Theories and models - ADDIE

There was a moment, just one moment, during my Master's study, when I encountered something that was alien to me at the time. It wasn't just something new... there was lots of new learning. It was a concept that I'd not encountered before. It was storyboarding. I thought that was something that was associated with video production. Even having worked across different educational sectors, I had never heard of it in connection with learning.

This should have been my first clue that education and instructional design, though both about learning and development, are two completely different worlds. My next clue was that, in spite of having over 20 years' experience in education, I was seen as having no experience in learning and development. I found this baffling, as I thought they must surely have the same underpinning skills.

In education, there are many theories about how people - children and adults - learn, and why they sometimes fail to learn. Throughout my Master's, we looked at different theories of learning, explored some of the psychology of learning and tried to apply it to our daily work. What we didn't touch on, but I am beginning to see in the world of instructional design, are the various models that are used to design and build courses for training people in the workplace. Some of these models get mentioned in job adverts. ADDIE is a frequent ask from prospective employers. So I thought I'd better find out more.

What is ADDIE?

ADDIE is an acronym for a model that helps instructional designers to produce courses. It applies equally to face-to-face courses but as I am working on eLearning courses, I'll apply it to that.


In my case, this begins behind the scenes. I'm thinking about our main client. They are inspected and they constantly evaluate practice, which leads to sets of emerging gaps in staff knowledge and behaviours. These underpin their requests for us to build them eLearning courses.

When I pick up a new project, the first thing I do is arrange a call with the subject matter experts (SMEs) to find out the back story, what they hope learners will learn, how they want behaviours to change, etc. This information feeds into learning objectives, which are usually decided on at the beginning (though not always) and a rough course structure. I produce a document that summarises these, which we call the high level overview.


Once everyone is happy with the high level overview, and we are fairly sure of the direction of the project, I start to write the storyboard. This is where I design the learning, pull together content and write a script and begin to think about interactions. At this stage, I think about assessment too, though specific questions often come later. Where I work, storyboards are traditionally produced in a Word document, with each slide taking up one page, and laid out with the following information:
  • slide title
  • text content for the slide
  • what the slide might include: images, video, audio, etc.
  • an indication of how interactions might be used.
Having never worked in this way before, I've developed it a bit and I hope it has improved it slightly. I find it difficult to imagine slides from a Word document and my early experience indicates that SMEs find it difficult too, as they often overlook content errors/changes. This can cause frustrations later. So I do a mini-build alongside the storyboard and include screenshots of what we might include. This makes it easier to visualise. The disadvantage is that storyboarding takes longer. The advantage is that the mini-build already has structure, so building the eLearning is quicker.


This is the bit where I build the eLearning in Storyline 3. I use the storyboard as the main reference document, and we have developed quite detailed templates for our main client, so things like colours and fonts are sorted. During the development stage, I source images and record voice overs. This is my favourite part of the process. I love working with Storyline! Me and Storyline - we just clicked. We get each other.

A really important part of the development process is testing. I usually get my work peer reviewed first, to check that any silly mistakes are picked up before it goes to SMEs. Then I upload it to a test area of our LMS for SMEs to review. There are often amendments and changes, as a result of their feedback but my aim is to get it to a point where they really love it! Then they sign it off.


Once the piece of eLearning has been approved, it is ready for learners to actually use it. I put it in all the right places on the LMS, ensure that the right audiences have visibility, that completion records are set correctly and that titles and course descriptions make it clear what the training is. Then it is live. It's quite exciting when a piece goes live. It means I've achieved my goal - to complete the project.

But that's not quite it!


When a piece of eLearning goes live, we add a form to the LMS page, so that learners can give detailed feedback. This is mainly used by the client but I also look at them quite regularly to check how the eLearning is being received by learners. I'm particularly interested in any difficulties they have with navigating and completing the courses, as well as whether they found them engaging and useful.

So what have I learned about ADDIE?

I think the thing that stands out to me, is that I was using a model without knowing I was using it. Does that make the model or me any less valuable? I don't think so. I think it means that the ADDIE model is basic common sense. It also might mean that what comes naturally, following over 20 years in education, is an acceptable way of doing things. It makes me think that the L&D (learning and development) industry might be missing out on some serious talent by overlooking the skills that teachers have. I wonder how many teachers that have left teaching would be perfect to work in L&D. We find it quite challenging, finding and recruiting experienced instructional designers but I suspect there are ex-teachers out there who already are experienced instructional designers, but the two roles don't know each other yet.


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