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When making decisions regarding a design model or towards aspects of the design itself, some key items that come to mind are: purpose or learning goals, content, learner profiles, and the environment. Below are some sample questions I would consider.

Purpose or learning goals:

What are we aiming to achieve with the course? Are we trying to teach a specific technical or soft skill? Are we hoping to build fundamental concepts or advance beyond the basics and encourage students to learn how to apply their knowledge to real world problems?


What is the learning content? How much of this content should we expect students to learn through guided or instructed delivery? Are we teaching basic math or complex problem solving skills that require a combination of new and existing knowledge? Is the content more effectively learned through collaborative work? Are we assessing based on correct or incorrect answers, or through demonstration of successful application of skills and thinking?

Learner profiles:

Who are the learners? What do they expect to achieve from learning? What skills and knowledge are they starting with? Why are they completing the course? What is the best way to guide and connect with each learner?


Where is the learning delivered? Virtual or classroom? How long is the course? Do the learners know each other prior to this course? What are the external factors impacting the course (company expectations, graduation or university admission prerequisite requirements, financially funded by parents, etc.)?

The ADDIE process seems to be a good place to start when building a course from scratch. Starting with an analysis and ending with an evaluation phase helps ensure that the process is cyclical and feedback can be worked into future revisions (Bates, 2015).  Then, based on the answers to some of the questions mentioned above, further decisions can be considered to incorporate aspects like time, place, learners’ prior skills, and content.

Since the content and context of each course will be different, there would not be a one-size-fits-all design model that can be identified. I believe that courses cannot be built without the help of a subject matter expert who will likely have more experience and knowledge on the content and how it can be most effectively learned. Similar to the combination of ADDIE and Agile models examined by Gawlik-Kobylinska (2018), course design and development should be a collaborative effort between the instructional designer and the subject matter expert. Although overlap in the roles will occur, each will bring specific skills to the table. For example, the subject matter expert will determine the most effective ways to engage students in a topic or skill development. Then, the instructional designer and project manager will evaluate whether these can be applied or modified into a learning activity that fits the course and budget.

Since instructional design models tend to reflect the values, beliefs, and practical values of the designer (Heaster-Ekholm, 2020), we may be able to address some cultural differences through the collaborative and overlapping roles within the design team.  On this note, where we would automatically think of a subject matter expert as someone who is an expert in the field, it would also be interesting to consider a localization expert – a subject matter expert who can also provide insight into the learners’ culture.



Bates, T. (2015). Chapter 4.3 The ADDIE Model. In Teaching in a Digital Age. BCcampus.

Gawlik-Kobylinska, M. (2018). Reconciling ADDIE and Agile instructional design models – Case study. New Trends and Issues Proceedings on Humanities and Social Sciences, 5(3), 14–21.

Heaster-Ekholm, K. L. (2020). Popular Instructional Design Models: Their Theoretical Roots and Cultural Considerations. International Journal of Education and Development Using Information and Communication Technology, 16(3), 50–65.