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Let’s Talk ADDIE: It Still Matters

Let’s Talk ADDIE: It Still Matters
Summary: There are genuine reasons why some in the Instructional Design industry hate the ADDIE model. However, ADDIE is still alive and well, and there’s reason to believe it will continue to remain so. Let’s look at both sides of the argument and see what it truly boils down to.

Is ADDIE Dead?

One model every Instructional Designer (ID) or learning content enthusiast will be familiar with is ADDIE. Some believe ADDIE is dead. I'd argue otherwise. ADDIE was the ever-so-loved and infamous model among the Instructional Design community. Some believe there is no Instructional Design without ADDIE and continue to believe so, while others hate it with a passion. So, why do people have such dichotomous views on the subject? Let’s unravel them.

The Beginning Of ADDIE

Let’s start our story with the inception of ADDIE. Here, I’ve referred to this detailed article on the Instructional Design process to explain the inception of ADDIE. The military began developing an Instructional Design methodology based on Gagne's concepts [1], and the Air Force quickly produced a five-step approach that resembled what would later become the ADDIE model for the Instructional Design process.

What Is The Instructional Design Process?

The term Instructional Design refers to the creation, design, and delivery of learning materials, experiences, and courses. This is done in the best way possible for learners. Early professional training and corporate learning solutions centered around the ADDIE instructional model which emerged shortly after the five-step approach of the military.

What Is ADDIE?

The ADDIE (analysis, design, development, implement, evaluate) model was developed in 1975 at Florida State University. This was the first Instructional Design model created, and it became a hallmark of its time. It was used by practically all major educational and business institutions.

The earlier linear model of ADDIE

The iterative or circular version of ADDIE


As we can see, ADDIE has a deep heritage, which allows it to be naturally solid. This very fact causes uneasiness in many modern Instructional Designers. They believe it to be too rigid and inflexible for modern demands. We’ll come to this very soon.

The Big Fuss With ADDIE

As with any creation, time started taking its toll on ADDIE. Even before the turn of the century, there were voices of dissent appearing, with a new Instructional Design model being developed to fit each niche. With new technology, the process of teaching and learning was no longer limited to static classrooms, and then things took a completely new turn with the inclusion of multimedia in learning materials.

"ADDIE Is A Bad Habit"

There is a section of staunch ADDIE "haters" that believe this Instructional Design model to be detrimental to the creation of learning content [2]. And some do have valid points. ADDIE came into existence when times were very different. The way we learned back then was simple and singular: in a classroom with a teacher, facing the front of the room and listening, raising your hand if you had questions, taking quizzes and tests, and seeing how you did at the end. It makes sense that the ADDIE model was adopted as the standard, but there wasn't an organization coming up with and accepting it. The ADDIE model isn’t something that was developed by one person, rather it was a collective work [3].

The issue is that today, and into the future, if recent and future trends are any guide, we're learning in dramatically different ways. Ways that ADDIE cannot support as a developmental model. So a section of people believe that when the underlying thinking is A-D-D-I-E, this not only limits the way new educational programs are developed, it also hamstrings the creative use of new learning technologies. Development and testing are ongoing, meaning that technologies are being developed continually. Keeping up with these new technologies as they come out is crucial to the long-term success of any business. This is also true for Instructional Designers.

But this type of interpretation is rather flawed. ADDIE has not been able to move with the times because it was never designed to be used in the twenty-first century. But the way we learn and adapt is always changing and needs to be bound by some important fundamentals. ADDIE provides that. So, adapting ADDIE to fit your system is and always has been the way to go. No Instructional Design system developed today will stand the test of time in 50 years, but it will play a role in shaping the models at that time. ADDIE is and will remain that to us. As Robyn Mendelsohn puts it, “No matter how you spin it, ADDIE still works great for me when training is the right solution (i.e., lack of skill and/or knowledge)!"

Challenges With ADDIE

There’s also a section of people who believe that the biggest weakness of the model is that it assumes that you can know all of the requirements before you develop the content. As we know from practical experience, the design process (developing and experimenting with the content) shapes the final design. Here are some of the most common challenges with ADDIE:

  1. Processes typically require unrealistically comprehensive up-front analysis.
  2. Ignores some real-world realities. Opportunities are missed, vital resources aren’t made available, support is lacking, and targets shift.
  3. Poor designs often go unrecognized until too late.
  4. We may tell ourselves that "innovation never stops" but when we follow the same basic processes day in and day out, creativity can become a nuisance.
  5. No place for dealing with faults or good ideas during the process.
  6. Learning programs are often evaluated on their ability to meet deadlines, cost, and throughput and don't focus on evaluating the behavioral changes that result.
  7. The post-test assessment is of little use in improving instruction since it just measures what the student already knows.

Many of these are valid points. However, there are variations of ADDIE that tend to meet these demands. There is one with a "define" phase before the "analyze" phase. Hence, some shift to calling it DADDIE. As Jay Lambert puts it in his blog, “We had skipped over a key Define task and all of our ducks, so to speak, were not in a row. By switching to the DADDIE model, the risk of this becomes much less likely. Charter documents and such are no longer an item to complete before starting a project, they are a called out and integral part of the project. Adjusting the model emphasizes their importance [4]."

There are many variations on this model (my favorite is "PADDIE," where "planning" and/or "preparation" are added at the start) [5]. The model is mainly applied to an iterative design process. This allows you to make changes after evaluating the previous step and makes the process more efficient.

ADDIE Only Works For Content Production, Which Is Dead

"Content production is becoming irrelevant more and more every day. Do you think that you are the first and only person to ever write about the subject you are writing about?" is how Matt Crosslin puts it in his article. Some believe content production is extinct and all you need to do is to make sure your students know what they need to study and make sure that they can connect to it. So, are we saying we have to become passion merchants as educators, now? Even if we were to believe content-producing IDs are the only ones who can use ADDIE, the content is and will always remain important. Or else, why even research anymore?

Ending Points

ADDIE is here to stay. ADDIE is not irrelevant, it is evolving and still very much in use. Here’s a short poll from Reddit, where the majority of voters believe that ADDIE is not dead, and a huge chunk of them believe it can never die [6]. And although this isn’t exactly like conducting a field survey, it lets us gauge the mood among Instructional Designers.

To be completely blunt, ADDIE is like a protocol that every Instructional Design model follows: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. No matter what you name the model, you will have to make sure these steps are followed, so ADDIE truly can’t die. Well, there you have it. ADDIE is still alive and kicking [7]. It looks like we will be using it or a close cousin of it for years to come.


[1] Gagné's Nine Events of Instruction

[2] ADDIE Must Die!


[4] ADDIE should have been DADDIE all along

[5] Is the ADDIE model appropriate for teaching in a digital age?

[6] Is ADDIE truly dead?