Is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevant?

Is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevantIs the Addie model outdated or still relevant?

I would not define ADDIE as outdated as it is still the most thoroughly used instructional design process. With more AGILE methodologies such as SAM, it comes down to how you can best work for your organization or client’s needs. A “perceived linear” approach like ADDIE can be a great way to keep track of all parts of a learning project, whereas a method such as SAM can allow you to work more flexibly and multitask to greater effect.

It really is what methodology suits the project and work you are currently doing, but make no mistakes, ADDIE is still widely used and cannot be defined yet as outdated.

The ADDIE model is known as an instructional design process for content creation within learning and development, but I feel it’s closer to a colloquial framework or even an iterative project management methodology that works linearly, needing one step to be completed before the next is started,

There are numerous arguments among L&D purists asking, “is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevant?”. Although this post is not here to debate that, we know that it is a systematic approach used by learning experts to analyze, develop, and evaluate to better plan and create learning design generally within the corporate learning arena.

What are the origins of ADDIE?

So, this topic could take a while, especially when we delve deep into this, but let’s break this down as best we can.

ADDIE has been around since the 1950s in the larger group of ISD (Instructional System design) but didn’t get used for real until about 1975 when the center for Educational Technology at Florida State University (FSU) developed it for the U.S. Army, which was then implemented across the entire U.S. Army. 

ADDIE was derived from a previous model called “The Five-Step Approach,” developed by the USAF. The five-step approach was retained, and over the years, ADDIE has evolved to apply more iterative and analytical processes alongside other instructional design methods such as “Merrill’s principles of instruction” (MPI).

Instructional design or project management framework?

Most Instructional designers (ID) will tell you that ADDIE is very much an instructional design process for planning learning projects, but is it? When you take into account how ADDIE works, one level is completed, then you move on to the next, it has elements of a project management framework, and most ID’s still use it as a way of conducting needs assessments and planning tasks and milestones that need to occur to meet the outcome of the project. 

Related: Project Management Instructional Design: ADDIE Model Proposal

So, is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevant? In a way, it is changing with the times and being used closer to a project management tool; I think it’s still very current and valuable to training designers.

Instructional design or Project Management

When should you use ADDIE?

ADDIE can be used anytime you, as an instructional designer, are engaged in a learning initiative or project that requires you to assess and develop learning material(s).

ADDIE helps provide structure and order in developing training content and allows you to finish each stage in a defined order to more easily keep track of the progress of your project.

Remember, you are not limited to only using linear frameworks like ADDIE; try to mix in some agile methodologies to change the way you work and become more flexible in the way you work, we will call it. “AGGIE. “

What are the 5 phases of ADDIE?

Due to the iterative process that ADDIE provides to designers, the five main steps of ADDIE are essential to understand to enable you to use it to its fullest potential.

Also, one of the most significant issues with ADDIE, or should I say how ID’s use it, is the design and development are focused on the most because, let’s be honest, they are the most fun, but the analysis, implementation, and evaluation steps are often overlooked or ignored, but ironically provide the greatest value to organizations.

Below we will answer the question, “is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevant? We will talk about each stage and explain our thoughts on what they mean and how you can utilize each of them to get the best outcome of your learning projects.


Image by janjf93 from Pixabay

The analysis stage is all about assessing and understanding the learning objectives and goals for the project and how that will factor into the instructional design component(s).

A needs assessment should have been completed before you meet this stage, and you should already know that training is required, what the scope is, and how the project will be structured.

Overall, the analysis phase establishes what needs to occur, what a learner’s knowledge and skills level are currently, and what the organizations want them to be in the future.

Check out some questions you may want to ask in your analysis:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is the problem that needs to be solved?
  • What is the current knowledge and skills on the given topic of your learners?
  • What is the desired knowledge and skills on the given subject of your learners?
  • How will the content be structured?
  • What form of learning is best suited to the project and your learners?

How will you achieve the creation, ongoing learning, and application of skills and knowledge?


Image by talha khalil from Pixabay

The design phase is one of my favorites, and the reason for this is this phase is about planning and ensuring that you have all your ducks in a row before you start the actual instructional design itself.

That initial question we asked, “Is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevant?”, really comes into its own here, due to the importance of the design phase, and the fact that ADDIE really makes a point to focus on this, is a pus in my book. 

This phase is often missed out because many designers want to dive straight into the development. Still, the design planning is vital to ensure that the learning project has a defined scope and is doable within the given timeline(s).  

Some of the things that you should consider in the design phase are the following (in no particular order):

  • What format should the learning intervention be – (online, in-person, video, webinar, VILT, etc.).
  • Define and finalize the needed learning objectives (use Bloom’s Taxonomy for this).
  • Create a design document
  • Create a content outline
  • Should your course be mobile responsive?
  • Create a written or visual storyboard
  • Create an action map
  • How will gamification and assessments be included?
  • What is the point of the learning intervention? Why does it need to be created?
  • Create a project timeline
  • Determine project scope
  • What the review cycle will be, how many reviews should be conducted, and what stages they should happen.



3, 2, 1, action.

Ok, so now we have completed the design phase, up next is the development phase, and is the phase we as designers all love the most. This is where we take what we have planned in the previous phases and put it into action.

After creating your storyboard(s), we can now turn our initiative into a reality, and having a solid storyboard is crucial to speeding up your workflow in the creation process.

Related: Getting to know Addie – Design

Now we can start to create the content, including all the elements you wanted in your learning plan (design document), and give life to your vision by building out your content into something more useable by learners.

Initially, we should prototype the learning material, add in interim images, voiceovers, text blocks, interactions, animations, videos, and whatever else you want to include. It would be best if you used this as a starting point that can be reviewed by your SME’s and stakeholders throughout the process.

As we progress through and you have blocked out your course or training content, the next step is to include the rest of your design elements and ensure that the flow of the content looks right and works well for learners from a user experience perspective depending on the format.

Utilizing methods like microlearning can be beneficial for cognitive load and learner information retention.

Here are a few points to consider when in the development phase:

  • Make your content user-focused
  • Create and develop your prototype
  • Ensure SME reviews happen consistently for QA purposes
  • Don’t work in a vacuum; utilize your team members if possible
  • Develop your content outline
  • Create a curriculum if needed
  • Add your chosen media to enforce learning and add engagement
  • Use tests and assessments sparingly only when it makes sense
  • Include activities to allow learners to practice what they have learned
  • Create presentation materials (if applicable)
  • Break up content into smaller, bitesize chunks (Microlearning)
  • Create content in a logical order
  • Make sure you keep your educational objectives in mind



Now you have planned, designed, and developed your training material(s), it’s time to rock “n” roll and get it out there to your learners.

Your QA should have been completed by this time, all review cycles have been conducted, and all changes made.

Implementation is about logistics but also communication. If it’s in-person training, we should think about where we will conduct the training, size of the classroom. In contrast, if it is eLearning, you might want to know how learners can access it, any unforeseen bugs, if the LMS is operating correctly, etc. Still, we must make sure our delivery method of choice is working effectively.

Here are a few points to consider when implementing your training content:

  • Will you implement this in phased periods to different learner groups or to everyone altogether at the same time?
  • Prepare learners for what the course entails and what they need to do before, during, and after.
  • Are all emails and notifications created to communicate with learners about the new or adapted learning initiative?
  • Pay attention to learner feedback to enable changes to be made.
  • Train the trainer model to be used if other training professionals will be delivering your content

Prepare learning environment: Make sure the classroom is in order, the projector is set up, the presentation works well, lighting is on point, audio sounds correct, or if it’s online, then ensure the LMS is set up correctly, your SCORM, xAPI or CMI5 package is uploaded correctly, and the course and LMS are communicating with each other appropriately.



The last phase and also the one that is forgotten about the most is evaluation. Now you have implemented the training solution, you have kept abreast of the feedback that has come in from learners, and now you can ascertain if you met your goals and objectives that you set in the analysis phase right back at the beginning.

Did the learners acquire the level of knowledge you wanted them to, or did they meet your benchmark(s)? You can find this out by using numerous evaluation techniques such as: focus groups, interviews, surveys, checking assessment results in your LMS course reports, and also verbal conversations to extract the information you need to understand how well the learning intervention went and if it made a performance change.

One of the most well-known evaluation models for corporate training is Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation. This makes the evaluation process much simpler to understand.

The Kirkpatrick model levels are the following:

  • Reaction
  • Learning
  • Behavior
  • Results

Grab a copy of the newest edition of Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation book to learn more.

What are the strengths of the ADDIE model?

The strengths of the ADDIE model are well known, but when it comes to that famous old question, is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevant, it is worth having a look at the strengths of this oldie but goody to see what is great about it still. 

Below are some of the significant advantages of using ADDIE as an instructional design process:

What are the weaknesses of the ADDIE model?

We spoke about the strengths of ADDIE, but like with all things, there have to be some negatives. ADDIE’s weaknesses are pretty pronounced, but the question is, is the ADDIE model outdated due to all these weaknesses? Let’s find out.


With ADDIE having been around for so long now, can the new upstart SAM take its crown, and is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevant? Let’s take a look. 

Firstly though, let’s Hear from freelancer instructional design extraordinaire, Tim Slade.

ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation)

As we know, ADDIE is an iterative bit linear design process where one phase is meant to be completed before moving on to the next. This is good from a structure point of view as it means that the designer can focus on each section before moving on, so it is less likely something will be missed. Still, on the flip side, it is designed that you don’t backtrack, so if you forget to do a task, then you are going against the way ADDIE was intended.

Related: ADDIE: A 5-Step Process for Effective Training & Learning Evaluation

SAM (Successive Approximation Model)

The SAM model, in one respect, was made to be the polar opposite of ADDIE and to take advantage of ADDIE’s downsides. It was also upgraded to be defined as an AGILE (Align, Get Set, Iterate & Implement, Leverage, Evaluate), which provides numerous advantages over more linear models. 

Dr. Michael Allen of Allen Interactions developed SAM

Related: An Introduction to SAM for Instructional Designers

When it was designed, Dr. Allen promoted step 1 to become what he called the Savvy Start. This was defined as a focus group of experts meant to review the process from start to finish. 

SAM is designed to give you more opportunities to move backward, change things on the fly, and also have conversations around design and development, where you can change assets quickly.

SAM’s main phases are the following:

  • Preparation
  • Iterative design
  • Iterative development

Which should you choose?

There is no winner out of these two instructional design models. 

ADDIE has a more structured, waterfall-like modality, which helps ensure all tasks are completed by a specific time, similar to a project management process. 

Whereas SAM allows IDs to conduct multiple phases at once to be more iterative and more agile than ADDIE, which, if you work in an AGILE team, can massively speed up your workflow and make you more adaptable to change. 

Most Instructional designers, though (in my experience), prefer structure, so they know what they have to do and when they have to do it by, which really puts ADDIE still at the forefront of the L&D industry.

Is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevant?

So, is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevant? That’s a tricky question…

There is no doubt that the SAM model has changed the way we think about designing learning programs in the corporate world and Higher ED, giving us more scope to change, adapt and maneuver during the process of planning, creating, and evaluating content.

The fact that SAM starts with brainstorming is genuinely refreshing and ground-breaking and allows us to move on a dime when necessary, but ADDIE is still used by the large majority of L&D professionals

ADDIE is still the “big dog” used by the large majority of L&D professionals, although subconscious most of the time.  The structure it provides is ingrained in our workflow(s) and makes it simple for us in our industry to create project plans that are well structured, timeline driven, where things need to be step by step.

It is evident that ADDIE’s origins have come from the military, do this, then this; then that, in a very linear, instructional way. Even now, this method still works well for us in ID who need a particular way of working.

So, when we look at the original question, “Is the ADDIE model outdated or still relevant”, I would say the latter is more accurate in today’s learning climate, but how you work or run your Learning & Development team is obviously up to you, but maybe adding a sprinkle of innovation to your process may be just what the doctor ordered. ,

Final Thoughts

If you are already using ADDIE, my final thoughts are, then continue to do so as it is a tried and tested instructional design process that is proven to work, especially if you are creating a very linear, non-branching style eLearning courses such as compliance. Still, it may be worth mixing in a less linear methodology like SAM when the opportunity arises to make your workflow more flexible and to work with stakeholders and SME’s in a better way.

If you are new to instructional design, 100% start with ADDIE to build your skills and work in a step-by-step way, ensuring you learn the process of developing learning programs effectively.

Remember, if your team is utilizing SAM, you can definitely move to this model when you are ready. Still, suppose nobody else uses such a non-linear model. In that case, you will find it very difficult to be on the same page with your fellow designers, making the design and development phases super tricky.

Let us know what model you use? Do you prefer ADDIE’s waterfall-like style, or have you completely moved to SAM and love the more flexible, collaborative way of designing.

Anything you would like to know, I’ll see you in the comments.

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