In this blog I’m going to explore two instructional design frameworks that instructional designers and e-learning developers use to create e-learning courses from start to finish.

The first, ADDIE, is what I’ve been using for a number of years and remains the primary go-to framework in the industry. The second is the relative newcomer SAM, which while still less popularly utilised is gaining proponents all across the technology enhanced learning space.

Let’s first explore what these two framworks are before we discuss where they differ and overlap and determine how their relative strengths and weaknesses might affect the design choices we make in order to create the training interventions that are the most effective in achieving our instructional goals.


The ADDIE model for development has evolved from a framework originally created for the military in the mid-70s. Yes, this e-learning design framework is approaching half a century in age.

The ADDIE model

ADDIE stands for the following:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

In order to not only better understand the ADDIE model but to also get a good idea of how it has proven so effective at creating usable products over the decades and why it’s such a popular framework as a result, let’s take a deeper dive into what each of the elements involves.

I’ve embedded below an excellent infographic from

The ADDIE Model Infographic

As you can see, the ADDIE framework provides an excellent way to not only structure the development of an e-learning project, but a way to ensure that the many factors that have to be considered are given attention at different stages of the process.

The Analysis phase considers what the instructional goals of the project are. In collaboration with subject matter experts and other stakeholders, we determine what it is that we want learners to be able to do after they have completed the learning journey. We also consider who those learners are. What experience do they already have? What relevant knowledge do they already possess? And we also consider what content we require and already possess, what technology do we and our learners have at our disposal in the creation, dissemination, and use of the e-learning course as well as how the course is ultimately communicated to and accessed by our audience.

The Design phase then is built on what has been gleaned from the previous Analysis phase. We formulate the specific and measurable learning objectives that accumulate to enable learners to be able to achieve the instructional goals we have set out. Essentially, these are the building blocks that support those instructional goals, the smaller activities and concepts that form the whole that is a single instructional goal. For example, if an instructional goal is to make a pizza, the learner must first appreciate what a pizza is, know the necessary ingredients and tools to use, as well as how the individual elememts of the pizza are prepared and cooked before being combined to make the pizza.

Also we build into the design the appropriate instructional strategy where we ddetermine the logical order of learning elements. What comes first, second, last as to make it best absorbed by the learner. Then we consider what the most potent pedagogical framework would be and how we best make available those elements. For example, we might want to take a constructivist approach, where we look for learners to be able to as authetically as possible reflect on the different learning elements and create them. We can facilitate this through the use of forum post tasks, interactive activities, or even take a blended learning approach where activities are learned in theory online and then performed in the real world with evidence then posted to forums.

The Development phase then is where those learning resources identified, chosen, and designed in the previous stage are actually created. These learning resources are then validated through subject matter expert and stakeholder review before the resources are revised as required. Finally in this phase we would look to pilot the course with learners to gather feedback that would then inform final revisions.

The penultimate phase is Implementation. This is the point at which the where and the when of the availability of the course is communicated to the learners and their engagement is fostered, the space where it is accessed is prepared and the necessary people with roles and responsibilities around the course’s facilitation and administration are put to work, which is particularly important if there is a blended aspect of it and if there is the requirement for someone to be providing feedback for work done, or to monitor engagement. Finally there is the actual engagement of the learners with the course itself.

The final phase is that of Evaluation. This is the all too often ignored stage which is why it’s so important that we get all previous stages right. However, ideally we will have the space to evaluate the course according to a number of different areas. First, in the formative evaluation, we evaluate whether what was ultimately produced reaches the standards set out in the design stage. Has it met the objectives we determined? Is all the necessary information there? Has the requisite quality of materials been achieved?

Then we perform the all important summative evaluation which can be done across three levels.

Perception: How do the learners feel about the course? Did they enjoy it? Were they engaged? Did they find it satisfying?

Learning: Usually through whatever in-built testing in the course itself or in a blended approach through some face-to-face interactions, how many of the learning objectives were achived by learners.

Performance: How much of an affect has the learners completion of the e-learning course had on their actual work in reality? Has it had postitive affects? Have the learners been able to perform the responsibilities they were instructed on? Has it improved their performancein their duties?

This evaluation data, quantitative from testing and engagement metrics accessible through, for example an LMS tracking such data as well as the qualitative data gathered from individual learner feedback would inform not only a revision to the course in question, but provide actionable insights for the development of future projects whether they be contextually similar or now.


SAM stands for Successive Approximation Model and was devised by Michael Allen in 2012.

And we’ll continue this in Part 2 very soon.