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In a Nutshell: ADDIE Model

Jan 30, 2016

The ADDIE model is virtually synonymous with instructional design or instructional systems design (ISD). Instructional design is the discipline concerned with the design of training programs (both online and classroom).

Most all learning and development (L&D) professionals will, at some point, wear the hat of the instructional designer. With the growth of online learning platforms and software tools, instructional design is often equated with eLearning in the business world, although it more broadly covers any type of courseware design (physical or virtual).

The origins of the ADDIE model are somewhat obscure. Many accounts refer to a 19-step model (split across five core stages) developed in 1975 by Florida State University’s Center for Educational Technology, as part of their work with the US Army. This basic blueprint was adopted and modified for use by the broader Armed Forces, after which different types of ADDIE-named frameworks subsequently began appearing across the private sector.

The earliest ADDIE diagrams are referred to as ‘waterfall’ models, in the sense that one would move downstream through the sequence of five core stages without returning to any previous stage. Iteration (i.e., creating a new and better version of the course program) traditionally only happened in the final stage, Evaluation, after the training had been delivered.

Most modern ADDIE descriptions are based on revisions to the ‘waterfall’ model that gained attention in the late 1980s. In these revised models, the Evaluation stage was shown to interact with the other four stages. This changed the model to a more ‘dynamic’ design. For illustrative purposes, it might be helpful to distinguish between ADDIE 1.0 (waterfall with iteration in the final stage) and ADDIE 2.0 (linear and dynamic with iteration in all stages). However, it is important to note that there is no definitive, original ADDIE model or authoritative description of what the five stages mean.

Molenda (2003) conducted a literature review and contacted 20 subject matter experts in an attempt to locate the original source of the ADDIE model. His investigation led him to conclude the label ‘ADDIE’ was a broad, umbrella term without any identifiable primary author or official description, but instead seemed to have evolved in the oral tradition. Molenda made the following highly significant comment:

"What everyone does agree on is that ADDIE is an acronym referring to the major processes that comprise the generic ISD process: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. Beyond that, there is a widely shared understanding that when used in ISD models these processes are considered to be sequential but also iterative… but any claims about what the ADDIE model says beyond this are individual inventions."


Overview of the ADDIE Model

The term ‘ADDIE’ refers to a broad, generic framework that is commonly used by instructional designers to create and rollout educational courses and training programs (in both virtual and/or real world environments).

At its core, the ADDIE model represents a basic identification of the key phases entered during the instructional design process, not a specific list of activities that are carried out. This basic model serves as a general guideline for designing all types of training programs while moving in a general sequence or direction. There are many interpretations of what each stage means and what is involved.

ADDIE is similar in kind to many other types of traditional approaches used for problem solving. In the same sense that the acronym AHTE (Analysis, Hypothesis, Test, Evaluate) could be used as a broad, generic description of what happens during the scientific method, ADDIE is a broad, generic description of what happens during instructional design. The acronym ‘ADDIE’ stands for:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

ADDIE Model Stages


This is an initial pre-planning and information gathering stage where the instructional designer (ID) seeks to understand and clarify the job requirements including goals, audience, time, budget, delivery options, resources, and obstacles. In particular, the ID is concerned with the performance the client wants the learners to achieve compared to the learners’ current performance. Undertaking a Training Needs Analysis can determine what skills are needed to meet performance objectives and whether or not training is the right solution in the first place. In general, this stage asks the question, ‘What does success for the client look like?’

Common Deliverables

  • Job Brief (from client)
  • Training Needs Analysis
  • Audience Analysis
  • Task Analysis
  • Project Overview


This stage is where the ID creates the strategy for the learning project at a high level and ‘blueprints’ the learning objectives, assessment approach, activities, content, and how the process will work. Sometimes, a prototype or multiple prototypes are created to provide the client with options and demonstrate certain aspects of how the course will look and feel before the full project is ‘green-lighted’ for development. Collaboration with the client throughout the stage is generally recommended.

Common Deliverables

  • Course Strategy/Overview
  • Lesson Plans
  • Storyboards
  • Prototypes


This stage fleshes out all of the elements drafted in the previous stage to produce a finished form. Once complete, the total learning package is often referred to as the ‘learning platform’. In the context of eLearning, ‘authoring tools’ are used to create the interactive courses, which are then uploaded into a ‘Learning Management System’ (LMS)—software that is used to deliver, track and analyse training programs. A test version of the program may be delivered to a sample group.

Common Deliverables

  • Ready-to-go Content / Course Materials
  • Full Learning Platform / LMS
  • Final Test / Run-through

(Note: many descriptions have overlaps between the Design and Development stages.)


This stage is where the learning platform is delivered to the learners. For example, the learning platform might consist of a quick, 20-minute eLearning course designed to demonstrate the correct safety procedures to follow on a worksite, including a video demonstration and multiple-choice questionnaire to test knowledge retention. This stage is also where facilitators (if there are multiple people delivering the program) must be trained before the program can be delivered.

Common Deliverables

  • Learning Environment
  • Facilitator(s)
  • Participant Feedback Sheets


This stage involves two types of evaluation: (1) formative and (2) summative. Formative evaluation assesses a program while the program is being formed. Formative evaluation (e.g., interviews, informal observations, preliminary tests) can occur in each stage and allows corrective action to be made ‘on the fly’. Summative evaluation assesses a program at the summation or end of the program. Summative evaluation gauges the success of the learners’ performance and the overall program as a whole.

Common Deliverable

  • Training Evaluation Report

This article is an extension to our 'In a Nutshell' series. Click on the following link to view our original article on 40 Must-Know HR, OD, L&D Models.

Topics: Learning & Development- Profiling & Assessment Tools- Business Models ("Nutshell" Series)

Theo Winter

Theo Winter

Client Services Manager, Writer & Researcher. Theo is one of the youngest professionals in the world to earn an accreditation in TTI Success Insight's suite of psychometric assessments. For more than a decade, he worked with hundreds of HR, L&D and OD professionals and consultants to improve engagement, performance and emotional intelligence of leaders and their teams. He authored the book "40 Must-Know Business Models for People Leaders."


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