Selecting Instructional Design Models – Is ADDIE enough?

As a novice instructional designer, I was taught that all instructional design projects could be managed using ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate). Dousay suggests that ADDIE is the foundational process of which all instructional design models are specific applications of (2017). Using ADDIE has provided a useful and familiar process for developing learning solutions in my corporate training role. In my experience, the safety and predictability in using a traditional design process is valued by corporate training departments.

With experience, I have found growth in my designs by gradually starting to ‘color outside of the lines’ of ADDIE. Brown & Green postulate that the use of rigid templates presented in some traditional instructional design models can inhibit the design process and lead to less innovative and creative design strategies (2018). It is not my opinion that this means that ADDIE needs to go however, I think that we would benefit greatly from taking a flexible and exploratory approach to selecting models that complement our current design processes thereby making room for innovation and creativity. It can be beneficial to take a hybrid approach where more than one model is incorporated into the design process and very different models can be complementary to each other (Gawlik-Kobylinska, 2018).

In selecting models based on the context of the project better learning experiences can be supported. I have created a more agile and iterative approach to ADDIE by bringing in principles of the successive approximation model (SAM) which elicits early feedback and repeatedly revisited steps which I have found especially valuable in more complex projects. In doing so, my team saves time and resources in making changes and improvements continuously throughout the project rather than major modifications needed at the end. Other models to consider in my designs would be those that are more focused on the learner such as in design thinking approaches or models that are more conducive to online learning delivery such as Dick and Carey (Dousay, 2017).

I have been incorporating principles from other models in my designs in an unintentional way. To improve as an instructional designer, I need to intentionally add a new first step to my design process. This step will include analysis of the learner, content, and delivery mode and based on those individual characteristics of the project a selection of instructional design models that will be most suitable. There is a plethora of models, frameworks and templates available for an instructional designer to choose from (Dousay, 2017). A successful instructional designer will learn how to use, adapt or create models of instructional design to fit their purposes (2017). My future projects will benefit from taking time to select and adapt models that are most suited to the learner, the content, and the delivery mode of the individual project.


Brown, A.H., Green, T.D. (2018). Beyond teaching instructional design models: exploring the design process to advance professional development and expertise. J Comput High Educ 30, 176–186 (2018).

Dousay. T. A. (2017). Chapter 22. Instructional Design Models. In R. West (Ed.), Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology (1st ed.).

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.

8 thoughts on “Selecting Instructional Design Models – Is ADDIE enough?

  1. Hi Melissa,

    This is a great post, and I appreciate that your experience as an instructional designer led you to the conclusion that it is beneficial to take a flexible and exploratory approach to selecting the most appropriate design models for a given situation. Digging into Martin Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech in LRNT 523 made it clear that technology is evolving and advancing at an increasingly rapid pace. I wonder if instructional design models will also evolve in order to “keep up” with the rapid change in digital technology. I would be curious to hear your thoughts!


    1. Hi Amber,

      Your question about evolving design models is what had me so excited to begin this course. The only formal learning I have had in instructional design models was limited to ADDIE and UbD. Naturally, I have grown my design process from there. I am interested to learn about models that have been developed specifically to support emerging technologies in the field. I am hoping through exploration of ID models and design thinking in this course that I will expand my ID tool box to support the creation of more engaging and impactful learning solutions.

  2. Hi Melissa,

    Thank you for your post. The note successive approximation model (SAM) reminded me of how our content revisions and one of the issues facing the revision is perhaps that one group of designers is using SAM, whereas another group is using ADDIE.

    As a result, your post has been very helpful in differentiating between the two.

    Thank you

    1. Hi Ben,

      That is very interesting. Yes, I see how that could cause issues in the process if the reviewers have very different ideals about what the review process should look like.
      In my role, each time I send out a course or resource for review it is a different review team. Perhaps, it would be beneficial to add a step to the planning process to inventory the thoughts of the reviewers on how they feel the review process should work rather than the ‘one size fits all’ approach I currently use.

      Thank you for your comment.

  3. Hi Melissa,

    A very thoughtful post – thank you for sharing.

    I’m not familiar with the successive approximation model (SAM), but my husband has experience with scrum and agile as a software developer, and lives by the feedback motto, “early and often”.


    1. Yes, exactly, early and often is a great way to describe it. The successive approximation model (SAM) is quite similar to software development models using rapid prototyping and an interactive approach.

  4. Hi, Melissa,

    Thank you for sharing this post!

    Many contexts can become tethered to traditional design processes as you point out and this can stifle innovation. It is brave of you “color outside of the lines of ADDIE”.

    We are curious what approaches you have injected? What influenced you to bring in SAM? Are there “principles from other models” that you have incorporated that have been a game changer? What inspired you to add in these approaches if it was “unintentional”?

    Finally, how has the incorporation of these peripheral principles impacted your ADDIE process?

    Lisa & Leeann

  5. Hi Melissa, I love your post. I do not have experience with ADDIE; however, through the readings I started to form an opinion on ADDIE in regards of its adaptability to the digital natives and knowledge workers. Is this something you have considered in your practice and if yes, what are your learnings?

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