7 Tips To Implement The SAM Model In eLearning

7 Tips To Implement The SAM Model In eLearning
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Summary: Are you looking for a more cyclical design process that doesn’t adhere to the traditional linear format? In this article, I share 7 tips to implement the SAM model in eLearning.

How To Implement The SAM Model In eLearning

The Successive Approximation Model (SAM) introduced by Dr. Michael Allen involves a 3-phase iterative process that allows you to break eLearning development into more manageable tasks. Unlike other linear approaches, such as the ADDIE, SAM tackles issues as they arise by repeating stages to build on previous versions of the eLearning course design. At its core is "savvy start", which involves brainstorming and background research that helps you prepare, prototype, and identify areas for improvement. Let’s take a look at 7 tips you can use to implement the SAM model in eLearning.

7 Insider Tips To Maximize The SAM Model

1. Identify Goals And Outcomes

When implementing the SAM model in eLearning, remember that the preparation stage comes first. You must clarify your goals and desired outcomes, as well as gather relevant background information regarding the training topic, learning needs, etc. Many other Instructional Design approaches involve lengthy analysis phases that focus on the existing strategy and its gaps. With the SAM model, you skip straight to preparing your L&D team and equipping them with the knowledge they need.

2. Gather Resources And Research Online Learners’ Needs

The preparation stage should also include gathering resources that you already have on hand and conducting audience research. Conduct surveys, evaluate LMS metrics and assess pre-existing knowledge. You can also meet with Subject Matter Experts to narrow down the key takeaways and get their recommendations regarding eLearning activities and overall content delivery.

3. Host A Virtual Brainstorming Session

It’s always a good idea to officially launch the eLearning project with a virtual brainstorming session. According to the "savvy start" methodology of the SAM Model in eLearning, this meeting is intended to evaluate performance and develop a plan of action. It also gives everyone the opportunity to meet one another and define roles, expectations, and eLearning project milestones. You’ll probably host frequent feedback and analysis sessions throughout the process, since this is an iterative approach. However, this brainstorming event is crucial because it allows your L&D team to set ground rules and map out each phase of the eLearning project.

4. Plan And Prototype

Now it’s time to move on to the design phase of the SAM model, which involves more in-depth planning and prototyping. L&D teams should make a note of all the ideas that were flushed out during the brainstorming session, then choose the best to proceed with. This second phase centers on a cycle of designing, prototyping, and review. After each repetition, you should review what you already have and make the necessary changes before moving on. For example, review the prototype and identify flaws, then start at the beginning of the cycle by designing more effective eLearning content.

5. Create A Design Proof

The third and final stage of the SAM model is known as the Iterative Design Phase. In this case, the three steps are development, implementation, and evaluation. This begins by creating an eLearning design proof using the work you completed in the design phase. The proof should be fully functional and feature all the components you need to have for the finished product. For example, all the visuals and activities you wish to include in the finalized eLearning course to address online learners’ needs and learning objectives. It takes the eLearning course design a step further in that you utilize the same resources, eLearning authoring tools, and work practices that you’ll use to complete the finished product. As such, you can determine if the L&D team’s workflow needs to be adjusted or if you should invest in additional tools to get the job done.

6. Implement Multiple Design/Evaluation Phases

If you decide to follow the SAM model in eLearning, you must run three rounds of testing to complete before the official eLearning course launch. The first is Alpha, which involves developing and evaluating the basic design of the eLearning course. For instance, producing a rudimentary version of the eLearning course with placeholders and perfecting the layout. The second round is Beta, which involves testing and ironing out glitches that impede the learning experience. At this stage, the overall eLearning course design, activities, and methodologies are set. Which brings us to the third and final phase, Gold testing. This version should be very close to the finished product. Preferably, free of errors and nearly ready for learner consumption.

Why Are There So Many Testing And Evaluation Rounds In SAM?

The benefit of multiple design and evaluation phases is that you can catch errors early on and perfect your approach while there’s still time, instead of going over budget or missing deadlines due to lengthy last-minute revision rounds. For example, starting back from the beginning when you suddenly discover that the learning objectives were unclear. Or that your eLearning authoring tool wasn’t up to the task and you need a replacement to complete the project. Bear in mind that you may need to repeat the Alpha, Beta, and Gold stages if you encounter a major issue at any point in the cycle. For instance, you overlooked a crucial topic, or the eLearning content requires more interactivity to enhance learner engagement.

7. Involve Key Stakeholders During Each Design Stage

Using the SAM Model In eLearning requires flexibility and a willingness to identify weak points in your course design. You must involve stakeholders at every stage so that they can provide their feedback and revision suggestions. For example, they have an issue with the aesthetics during the iterative design phase. It’s much easier and cost-effective to remedy the problem now instead of waiting until the day before launch.


The SAM Model in eLearning is a great approach but it might not be ideal for every eLearning project or team. However, it does give you the ability to continually analyze, evaluate, and revise your eLearning content to achieve the best results. Meet with your L&D team before deciding on an Instructional Design model to get their feedback and recommendations. This also allows you to determine if the process meshes with their preferred workflow and stakeholders’ requirements.

Would you like to weigh more Instructional Design options? Are you ready to break into the industry or take your ID career to the next level? Download our exclusive eBook today for all the insider secrets.