ADDIE is an instructional design model that teachers and training professionals often use when creating learning experiences. It stands for analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation — which are the five phases to progress through when developing a lesson, a course or a training program.

The ADDIE model was invented in 1975 to train the U.S. Armed Forces but proved highly applicable for a wide range of instructions from K-12 lessons to nursing courses and corporate training programs. The great merit of this model is its simplicity and robustness: It helps define clear training deliverables, pursue them systematically, and reduce errors.

From this article, you’ll learn how to develop eLearning and build an online course for employee training based on the five steps of the ADDIE model. It’s important to mention that ADDIE doesn’t allow you to rush into the next phase without completing the current one. However, you can use it through many iterations of your project by evaluating the interim results and revamping the learning material time after time.

Step 1. Analyze

First, you need to understand why you’re creating this course, what gaps you’re planning to fill with it, who your audience is and what you want the training to achieve. During this stage, you will analyze the current situation, as well as existing issues and possible training solutions. Run a check with these prep questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What issue is your company is trying to resolve?
  • What change do you expect in employee behavior when they complete the course?
  • What do employees already know?
  • What skills or knowledge do they need to master prior to taking the course?
  • Do they need to have access to a particular technology to start training?
  • What tools should be used to deliver your training?
  • When and where do you expect employees to take courses?
  • What might intervene in the process or delay it (budget shifts, lack of support, excessive workload, information technology implementation, etc.)?

For example, imagine that you are asked to deliver a fire safety course for your employees. The course might be designed for all staff members as a regular and consistent compliance course or as part of induction training.

The ultimate goal of the training is to eliminate fire safety violations in the workplace. From the course, employees are expected to learn how to: 1) prevent a fire emergency; 2) act appropriately if it occurs; 3) evacuate the office quickly and safely.

As employees will be able to take this course after hours, it should play well on any kind of device so they can access it via smartphone or tablet on the fly.

Round-up: By now, you should have a clear understanding of the training needs and expected deliverables of your soon-to-be online course.

Step 2. Design

Now it’s time to map out the course and plan its content based on the informed decisions from the Analysis step. This phase encompasses a course outline, considerations for using graphics, media and assets, and a course storyboard that will depict the way this all will look in the end.

A course outline can serve as a hierarchy of modules and their sections and should correspond with the needs you’ve analyzed previously.

Consider the outline below for the example course on fire safety:

Next, visualize your course and collect ideas on its design in the form of a clear storyboard — like this:

It’s not necessary to draw a storyboard or put too much effort into making it beautiful. You can make it text-based and simply describe how you see the content and interactions on each slide. What is important here is to make the outline clear to the rest of your team, supervisors or stakeholders, so that everyone is on the same page.

After you plan a course outline and storyboard, it’s time to go into more detail and come up with the texts you’ll use in the course, (i.e., the script). Also, you should write a narration script if you plan to record voice-overs for the course. As for the graphic design, it’s better to use the same style for texts and visual assets and follow your organization’s brand standards.

Round-up: By now, you should have a well-elaborated course outline, a storyboard that will illustrate your ideas, and a script ready for slides and audio narration if needed.

Step 3. Develop

You’ve now got the backbone of your course. The next step is course production, and it is entirely practical. The outline and storyboard help you stay on message when laying out the texts, images, quizzes and interactivities with authoring tools.

Select and test an authoring software beforehand, because such tools have different learning curves and capabilities. A user-friendly tool is a safe choice if you need to assemble a course rapidly or if you have limited course development experience.

Testing is an essential part of the development process. Your course is only ready when other people view it on various devices, take quizzes and confirm that everything works fine. Major providers of authoring software have tech support teams, and you can contact them in case of bugs and errors in the course.

Round-up: By now, you should have your course developed, tested, reviewed and approved.

Step 4. Implement

This is when you start delivering your course to learners. Typically, people either sell their courses via an online marketplace or upload them to the learning management system (LMS) that their companies use to deliver training. If you’re choosing between several LMSs, pay special attention to their tracking options — these will give a full picture of how learners take the course and perform in quizzes.

For the successful implementation of your course, carefully plan how you will entice learners and motivate them to take the training. Check up on them, see if they need any guidance, and get to know how quickly they complete a course.

Round-up: At the implementation stage, you launch the end product using an LMS or a course selling platform and track learners’ progress throughout the course.

Step 5. Evaluate

In the final stage, you see the fruits of training and assess its effectiveness. After completing the course, do employees become more aware? Did the training improve the way they work, communicate or follow some policies or procedures? Or, in the case of the sample course on fire safety, did the number of fire code violations decrease? For a broader perspective, look not only at the training and employee performance metrics but ask stakeholders for their opinions.

You also should evaluate learners’ experience and ask them to provide feedback through surveys in your LMS or in live interviews. Here are a few prep questions to ask:

  • Did you find it easy to access the course?
  • Did it meet your expectations?
  • How would you rate the quality of the course from one to five?
  • Did you learn something useful from the course?
  • Would you recommend this course to your friends or colleagues?
  • In your opinion, what should be improved?

Round-up: At this point, you should check how effective and helpful your training course is for learners, and how it can be improved.

This is how the ADDIE instructional design model works for your online courses. Though it may seem too straightforward or retro, it is a robust approach and a must-have for any instructional designer.