ADDIE model is outdated or still relevant for eLearning production.

Other newer instructional design models have changed the way we think about designing training initiatives. For example, the SAM model gives us more scope to change and adapt during the process than ADDIE.

After all, ADDIE came about when times were very different. Back then, we typically conducted training face-to-face in a classroom setting. The teacher led the sessions while learners had next to no autonomy.

A hand designing gamification

It makes sense that ADDIE came about when training was more structured overall. After all, it’s somewhat evident that ADDIE’s origins come from the military. Just think about the structured and timeline-driven linear approach.

However, the framework is still alive and kicking. In fact, it’s still used by many L&D professionals. The structure is so heavily ingrained into our workflows that we often follow it subconsciously.

While the structured approach might be a weakness for some, it also means that ADDIE works well for instructional designers who prefer a particular way of working.

As such, we argue that ADDIE still has its place in the training industry. It can provide important fundamentals that help L&D professionals adapt to arising trends and new technologies. Similarly, it continues to shape the more modern models of today.

Final Words

Now you know all about the five-step ADDIE process, including analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation.

With this information up your sleeve, you are guaranteed to smash your lesson plans, conjure up effective course content and create high-impact training programmes.

However, ADDIE might not fit your instructional design needs. Luckily, there are various other models that you can use instead!

Are you ready to learn more about different instructional design approaches? Download our guidebook by clicking the link below!

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